Inside St. Louis

Kopperman's Deli
"Taste a Bit of the World"

 An original watercolor of Kopperman's Deli by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

Kopperman's Deli
"Taste a Bit of the World"



Over the long, long period of time that Kopperman’s has been around, and that dates to 1897, there have been a few hundred-thousand – maybe a million; maybe more, who have at one time or ‘nother been part of the Kopperman Kult as that family has busily and beautifully purveyed Kosher and Kosher-style delicacies to St. Louisans starting 113 years ago in the 19th century. As time marches relentlessly on, fewer and fewer of us have first hand recollections of the previous House of Kopperman at 1121 Franklin Ave a bit east of what was then 12th St., on the northern edge of our busy, bustling downtown; but most all our readers have first-hand fond, food experiences when it comes to the kosmopolitan yet kitschy Kopperman’s Delicatessen (the name’s delicatessen NOT deli) in the always “in with the in-crowd” Central West End. If you’ve yet to join the legion of this Kosher-style great group of gourmets, you can rectify the situation any day of the week by dropping in and rubbing elbows with fellow deli-diners and getting started on sampling the 186 food items, I’m serious - one hundred eighty six – dining delights on the Kolossal Kopperman’s menu.

Once you slip past the dark-draped entry, which reminds me of going on stage at the old Shubert theater on Grand between Olive and Lindell, you’ll latch on to what I mean about elbow rubbing, as the tables are tiny and in close proximity to each other. But this is a good thing as it gives you the chance to know your noshing neighbors up close and personal, and they you, as conversation flows freely from chair to chair. The whole magilla of aromatic cooking in-progress, eclectic art, not your run-of-the-mill servers, good eats and a diverse clientele that would make Damon Runyon giddy with excitement, will make your Kopperman Konnection an event rather than just a spot to wolf down some vittles and then be on about your biz. Which reminds me that the Kopperman’s mascot is a friendly wolf with a top hat which makes me feel a kind kinship as I’m a Rabbitt who wears a top hat. Most days you’ll likely find boniface, Myron Kopperman happily roaming the premises, offering menu suggestions to his cast of customers and keeping everything under control, which is a tough act in a place that seems at times to be on the edge of controlled chaos.

But first, let’s go to town, as we used to say, to get a word snapshot of times past at their old places. The first Kopperman Kosher Meat Market location, when the business was for the most part dedicated to Kosher meats and smoked fish was at 916 N. 7th St at Wash St. (now Cole). Today there’s a certain stadium there.  Then in 1917, during the heat of the Great War, the move was made “lox, stock and bagels” (you may recall that to be the name of a deli on Brentwood Blvd.), to the Franklin address and a change in moniker to M. (for Max) Kopperman Fresh Meats then M. Kopperman & Sons. Max, who was born in Jedwabne, Poland, leased the building for $75 a month which adds up to $900 per anum from Charles Pope O’Fallon who had his office in room 820 of the Security building on 4th and Locust Streets. The  basement and first floor were taken up with food preparation, such as smoking the fish in the rear of the building, as well as their burgeoning retail and wholesale enterprises.

The second floor was home to Max and his Mrs., Jennie, and family, in the time-honored tradition of those days when so many folks lived above, behind or next to their business. By 1929 they’d move their residence next door to 1117a Franklin Ave. above Nathan Harris Investments and Franklin Real Estate. Eventually as business grew, which it did even during Depression days, they’d take over 1117 as well. In the late 1920s they were across the streetcar tracks from an O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor and one Morris Jablonsky who had a competing delicatessen down the block. A man named Raymond Bennett took over the digs above Kopperman’s for a time.

On August 17th, 1923 Max bought the place for $23,000 from O’Fallon and St. Louis Union Trust who were the trustees for the late Caroline Ruth O’Fallon Vaughn and the late Francis Baynham Vaughn who had in 1872 purchased the property in the John O’Fallon Addition from Sir Ivor John Caradoc Herbert and Wolstan Edward Berkely. All of this and more are on Page 320 in dusty Book #496 at the St. Louis Recorder of Deeds office, which by the way is a wonderful place to while away some hours doing research on city properties. Of course the personal details on Kopperman’s, and there’s a lot more than we have space for, came to us in volumes from Myron, his sister Barbara and Sanford. These three are living, breathing Kopperman’s encyclopedias. 

