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‘Migrant Kitchen’ Episode Explores LA’s Deep Connection to Jewish Delicatessens

Weekend streaming recommendations and a roundup of the week’s food pop culture news

Migrant Kitchen/KCET

This post originally appeared on November 9, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Congratulations on making it through what felt like a very long week. The good news is that there is a whole new season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix to cure what ails you. I’ve also got a few more ideas for things to watch this weekend, including a documentary about Jewish delicatessens, a spectacularly weird indie film, and a holiday-themed sitcom episode. Onto the recommendations:

An ode to the enduring legacy of the LA deli

Factor’s owner Suzee Markowitz and chef Silverio Perez
KCET/Migrant Kitchen

The latest episode of KCET’s award-winning series the Migrant Kitchenoffers an intriguing look at two very different restaurants keeping Jewish delicatessen traditions alive in Los Angeles.

Most delis that stand the test of time have a great story behind them, and Westside legend Factor’s Famous Deli is no exception. It was opened in 1948 — the same year the State of Israel was born — and has stayed in the same family since then, with the original owner’s daughters, Debbie Markowitz Ullman and Suzee Markowitz, running the show for most of the last four decades. Slowly but surely, the daughters expanded the restaurant from one storefront to an entire corner of Pico Boulevard, while keeping the old menu mostly intact. Some of the regulars have been eating there their entire lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, Wexler’s is a farm-to-table lunch counter from two younger chefs, Micah Wexler and Michael Kassar, who started recreating the traditional Jewish foods of their youth at their first restaurant, Mezze. A few years ago, the duo got invited to open a full-blown deli operation at Downtown LA’s famed Grand Central Market, and they’ve since expanded to a second location in Santa Monica. Wexler and Kassar have a hand-crafted, artisanal approach to smoked meat and fish that is actually completely in line with how these delicacies were made generations ago.

Beyond shining the spotlight on these two well-regarded delicatessens, this episode of Migrant Kitchen also touches upon what this food means to the modern Jewish community in LA. “I think for many Jews, probably for most Jews, they do not go to synagogue, they do not send their children to Jewish day schools, but they do go to deli,” says author Lara Rabinovitch. “It fulfills this kind of Jewish hole that people have in their hearts, that they don’t want to fill with religion, they don’t want to fill with education, they want to fill it with corned beef.”

My favorite scene in this episode is when Micah Wexler flips through his grandma’s recipe cards, remarking on the similarities to many of his own dishes, and then cooks some of the family’s specialties alongside her. Another highlight is the 70th anniversary of Factor’s, which featured a special meal prepared by several of LA’s most celebrated Jewish-American chefs, including Nancy Silverton, Josiah Citrin, Hedy Goldsmith, and Bruce Kalman.

“The Jewish Deli” episode of Migrant Kitchen is now available to stream for free on

Lemon/Amazon Prime


Watch it on: Hulu, iTunes, Amazon

The gist: This oddball indie movie also focuses on a Jewish family in LA, although their meals are nothing like the ones that the Wexlers and Markowitzes enjoy in Migrant Kitchen. The most memorable scene in the film is a Passover Seder that, like much of the movie, quivvers with a sense of unease. Some of the moments are hilarious, others are just disturbing, and it ends in a spectacularly weird family singalong to the novelty number “One Million Matzoh Balls.” Another outrageous family dinner also closes out the film.

This cringe-comedy about an LA actor going through a midlife crisis, of sorts, was created by married couple Brett Gelman (the character actor who’s everywhere these days) and Janicza Bravo (you’ve probably seen at least one TV episode she’s directed this year). Tonally, there’s no other movie quite like it. “I’ve described it as surreal, absurd, experimental, stressful, sour, I think those words feel more in line with the thing that it is,” Bravo told the LA Times when it was released last year. “I’ve also said it’s a comedy about failure, it’s a comedy about a plateau.”

With a distinct visual style and impressive assemblage of hipster actors, Lemon feels destined to become a cult classic someday. For now, it might be a good thing to check out if you’re nervous about any holiday meals on the horizon, since none will be as awkward as the ones in this movie.

Superstore, “Black Friday”

Watch it on: Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Video

The gist: As the title implies, on this particularly funny episode of NBC’s workplace sitcom, the employees of the superstore come to work in the middle of the night on the day after Thanksgiving to work a “doorbuster” sale. To honor a corporate tradition, the crew eats a potluck meal in the wee hours before the customers arrive. As the chaos kicks into high gear, the team members slowly start to realize that one of the dishes at that potluck gave all of them food poisoning, but still, they must soldier on and complete their Black Friday shifts.

Superstore has one of the best comedic ensemble casts on TV, and every episode is full of jokes — and yet, somehow, this show still feels like the sitcom landscape’s best-kept secret. If you’re a fan of the American version of The Office, there’s a strong chance Superstore will be up your alley, and this is a good episode to take for a first spin.

In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something extra fancy to make at home, perhaps consider baking some of Pierre Hermé’s macarons.

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