Inside Biederman’s Specialty Foods, South Philly’s Jewish ‘appetizing store’

Versie Dortch

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Living in Philadelphia during the pandemic, restaurant industry veteran Lauren Biederman realized she was missing something: a local store to buy the comfort foods she remembered growing up. Her favorite eating experience was when she would go to pick up bagels, lox, and other Jewish specialty foods with her family in NYC.

Out of work thanks to COVID, Biederman decided to go all in on her childhood food memories. She opened Biederman’s Specialty Foods on the edge of the Italian Market at 9th and Christian streets, appointing the small space in the tradition of an “appetizing shop.”

Though not yet common in Philly, the term has for decades been used to describe places that sell traditional foods traditionally served with bagels.  Usually found in neighborhoods with a large Jewish population, the shops carry pickled, smoked, cured and cultured fish, salads, spreads and breads, often served for Sunday brunch.

While Jewish delis usually offer deli meats, fish and dairy items, appetizing shops traditionally sell only fish and dairy, no meats.

Biederman’s carries on the tradition with a large assortment of smoked fishes including whitefish and herring, as well as many types of caviar together with blinis and crème fraiche accoutrements.

Eugene Mopsik, a staple employee identified by his signature beret, expertly slices the salmon and prepares most of the dishes. Favorites include a pickled health salad, smoked trout salad, salmon and whitefish salads, and matzo ball soup.

The shop always stocks a wide variety of bagels, rye bread, matzo and challah to compliment the fish.  One of the signature items on the menu is a breakfast board available for pre-order on weekends, and includes an assortment of hand sliced smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, pickled onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, capers, and a dessert item.

You’ll find pickles, olives, freshly made knishes, halvah, cookies and other baked specialties on the counter. The grocery section includes tinned smoked fish imported from Spain, crackers, sauces, and all types of gourmet foodstuffs.

Go inside the shop and hear more from Biederman herself in the video below.

Biederman’s Specialty Foods, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 824 Christian St., 215-392-9229

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