In 1934 Kopperman’s got a new neighbor to their immediate west when the St. Louis Globe-Democrat opened the first truly modern newspaper complex in St. Louis. The Globe used both the address of 1133 Franklin Ave. and 900 N. 12th St. (now Tucker Blvd.). Today the building houses the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which moved in when the Globe relocated to the old Illinois Terminal Railroad building (now Globe Building) at 700 N. 12th and the Post vacated their digs at the northeast corner of 12th and Olive Streets. With the good fortune of having the Globe at their door, the Post 6 blocks south and the St. Louis Star-Times putting up their new building in 1938 just a block away, Kopperman’s became a meat mecca for the always hungry reporters, printers and other newsies including owners such as Joe Pulitzer, Jr. (Post) and Elzey Roberts, Jr.(Star-Times).  Kopperman’s also had many radio, and later, television personalities and staffers for customers who toiled at KWK, KWGD, KXOK, KSD AM & FM and KSD-TV as they too were within walking distance. They were the choice for Kosher sandwiches for Jewish guests at nearby inns such as the Jefferson, Warwick, Missouri (later De Soto), Majestic, Marquette, Claridge, Lennox, Statler and Mayfair. Kopperman’s was also the source for food for Jewish “guests” in the City Jail. And every Thursday during WWII a soldier from Ft. Leonard Wood came in to pick up sandwiches for the army men who were Jewish.

For many a year Kopperman’s was the local distributor for B. Manischevitz Co.’s matzos and did a brisk wholesale business all over town with matzos, matzos meal, cake meal, farfel, thin tea matzos (a hot item), egg matzos, whole wheat matzos and matzos cereal. They did regular business with many dozens of grocers such as: Fred P. Rapp at 607 North and South Rd., Straubs at Kingshighway Blvd. and Maryland Avenue (now Plaza), Food Center at 540 De Baliviere Ave. and 1495 Hamilton Ave., Freund’s Old Tyme Bread at Taylor and Chouteau Aves. and Carl’s Deli 6629 Delmar Blvd. They also sold to establishments like  the Jewish Shelter Home 5030 Maple Ave. and the Jewish Sanitarium in Robertson MO.    

Over the decades Kopperman’s held their own against deli competitors such as E. Green’s at Union Market, Max Rothman’s at 1509 Franklin, Jerome Hofstein’s Dunie’s in the McKinley Hotel at 12th St. and Delmar Blvd. and Jack White’s Pump Room first on Franklin then Delmar Blvd.. After Max Kopperman passed, his widow Jennie and his brothers Henry, Isadore and Jacob, with the help of their wives, Mariam, Eve and Helen would keep things going for yet some time. The end of Kopperman’s downtown run would come in February, 1969 when young Myron was offered the helm but declined as he decided he’d be bad for the business and the business would be bad for him.

Now, we fast forward to a winter’s day in 1983 when delicatessen heir apparent Myron Kopperman, son of Henry and Miriam, and his pal Sanford Rich, whose dad Max started what would become the chain of Overland Dairy Thrift Markets with a custard stand on Woodson Rd. in Overland in 1952.  were merrily strolling along the always picturesque 300 block of N. Euclid. They observed that Herb “Gypsy Cowboy” Balaban Carp of Balaban’s was planning to put in a charcuterie across the street from the Euclid Building in the spot at 386 that had once housed establishments such as The Women’s Exchange, a ladies shop called Vanity Fair and a passing parade of places of the antique persuasion. Since the location was not set up to be a restaurant as it had no kitchen, Herbie’s concept was to prepare the food at Balaban’s and offer it at this new spot in a deli-type atmosphere. A charcuterie in case you wondered was a name originally given to a pork butcher shop. As fate would have it, Herbie was hit with a heart attack so his plan for developing the new place was dropped, but quickly picked up by Myron and Sanford who had been busy researching a new take on the delicatessen game. They opened shop in December 1983.

