South Florida’s oldest deli now serves cocktails

Adella Miesner

Stephen’s Deli has quietly been slicing pastrami in Hialeah for 55 years, and Miami restaurant owner Matt Kuscher has his own idea for how to make sure it’s there for a 56th. Kuscher, who bought Miami’s oldest deli in 2017 and spent two years refurbishing it with a vintage patina, […]

Stephen’s Deli has quietly been slicing pastrami in Hialeah for 55 years, and Miami restaurant owner Matt Kuscher has his own idea for how to make sure it’s there for a 56th.

Kuscher, who bought Miami’s oldest deli in 2017 and spent two years refurbishing it with a vintage patina, has tweaked it again during the pandemic to look more like his signature Kush cocktails-and-burgers restaurants. And it will stay open later as a night-time destination.

Kush by Stephen’s has reopened with an infusion of his restaurants’ roadside-art, college-dorm style, with reclaimed wood walls, R-rated cocktail names and a menu of thoughtfully sourced dishes to add to the traditional deli selections. The restaurant also doubles as a beer store, with craft beer cans to go.

The restaurant will give out a “golden ticket” for free food for a year on its Oct. 14 grand opening.

“It’s another excuse to be creative and do fun stuff,” Kuscher said.

Kuscher has recently rebranded another of his restaurants, The Spillover in Coconut Grove, with the style he imposed at the original Kush location in Wynwood. Stephen’s split personality now blends the Kush theme on the left side, with the right side still dedicated to the stained-glass window and Jewish deli look. Many of Kuscher’s family photos, from his bar mitzvah to his grandparents’ Jewish deli, are still in place.

The restaurant leans into its Hialeah vibe, with bathrooms dedicated to the late Puerto Rican spiritual guide Walter Mercado and the real-life Hialeah Spider-Man. The restaurant retains the entrance to the separate La Cocina cocktail bar, adorned with Hialeah swag, like the Ño Que Barato! replica sign and “Caso Cerrado” playing on a loop. Kuscher expects the bar, which has a separate cocktail program, will reopen in November.

“Nothing that was there before is gone. Zero,” Kuscher said.

The new Stephen’s fuses the classic deli style with Kuscher’s aesthetic for one main reason: The restaurant can stay open later than 4 p.m. as a full-service spot, serving cocktails as late as 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Kuscher said the financial pressure of the pandemic forced him to make the restaurant more than a lunch spot.

It becomes a new Hialeah late-night destination, around the corner from the new Unbranded craft beer brewery.

“We should have done this from the beginning,” Kuscher said.

Still working the pastrami slicing station will be Henderson “Junior” Biggers, 84, who learned to hand-carve the pastrami and corned beef made in house in his 63 years at Stephen’s.

He is the sole holdover from eight different owners, who steered the deli from its days at the center of the Jewish garment district in east Hialeah.

If you go

1000 E. 16th St., Hialeah. 305-887-8863; StephensDeli.com

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