When I heard the news that Stuart Litt was selling Hygrade Deli, I had an immediate craving for my guilty pleasure, Our Famous Reuben, stacked by Stuart and delivered by Linda, all for an inexplicable $9.90. When I couldn’t have that, I settled for my next guiltiest pleasure — rereading my old columns. Here’s what I wrote about Stuart back in 2016:
Stuart Litt, Deli Man
Stuart knows corned beef. He knows a good day is when he goes through 100 pounds of corned beef. He knows St. Patrick’s Day was a great day — 150 pounds. Like many deli men before him and elsewhere in the deli diaspora, Stuart was born into the blessing and burden. His dad, Bernie, owned Billy’s Delicatessen on Seven Mile and Livernois. In 1972, Bernie bought the Hygrade Deli.
Hygrade started two decades earlier and six blocks east at Detroit’s Western Market. Named for the market’s anchor, Hygrade Food Products, the deli moved to its current home when Western Market became the interchange of I-75 and I-96. This brought Hygrade closer still to their core clientele at the Detroit Assembly, the Clark Street Cadillac plant.
There have been lean times in the 30 years since Detroit Assembly closed. If you want to see its equipment in action, stop by the Detroit Historical Museum to watch a two-story body drop. Hygrade enjoyed the Michigan film incentives and has benefitted from local media exposure, except when Channel 4 preempted Litt’s deli demo for the President’s press conference announcing his plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay — thanks, Obama.
Instead of suffering through Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to see Hygrade dolled up as Ralli’s Diner (with waitress Diane Lane), you’re better off spending that time and money with the diverse crowd and loyal staff on a Reuben that will make your heart skip a beat. And then start beating regularly again.
To honor Hygrade and the majestic, endangered species of Deli Men, Repair the World is partnering with the Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival to screen the documentary Deli Man (“More than 160 years of tradition served up by the Jewish deli owners … Just don’t tell your cardiologist.”) with Stuart at Hygrade Deli, 3640 Michigan Ave., on Thursday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets include Reubens, pickles and Dr. Brown’s.
More about the future adventures of Deli Man soon. In the meantime, here are the most important 10 seconds from Batman v Superman, exactly halfway through the 3-hour runtime:
No amount of kryptonite would make Linda drop a coffee carafe.