Forgotten Buffalo: Historic & Hip...An Urban Explorer's Guide to the Buffalo-Niagara Region: Unique Landmarks, Historic Gin Mills, Old World Neighborhoods, History, Nickel City Oddities, Tours and More!
Elaine Zarin Fienberg, daughter of the original owners writes Forgotten Buffalo:
The original deli on the corner of colvin and hertel [ 1322 hertel] was started by Louis and Ethel Zarin and Carl and Becky Shapiro. It was known as ZARINS DELICATESSEN. The store opened in 1936-1937. The Zarin family [Louis, Ethel, and Elaine] lived above the store. The deli was a full service grocery store with all home cooked foods and salads. After world war II the store was sold to the Mastman Family.
Shapiro bought the deli from the Mastman family in 1980. Located at the corner of Colvin and Hertel Avenues, Mastman's was a popular eating and gathering spot for generations.
On September 19, 2005, the historic Mastman's Deli on Hertel Avenue served their last matzo ball as Owner Jack Shapiro retired from the restaurant business after 25 years. I was fortunate to have discovered Mastman’s with my friend Al Wallack. Al is a teacher of many things including the finer points of eating in Buffalo. Once seated, customer were welcomed with two giant crocs of homemade pickles and sauerkraut. My order always included a bowl of matzo ball soup (with extra fine pepper sprinkled on top) and the fattest corned beef sandwitch this side of Katz Deli in New York City. (also…. washing the meal down with a Dr. Brown’s soda.)
The Lost Scene
Lunch was served in a small little room with a dozen formica-topped tables and chromium tube chairs; Mastman's had great overstuffed specialty sandwiches, all served with an abundance of pickles and sauerkraut on the side.
The Food Menu
Corned beef. Turkey. Pastrami. Beef brisket, chopped liver, or tongue with cole slaw, Russian dressing or sweet peppers. Whitefish or chopped herring salad can be ordered by the pound; matzo ball soup by the pint. The mashed potato or kasha (buckwheat) knishes are impressively authentic. Even halvah, the traditional desert of crushed, pressed sesame seeds and sugar, was available, sliced from a big block kept in the refrigerator.
The last "True Deli" experience in Buffalo: Mastman's
By Rich Kellman
WGRZ-TV Senior Correspondent
One of Buffalo's landmark restaurants closed its doors Monday for the last time. The building housing Mastman's Kosher Delicatessen has been sold to a Williamsville developer, ending a run of more than 60 years on Hertel Avenue.
Owner Jack Shapiro was on the phone with a customer. "I know, it seems life won't go on without Mastman's but it really will," he says. Shapiro was answering calls like that throughout the day, the day after the closing. "It's just time to move on and start another chapter in my life," he tells us. Shapiro bought the deli from its founders in 1980. But he says that lately, his life has increasingly centered around his wife and children.
The sandwiches are named for Stacey, Sara and Shawn. "They're the eyes of my life, my children.
On the phone again: "You want to come here and take a picture this afternoon.?" he says.
The conversation with Channel 2 News resumes. "They keep coming here, and we're closed," he says.
Then another call. "I'll get that, he says. An older couple comes through the door. "I'm sorry folks, but we're closed," he tells them.
Jack Shapiro's employees and his brother-in-law have worked in the restaurant as an extended family for nearly 20 years. They hug and speak to one another of love and loyalty. "I couldn't have done it without them, Rich," he tells us.
Mastman's has billed itself as the true deli experience on Hertel, and it has been since World War II. But Hertel Avenue, like every neighborhood, continues to change.
But change isn't necessarily bad. A Mastman's closes and a Taste of Thai opens, and so does North End next door. And across the street, construction for a new million-dollar two-story Empire Grille.
Pam Milkie is a server at North End. She watches the earth movers digging the foundation for Empire Grille across the street. "It's going to be incredible for North Buffalo," she says. "Hertel Avenue is booming. It's just going to be an incredible asset for us."
Back at Mastman's, Jack Shapiro closes up for the last time and answers his last phone call. "Don't be sad," he tells the caller. "I'm happy, but don't be sad."
There is sadness for what was, "but we have a lot to look forward to," says Pam Milkie.