Their game plan, which quickly proved a success, would combine the elements of many styles of eateries and food retailers into one. They’d blend the offerings of places like the old Kopperman’s on Franklin and Rich’s Finer Foods on Easton Ave. and from the Big Apple they’d clone the best of Katz’s Deli, Stage deli, Barney Greengrass “The sturgeon King’s” deli and the Carnegie Deli. There’d be snatches of the best of other local places such as Harold Koplar’s Around The World foods in the Park Plaza, Straub’s (that’s when they had restaurants in their grocery stores), European Imports in Clayton, the 10 Overland Dairy Thrift Markets, the 40 People’s and 9-0-5 liquor stores, Carl’s deli on Delmar, Bettendorf’s 11 supermarkets, Applebaum’s National Bakery on Easton, both Miss Hulling’s, the 5 John Thompson’s cafeterias, Kotchoro’s dining room on Balson Ave. in University City and, the Toddle House of which there were 5. So at the start of what’s now a 27 year run, Kopperman’s on Euclid became a delicatessen, wine shop, table service restaurant, carry-out place, produce stand, baked goods shop, grocery, package goods outlet, cheese stand, coffee shop, meat and fish market rolled into one.

 Since Myron was going to run the place and Sanford was the money and marketing man, plus wine buyer, they selected the name “Kopperman’s Specialty Foods And Delicatessen” with their slogan from the start: “Taste a bit of The World.” The goal was and is to offer “the best of everything”- the crème de la crème in delidom and the new Kopperman’s  presented many items seldom or never seen in St. Louis such as the Petrossian of Paris  brand of caviar available in town only at their place or by mail order from the Nieman-Marcus catalog.  You can’t get it today as imported caviar isn’t sold in the USA. Myron reports that now Kopperman’s offers a terrific Missouri caviar at a very reasonable price. What? You actually can’t get something from another country?! Maybe we could do the same with Chinese imports? ” Ah, but where else in St. Louis can you indulge in a bottle of Dom Perignon coupled with caviar or smoked trout from Sun valley, Idaho or imbibe in a Bud Light and a baloney sandwich? At least 3 out of these 4 items are from the united States.    

If director Rob Reiner would have shot his 1989 classic film “When Harry Met Sally” in St. Louis rather than NYC, where he used Katz’s deli, he almost certainly would have chosen Kopperman’s as the site for that very funny scene with Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and Reiner’s mother Estelle Reiner. That’s the one with the great line “I’ll have what she’s having.” You may not run into a movie or TV star or celebrity performer at Kopperman’s, but it happens. Just like it did at Jack and Charlie Carl’s Two Cents Plain when they were across from the front door of Jay and Fran Landesman’s Crystal Palace on Olive St. in Gaslight Square a half century ago. (A half century! Now that’s scary.)

Before they set up shop, Myron and Sanford sought the astute advice of many a restaurant pro such as a friend who ran the American Restaurant at Hallmark’s Crown Center in KC and the food stations for cheese, coffees, desserts and sandwiches  in that shopping center’s early version of today’s food courts. His take on what they should consider doing was that since this is the Midwest, they could reach, but for most everything they should just stay in the middle. And he also counseled that they should always have something cooking as aromas sell food. Good advice that they’ve followed from the start.

On a journey to Paris our heroes noted that sidewalk cafes were seemingly everywhere with chairs always in high demand. So upon their return they, as Sanford told me, threw a half dozen tables with chairs out on the sidewalk and that then novel idea met with instant success and started a new tradition in our town.  Dining al fresco at Kopperman’s is as good as it gets in their classic CWE urban and urbane locale next to private Lenox Place and across from Hortense Place. Nice environment to dine with your pooch as you watch people as they watch you.

