At the N&D Deli in Ridgewood, Queens, workers are serving up more than just cigarettes, beer and sandwiches. Rachel Wharton of Edible Manhattan Magazine filed the following report.
In addition to being a deli, N&D is also the secret home of Mama O’s, an award-winning brand of the spicy fermented Korean pickles called kimchi.
“I make a regular Napa cabbage kimchi. I make a baby bok choy kimchi, which I think I invented because I don't see anybody else making it,” says Kheedim Oh of Mama O’s Kimchi. “I make a daikon radish kimchi, and I make a Kosher kimchi, which is totally vegan and doesn't have any fish or shellfish in it.”
Oh used to make 300 pounds a week in New Jersey, dragging the jars back on the train. He was looking for affordable space in the city, when his parents told him about a bodega for sale at the corner of Onderdonk and Gates.
“They were like, ‘why don't you buy this deli and use the room in the back to make kimchi?’ and I was like, ‘that could be a good idea,’” Oh says.
The bodega meant instant income that would cover Oh's rent. But running it was harder work than he envisioned. In addition to making kimchi, Oh had to learn how to sell beer, cigarettes, lottery tickets, tuna sandwiches and candy bars.
Even worse, he still often works till dawn as a deejay and a musician.
“The place opens at 6:30 and closes at 10 o'clock, so that's 15.5 hours a day,” he says.
But there are some benefits beyond a free kitchen for his kimchi.
“What's really cool about the neighborhood I’m in now is that it's really diverse,” says Oh. “It's primarily Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Polish people, but then you also have Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and I got a few customers that have lived here their whole lives.”
Oh hopes they'll all start eating Korean kimchi, which is now on N&D's sandwich menu.
“You can get anything you want with kimchi. My personal favorite is a hot dog with kimchi on top,” he says.
For more, check out ediblemanhattan.com. And to learn more about the good stuff, save the date for Edible Manhattan's Eat/Drink Local Week, which starts June 23.