In honor of the 70th anniversary of Cecil’s Deli, we asked our readers to weigh in with their memories of the venerable St. Paul institution. Here are some of the responses:
It is always a great pleasure Dining at Cecil’s. I really grew up at Cecil’s Deli with my mom and dad, and then my son Andrew started working at Cecil’s when he turned 16 years of age. I always arrange dear friends and family to have meals together for decades. Even my fellow classmates still have our summer lunch reunions there. The Leventhal family has a fantastic crew and we love going to Cecil’s any chance we can.
Amy Levenson Hechter
I grew up two blocks from Cecil’s in Highland. The deli meat has been a staple of every casual daytime extended-family gathering for as long as I can remember. Turkey and corned beef rolled up with a toothpick, or simply the white paper package opened up flat for us all to attack with a fork. Pumpernickel and Russian rye bread. Heavy on the mayo.
My 3-year-old daughter is in the process of creating her own Cecil’s memories. She came home from the hospital after I gave birth on a Friday. We immediately began doing weekly Shabbat dinners with my parents. Some weeks it would be a beautiful chicken dinner made by my mother, others it was simply Domino’s pizza or takeout from down the street. But every single week my dad goes over to Cecil’s and picks out up to a half dozen hamantashen.
My daughter has come to expect her weekly apple or cherry hamantaschen. My husband likes chocolate ones. I’ve always loved the apricot ones since I was little. Once in a while, my dad will get a wild hair and grab a Rice Krispie bar along with the usuals. And of course, a sesame seed Challah, sliced.
She squeals when we drive by Cecils, she recognizes it when we take walks in the neighborhood to Saint Kate’s pond to feed the ducks. This is a ritual for her, just like lighting the Shabbat candles, saying the blessings over the meal. Her Zaydee picking up hamantashen every week for Shabbat dinner is becoming a part of her soul now, and she finds comfort and stability in that tradition.
When I was just considering moving to the Twin Cities from New York City in 1982, I made an “informational” trip to check out what the place had to offer besides jobs. My cousin, Jim Rubenstein, and his wife Andrea, Minneapolis residents, knew just where to take me to give me just that special “nudge” to put me over the top. Where? Cecil’s, of course! We had authentic kosher deli sandwiches and a good tour of the grocery area as well, just so I’d know that I could get all the essentials for my kitchen — farmer’s cheese for blintzes, lox, etc. Little did I know that shortly after I moved here, I’d become friends with Sheila and David on a personal level through the Temple of Aaron. But it’s always fun to bump into one or another member of the family when I’m there for a nosh or a meal, even 35 years after I made the Big Move!
Going with my husband and kids to get good Reubens and hamantashen. It’s still a thing we do. The best was the time our son spilt his drink like two times over- we just couldn’t win that day- but staff and guests were supportive.
I lived in St. Paul for a summer during grad school. While all the cool kids were hanging out in Minneapolis, I was enjoying Reubens, tuna melts, Dr. Brown’s, and ruggelach from Cecil’s all summer. I loved that place.
My favorite memory is when they had their downtown Minneapolis City Center location. When I was younger, I would go downtown with my mom, Micki Solle, to her office and we’d walk through the skyway to lunch at Cecil’s. Very grown-up. Also, in my teen years, hanging out there and causing trouble with my lovable, awesome cousin, Aaron Leventhal!
Growing up in St. Paul and now living in Minnetonka means I don’t need a vaccine nor a visa to head back over the river. My parents still live in St. Paul. Cecil’s has been a part of my life for 60 years. Gone are the days of “Fast Eddie”. However I have fond memories of our kitchen table filled with a true jewish picnic at least once a month.
60 year later I still have a guilty pleasure that remains part of a ritual in my life. The smell and taste of hot, just out of the Cecil’s oven, double rye bread. I have traveled the world, eaten in many delis, and there has yet to be a slice of bread that measures up to Cecil’s double rye. Tcjewfolk thank you for highlighting one of the pillars of Jewish life in MN. I am a bit frustrated because I am out of town right now and all I want to do is jump in my car for a slice of heaven.
Todd Leonard, Thank you for the shout out.