Inside you’ll get to gander at some of the finest circus posters outside of the Ringling Bros. Museum in Sarasota, FLA. The Kopperman Kollection came about years back when Sanford spotted Diane Sawyer doing a piece on the CBS-TV net telling about the Circus World museum auction. He went into action and, long story short, he came up with several delightful classic circus posters including the huge 13 foot long 1890 gem to your left when you come in the door. You can’t miss it. It was created for the Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth and it lists P. T. Barnum and James Bailey as equal owners. The circus was billed as the only show with 7 open dens of trained wild beasts. A keen observer will note 8 dens, but as Sanford points out the depiction doesn’t show what might or might not be in the 8th den. Look around and you’ll see several other circus poster works of art ballyhooing such circuses as Miller Bros. & Arlington, Sells-Floto, and Carl Hagenbeck-Wallace.

But it’s high time we sat down for a bite of Kopperman’s Kuisine, but with 186 items on the bill of fare, the decision is never easy. You can find the menu in full…and it most certainly is a full menu, at kopperman’ One point to keep in mind is that you can have breakfast at Kopperman’s anytime you’re in the mood. I strongly suggest freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice and you can eye the machine that does the squeezing. Their famous hash-browns are cubed and spicy, very similar to the original Toddle House potatoes. We know of none so tasty. Then I really start to get confused. The cheese blintzes, you get 3, with fresh strawberry preserves is a super starter as is the eggs Benedict, with Canadian bacon and eggs poached really the way you like. Or how ‘bout sliced bananas in cream or sour cream, 2 eggs with Carnegie deli corned beef hash and a Mimosa. Or French toast made with French bread. And, darn it all, it’s hard to pass on the Huevos Rancheros 3 egg Spanish omelet with salsa, tomatoes, sour cream and black olives. Plus there are 46 other things you can choose for breakfast including, if you’re not a sleepyhead, the Early Wolf Special 3 egg breakfast with hash-browns and toast. It’s offered weekdays from 7:30 to 9 a.m., and there’s something special about waking up with the Central West End. It has the vibe of being in Greenwich Village in the 1950s.

You’re gonna have to make up your own choices for lunch, dinner or all night dining delights, but keep in mind Kopperman’s is smokin’ beef brisket, baby back ribs, wings, bone-in and boneless chicken breasts. You might consider making a call to be sure they have the quantity you want as these treats, which are smoked outdoors,  disappear quickly. Then there’s matzo ball soup with the matzo ball almost the size of a softball, and smoked salmon, curried chicken salad, pastrami, egg salad, New York Style cheesecake, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray and 23 other types of non-alcoholic drinks, 9 domestic brews and 14 imports, 9 specialty drinks, a winsome wine collection…you’ve just got to get there to enjoy this unique St. Louis tradition and to kibitz with Myron and his merry men and maidens. Please be sure to tell ‘em Rabbitt sent you! You never can tell, as Chuck Berry might say, it could get you a free glass of delicious city water.

Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz Host of Route 66 Saturday nights on News Radio 1120 KMOX &,
August 2010.



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Contact Information

Kopperman's Specialty Food & Delicatessen
386 N. Euclid
St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314.361.0100
Fax: 314.631.2239

Hours of Operation for Food Service
Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. ‘til 4 p.m.
All Night Dinning
Friday 11:00pm until 5:00pm Saturday
(closed Friday 4:00pm -11:00pm)
Saturday 11:00pm to 4:00pm Sunday
(closed Saturday 5:00pm to 11:00pm)

Click here for directions to the Kopperman's Deli

General Information

Inside and outdoor dining

Carry-outs, delivery, box lunches, catering, party platters

Package wine, beer and spirits

No reservations

All major credit cards, ATM/Debit…even hard cash

Casual attire, kid and vegetarian friendly

You can smoke, but not many people do

Parking at meters, with possible meter-less parking on McPherson, two nearby inexpensive parking lots

Handicapped access a little tough and the restroom i
s in the basement.

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