The Super Bowl corned beef sandwich lives on, even if it’s 2,300 miles west of Lima.
A variation of Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek overstuffed corned beef sandwich will appear on the menu of a Seattle-area restaurant under the name “The Helen.”
Anyone who knows the temple likely knows who Helen is, 92-year-old force of nature Helen Stambor. The oldest member of the temple helped with those delicious hearty sandwiches since Lima’s temple and synagogue merged in 1966.
“It’s kind of interesting,” Helen Stambor said. “Now I am a sandwich!”
Last month, the temple announced it didn’t have the experienced manpower to guide its long-running Super Bowl Sunday fundraiser. That story spread far and wide, including to Stambor’s son, Howard, a Seattle-area attorney.
That’s where a series of unusual experiences set “The Helen” in motion.
Howard Stambor, a 1967 Lima Senior graduate, works as an attorney, negotiating leases for retail tenants. Five years ago, he picked up a new client, Paul Osher, who opened a restaurant in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood where they smoke, cure, pickle and preserve everything themselves. It’s called Porkchop & Co., an irony not lost on Helen Stambor (who thinks it’s hilarious a Jewish staple will be served at a restaurant named after a pig).
Along the way, Osher also picked up a new friend, Howard, who is “like a member of the family now.” Osher grew up in Cincinnati, and it turns out he’s a descendant of the Oscherwitz Meats empire that once delivered kosher meats to the Jewish community. (His family shortened its name a few generations ago.)
When Osher and his wife, Raquel Zamora, read about the end of the Super Bowl corned beef sandwich, Raquel joked about having to put it on the menu. Before long, it became a reality.
“It just seemed like a fun thing to do, to run a special on it Sunday,” Osher said. “At the restaurant we have, we do a lot of specials like that. We used to name specials after neighbors. It’s a community focused place.”
In fact, Howard Stambor has a sandwich named after him too. “The Howard” has citrus-braised pork, ham, kimcheese, a pickled onion and a fried egg on ciabatta bread.
Howard Stambor said he’s disappointed to see the Jewish community shrinking in Lima to the point it couldn’t run the fundraiser. He quipped if he wrote a book about it, he’d call it “Jew-billy Eulogy,” given the similarities it has to J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” about the social issues in Middletown.
“I think the core of this story is the Jewish community in Lima, and how through time it has eroded,” he said. “… The demographics have shifted. The population of the temple and synagogue are older and older. The Baby Boomers may be the last generation of Jews there who grew up in Lima.”
Osher admits he took some liberties with “The Helen.” The temple’s sandwich had a quarter pound of kosher corned beef, Jewish rye bread, potato salad, sauerkraut, a pickle and a brownie in its meal. Osher’s plans Thursday night involved pastrami and horseradish aioli on thick-cut rye bread, pickled beet slaw and one other side.
Pastrami isn’t really a heresy here, given that they’re often the same cuts of meat, just corned beef is generally boiled and kosher-style pastrami is generally smoked. Osher and Howard Stambor both assured me it’s very good. Osher didn’t have the rye bread on hand, but a local baker helped him out with that part.
Now all they need are people to enjoy Lima’s tradition in Seattle.
“I have a second son, who’s also in Seattle, who called and said he’s going to go there and order ‘The Helen’ today,” Helen Stambor said, “except he wants it exactly the way they serve it in Lima, down to the paper bag and the potato salad.”
Osher’s restaurant is celebrating its fifth anniversary soon, and things like Sunday’s special remind him why he loves it.
“Part of running a restaurant is having a real community focus,” Osher said, “and I guess that community goes all the way back to Ohio.”