I love me a good reuben. Are you with me? The tang of the pastrami, the sour of the kraut and the sweet of the russian dressing, it’s a beautiful thing. I decided last month that I needed some behind the counter photos of a real deli, and visions of reubens were what spurred me on. And while there is definitely room for debating the best pastrami in the Twin Cities, my long standing favorite is The Brothers Deli, downtown Minneapolis.
The Brothers has been around for a long time, in several incarnations; I remember eating at one in Southdale Mall when I was a kid and my mom was a secret shopper for Dayton’s (speaking of old school). Regardless of the location, The Brothers has always been the kind of place that serves bowls of pickles on the tables and slow roasts its pastrami and corned beef on the premises. Which is the only way to go when it comes to a deli, as far as I’m concerned.
I talked to Jeff, the head brother, by phone a couple times to set things up – telling him that I’m a big fan, that I’d love to shoot some during a lunch rush sometime. Our two phone conversations lasted about 15 seconds combined (Jeff’s clearly a guy who has 14 hours of work to do in an 8 hour day), and next thing I knew my assistant TJ and I were there ready to shoot.
Jeff’s crew is a well-oiled machine. All of his employees have been with him for years – many for more than ten – and they know how to get a lunch rush fed. As I tiptoed around everyone, it kind of blew me away how calm everyone was, even though the line was out the door and down the skyway for much of the lunch rush. Each person had their station, and everyone knew exactly what was needed. It was beautiful to watch.
Jeff surprised me by asking if I’d be interested in shooting some food shots to put up on the walls of the restaurant. Based on our amazingly quick phone conversations I figured he would have his head down and would forget about me a minute after I was done shooting. But as it turns out, my photos now hang over the deli bar and behind the counter, and there may be more coming shortly. You gotta love it when personal work turns in to paid work.
Next time you’re in the skyways, keep an eye out for a two foot by three foot reuben floating over The Brothers deli bar – that’s my work. Sweet!