If anyone was ever born to pickle corned beef, it was Ziggy Gruber. His grandfather, Max, opened the famous Rialto deli in New York City in 1927, the first in a long line of revered eateries that would include Berger's on 47th, Wally's Downtown, and the Griddle on 16th. It was in one of many family delis that Max first learned to pickle, cure, and smoke meat and to bake classic Eastern European pastries such as sour cream, raisin, and nut rugglach and russian chocolate bobka.
But while blintzes and lox were in Ziggy's blood, he longed to take them further. "This is my calling," he told Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, "To elevate Eastern European Jewish food." So he went overseas and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu Academy in London, where he spent the next two years working in three-star Michelin restaurants and cooking for heads of state, including the Queen. After graduating and returning to the states, he found himself cooking for another kind of royalty—he open Ziggy G's on LA's Sunset Boulevard, where celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, and Leonardo DiCaprio were known to drop in for a nosh or to prepare for an upcoming role as a noodle kugel.
It was in 1999 that Ziggy partnered with experienced restaurant man Kenny Friedman to bring traditional Jewish food to an unlikely place: Houston. As a result, Texans can dig into Reuben sandwiches, kippers and eggs, potato pancakes, egg creams, and bowls of homemade matzo-ball soup that rival anything being served in Manhattan. To make the experience as authentic as possible, Ziggy has even adorned his menu with a "deli dictionary" of common Yiddish phrases to help his guests feel like mishpuchah (family). He's also kept Texas-sized appetites in mind––the eight-decker Zellagabetsky sandwich comes loaded with corned beef, pastrami, turkey, roast beef, salami, tongue, and swiss cheese on rye, and is so large that anyone able to finish it by themselves receives a slice of Ziggy's famous cheesecake on the house.