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Heckman’s Delicatessen Coming To Cordell Avenue

by Aaron Kraut — March 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm 1,870 14 Comments

Heckman's Delicatessen is coming to the former space of Maggie's on Cordell AvenueEric Heckman thinks he has the formula to make a Jewish style deli work were many others have failed.

“I think the big thing, is that the two most recent attempts here have been by people who either weren’t a part of the culture or didn’t understand the Montgomery County culture, the Bethesda culture,” said Heckman, who grew up a block from Whitman High School.

The deli has Heckman’s financial backing, but is really the idea of his son Ronnie, who will run the front of the house, and his friend Marc Rosemond, who will run the kitchen. Both were working at a Jewish style deli for the last five years and looking for a location of their own.

“The experience is there. They have a good feel for the clientele,” Heckman said.

They will try to make deli work in Woodmont Triangle, an area that has brought lots of attention to those who have tried before, but little long-term success.

Many predicted big things for Norfolk Avenue’s Uptown Deli when it opened in November 2010. It closed in August 2012 for renovations, but soon it was revealed a new owner had sold the spot to the former Haandi Indian restaurant, which needed to relocate from Fairmont Avenue.

A former employee said the “New York Jewish” style eatery was losing money. Bubby’s, another Jewish style deli, opened around the corner at 4866 Cordell Ave in February 2011. It was short-lived, closing for good just six months later.

“We’re going to be as fresh as possible,” Heckman said. “It’s not a health issue. It just tastes better. We’re going to make our own french fries, for instance, and french fries aren’t healthy but they’re good. Anything we can possibly prepare ourselves we’re going to do, instead of depending on processed and pre-made stuff.”

The deli will have the basics: corned beef, pastrami, turkey, brisket and bagels, all prepared in-house.

“We’re testing constantly. We’ve got a pretty good network of focus group people that have been eating that kind of food for years,” Heckman said. “Most of them are brutally honest. If they say it’s OK, then it’s like, ‘We’re pretty close.’ If they actually say it’s good, then it’s like, ‘Don’t change it.'”

The Heckmans and Rosemond have quickly done some cosmetic changes to the inside of the space at 4914 Cordell Ave. Maggie’s, a wing-focused sports bar, closed there in February.

Heckman said the quality of the food will make the difference, though he is cognizant that successful deli operations in Montgomery County are in more suburban, strip mall settings.

Heckman’s won’t become a destination akin to Parkway Deli in Silver Spring overnight. It will rely on the quick lunch and carry out business of a Woodmont Triangle full of office buildings and new apartments.

“I lived in the East Village in New York. Cordell, Del Ray, Fairmont and St Elmo have more of that kind of feel and I hope it stays that way,” Heckman said.

Heckman said work on the interior and kitchen will be done in the next week, and the deli will open as soon as the restaurant gets its permits. They will go before the Board of License Commissioners for an alcohol license on May 15, but expect to have the restaurant open well before that.

The Maggie’s tiki bar just outside the building will be gone, but Heckman said there will be seating outside and TVs both inside and outside.

For long time Washingtonians, the Heckman name is likely familiar. Heckman’s great uncle started Heckman’s Pickles, the D.C.-based company that at one time, provided area grocery stores with the majority of their pickle supply. Heckman’s dad helped pay off his law school tuition by selling his uncle’s pickles for $75 a week.

Look for some Heckman’s memorabilia in the deli once it gets going.

  • Jason

    More power to them, but I’m not sure why knowing Bethesda well will help them succeed where two pretty decent delis flopped.

    • Jonathan

      I think they have a chance, if the food is good and the service is good. I don’t why it won’t work. I’m looking forward to eating there.

      • Jennifer Adelman

        If these are the two gentlemen who worked at Brooklyn’s then I can’t wait. they were such great and respectful young man. I think bethesda needs a deli, There’s nowhere to go for a good sandwich around lunchtime. I’m very excited and I hope they do good.

  • Arnold Ashkenazic

    I think this will be good for Bethesda, I live in Potomac and I have Attman’s deli and Brooklyn’s deli near me but both are going down hill. Attam’s is very expensive and the food is not even good, Brooklyn’s is somewhat mediocre good. But there service is awful, management seems like a joke. Employees don’t know how to interact with customers. But I hope these guys will be better and they definitely need to understand that Bethesda customers are serious about their food. Hope it works out because I work in bethesda. Wish you guys the best of luck because you’ll need it.

    • stephanie

      very true, brooklyns is good but service sucks, attmans lousy!!

  • Michael Fanaroff

    The biggest problems will be parking, the need to build up a catering business to the various businesses in Bethesda and lastly hopefully the corned beef and pastrami will be hot off the steam table and not heated in a microwave or on a grill. People also need to realize deli food isn’t cheap and if you want a good sandwich you better be prepared to pay $10 to $12.

  • Jas

    But can they bring back the family pickles?

  • Maddie Levinsky

    I work at the NIH building and I hate the fact that I can’t never find a place to go for lunch. It’s a pain in the ass in the morning when ‘m trying to leave for work and I have to make myself lunch. As long their breakfast food and lunch food are good I think this will be one of the biggest talked about place in bethesda. I think they should stay away from dinner because that’s what Bethesda is known for. They will get overpowered and overlooked by the guys whose main focus is dinner. I think they should stick to just deli food and be great at that. But I can’t wait.

  • Barry Cohen

    I hope they make it, many have tried and failed. We need good NY deli’s here in Marylnd, with reasonable pricing. Not like Attmans in Cabin John, a sandwich costs $12+++

    • Jason

      There’s no way you can make a good pastrami/corned beef sandwich for under $10. Not going to happen. We don’t need good deli’s, we had them with Bubby’s and Uptown, we need people actually patronizing them.

      • bethres

        If you think Uptown or Bubby’s served good deli food, you don’t know what a deli is. Patrons will pay whatever price is required to provide genuine NY deli food. Those two restaurants were pretenders.

        • Jason

          Is there any deli in the area that’s up to your standards?

  • jamesemich

    Just had a brisket sandwich with a potato blintz.
    It was really really good. This place is the real deal.
    They make their blintzes from scratch by order, so it may take 15 minutes to get a blintz, but its worth it. Going to try breakfast there soon. I’ve been to the famous delis in NYC,
    This place appears to be on the same level.

  • Cyn

    Where is Robert Heckman these days?


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