When Lauren Biederman was growing up, she and her family had a longstanding tradition. Her extended family lived in and around New York City, so every holiday or special visit necessitated picking up platters of smoked fish and bagels from the area’s many appetizing shops. “We would visit my grandmother and always go to Jewish delis to get matzo ball soup, lox, and bagels,” she recalls now. “It was my favorite thing.”
Biederman had worked in the restaurant industry since she was a teenager, so when she found herself unemployed as a result of the pandemic, she started to wonder why these comforting foods weren’t as available to her in Philly, where she’s lived for the past four years. With her newly freed up time, she seized on the opportunity to bring the Jewish staples of her youth to her adopted home. “I really liked the fact that the Italian Market was somewhere where people still go to grocery shop at specialty food stores,” she explains. “This is a destination for people.”
Biederman’s Specialty Foods opened last month in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philly, right on the edge of the market. There, Biederman offers the same nostalgia-heavy foods that she grew up eating: smoked salmon, whitefish, and herring; bagels of all varieties, fresh challah, and rye bread; matzo ball soup and noodle kugel; and blinis with creme fraiche and salmon roe. Eugene Mopsik, a staff member whom Biederman describes as more of her “associate” is “pretty much cooking and pickling everything in house.” Mopsik cut his teeth cooking at an Orthodox Jewish boys’ camp growing up and “really learned the ins and outs of Jewish cookery,” Biederman says.
Most everything that Biederman’s serves is certified kosher, though it is all clearly labeled to be safe. All their fish is smoked in the Hudson Valley at Samaki Smoked Fish, and their whitefish and salmon salads are made in-house. Bagels and bread come from Kaplan’s New Model Bakery in Northern Liberties, one of the oldest Jewish bakeries in Philly. There are even vegan hamantaschen and black-and-white cookies from Lil’ Yenta’s Vegan Bakery. Brunch boards — available on Saturday and Sunday — consist of three different types of smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, olives, capers, cornichons, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
“Recently, I ate a little bagel chip with our house-made salmon salad and a little dollop of Osetra caviar on top,” Biederman says. “That was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.”
Biederman’s Specialty Foods is located at 824 Christian St.; open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday for in-store shopping and takeout. Pre-orders for bagel boards can be made online. Website.
- Lox, Whitefish, and Beyond: An Introduction to Appetizing [Serious Eats]
- Philly’s Must-Try Jewish Delis [EP]
- All Eater Inside Coverage [EP]
- All Openings Coverage [EP]