Celebrating heritage, family and the community through Jewish cuisine is the motivation behind Stopsky’s Delicatessen.
The newest addition to Mercer Island's growing restaurant scene — set to open in May — is owned by two of Mercer Island's newest residents, Jeff Sanderson and his wife, Lara. The couple partnered with Robin Leventhal, former owner of Seattle's Capitol Hill bistro Crave for four years before closing in 2008 and moving into the catering business. A native of Sun Valley, Idaho, Leventhal recently appeared on season six of Bravo’s Top Chef.
Sanderson named the restaurant in honor of his grandfather and great uncles. Stopsky’s Delicatessen will serve Jewish dishes from around the world but with a twist, said Sanderson.
“The majority of these products will be in-house using locally sourced, sustainably grown with organic ingredients whenever possible,” said Leventhal, who will run the deli as general manager and chef. “We call our approach, 'Tradition updated.’”
Leventhal, who is Jewish, will run the show from an open-air kitchen that looks out over the dining room and takeaway deli service area. The delicatessen will feature table service for about 40-50 diners and additional seating outside. Customers can also drop in to the cafe and delicatessen side for coffee, pastries or deli goods and sundries to go.
Leventhal said she was excited about Stopsky’s Delicatessen and said it is about having fun in the kitchen while making everything delicious.
She also likes the fact that the Sandersons have given her the freedom to make traditional food with a twist.
“I am not interested in making the same food everyday,” Leventhal said. “The Sandersons have given us the opportunity to play around with traditional food and not having to stay true to it. “
Matzoh ball soup, Zatar chick peas, kugel, saffron Israeli couscous, knishes, kreplach, matzo brei, rye bread, babka and challah are a few of the items they will be cooking in-house.
“We will serve kugel sweet or savory, knish will be ever changing with seasonality and the kreplach will be filled with what is fresh,” Leventhal said.
The delicatessen will also serve vegetarian food and educate customers on the food they will be serving. The deli will also serve freshly-brewed Stumptown coffee in the restaurant and cafe area.
According to Sanderson, his grandfather Gilbert Stopsky and his three brothers arrived in American from a Jewish village outside Kiev, Ukraine in 1905. In order to pursue the "American Dream", they assimilated by changing their name to Sanderson.
“Part of the notion of naming the deli Stopsky’s Delicatessen is to reclaim that heritage and declare that in the 21st century it is okay to both be a proud American and to celebrate where you came from,” said Sanderson.
Sanderson grew up in Lexington, Mass. and moved to the Seattle area years ago to work at Microsoft, where he stayed for 17 years. He said he'll be a regular presence in the restaurant and is looking forward to "greeting customers and “kibitzing” with them often."
One way the delicatessen will celebrate heritage is with what he called a "Heritage Project". The Sandersons will dedicate an entire wall of the restaurant to family photos, and anyone can submit photos of their family for a space on the entire south wall before the deli opens by emailing the restaurant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Anyone who wants to submit photos, can — and if we run out of space, we will rotate the photos,” said Sanderson.
Stopsky’s Delicatessen will be located at 3016 78th Ave. SE on Mercer Island, in the Islandia Shopping Center right next to .