Zucky’s Delicatessen

Zucky’s Deli was located out at the corner of Wilshire and 5th Street out in Santa Monica and as I write this, it still is. At least, the building is. It’s been empty since 1993 while the owners of the land and others who consider the place an example of significant historic decor discuss what to do with the place. This strikes me as an odd discussion. I don’t recall the architecture and design being that special and the food certainly wasn’t.

Opened in 1954 by Hy and Frederick Altman, it was named for Hy’s wife, whose maiden name was Wolfine Zuckerman. She was often called “Zucky,” as if it rhymed with “rookie.” I did not know that during the years I dined at Zucky’s but I know that now.

The main (for me, only) appeal of Zucky’s when I used to go there was that it was open 24 hours so it was a great location to take your date for ice cream or a snack after you took her to one of the movie theaters out on Third Street. It was also “the” place for breakfast and sometimes lunch for folks who worked in Santa Monica. It struck me as a restaurant that wasn’t very good but it drew a crowd for lack of alternatives. When better places to eat opened in the neighborhood, Zucky’s floundered. I have some fond memories of going there but because of the people I was with, not because of the business establishment.

45 Responses to Zucky’s Delicatessen

  • Craig Printup says:

    I liked their ake out deli….smoked sturgeon. A similar but much better place was Shep’s Deli on Pico in the Fairfax district, also now gone 8(

  • Yvette says:

    I loved going to Zuckey’s. The Bagel on Fairfax and Labels Tables on Pico they were good too. I don’t think I ever went to Shep’s. :( I guess Fators is still there.

  • Ted Herrmann says:

    The building has been restored to its original grandeur, with the same sign as in your picture, but when you walk inside … it’s a bank.

  • Mike says:

    My mother was a waitress there. I visited a few times but was too young to appreciate it. Years later in about 1975 I stopped in for a look and could not remember it at all.

  • T. Smith says:

    I went to Zucky’s from the late 50′s till it closed. Also, right across the street, Fat Eddies. Like so many things in LA, I miss it. In fact, I miss the old LA. It was a great place to be a young man – Scandia, Frascati’s, The Luau, Don the Beachcomers. LA was a classy place then, with lots of room. It didn’t look like New York.

  • Philip says:

    Great chicken soup after a long night at Madame Wong’s or the beach.

  • Jay says:

    The Pic-a-Duo was the best — you could get two different half sandwiches. Great place for munchies after midnight. Miss it.

  • DAGMAR KERMAN says:

    Does anybody know, why Zucky’s closed? I used to live in 6th street and our whole family loved to go to that place. Since than I lived overseas and in North Carolina and still miss the place.
    Love to read that they did not tear it down, but made a bank out of it.

  • Alison Wentworty says:

    When I was in high school in SM – late 50′s/ early 60′s, Zucky’s (24 hours) was our favorite hangout after bowling at nearby Llo-Da-Mar lanes. The sandwiches on rye… thick delicious layers of roast beef, turkey and swiss with Russian dressing – or hot pastrami – were to die for! And they were affordable, even for us kids in those days. We called it “3-ucky’s,” affectionately because of the sign. I miss it – as well as another favorite, the nearby Broken Drum (you can’t beat it) which was more of a dinner place that wouldn’t let groups of teenagers stay for long.

  • Lola says:

    Zucky’s was similar to Juniors (on Pico in Westwood today), and a pale shadow of incredible Canter’s (still on Fairfax – since 1931). The food at Zucky’s was reasonable and quite good. For many years it was a great, around the clock oasis for locals, especially those without many transporation options.

  • Lisa says:

    My parents first met at Zucky’s in Santa Monica in 1962. They had me in 1963. Thanks Zucky’s!

  • Bob Barnett says:

    Zuckys was a great deli until the orig family sold it to an Iranian guy who immediately went to cheap products and raised the prices. The downgrade was too obvious. The place closed within a year.

  • Marty Halpern says:

    I ate at Zucky’s every Sunday morning for their chili omelette. ‘Nuff said.

  • BreakfastLover says:

    Never got to eat here but I have a good memory of the place. Mid 80s, I was in town shooting a newsmagazine story. I met a crew at Zucky’s one night, but before we took off I had to leave a big bag of videotapes somewhere safe where a courier could pick them up for shipping. I explained my problem to the woman at the front and asked her if I could leave our priceless material (really) with her.

    Without missing a beat she said sure. I told her how important the tapes were, she looked me in the eye and said don’t worry. I gave her $20 and didn’t worry. I was starving (too busy to eat) and still remember how much I wanted to sit down in this bustling place & feed my face. And I still remember how the network bureau said “you left the tapes WHERE?” and how that wonderful woman saved me a lot of aggravation.

  • NSC says:

    Strawberry and cherry cheesecakes were the hands down, best ever!

  • Tim Karrock says:

    I wasnt ever at Zuckys because I live in Germany. But I dealt to find out whats going on in LA during the 70-80s. I am a really great Arnold Schwarzenegger fan and I like to try to put me into position of feeling like the people at that time! :-) Anybody here who could describe how it looked inside?
    Cheers from Germany and hopefully meet this great place one day…:)

  • Lola says:

    The décor at Zucky’s was mid-century mod deli. There were curved tufted vinyl-upholstered booths in a soft orange and beige formica-topped chrome tables. The strange wall art fascinated me: framed glass covered fabric images that were thickly quilted in abstract patterns of no discernible color. The effect was white on white. I studied them unsuccessfully looking for a clue to what they represented. My high school was a few blocks away. We spent a lot of time there. Loved the club sandwich with Russian dressing.

  • Lola says:

    I should add that as local teenagers, we referred to Zucky’s affectionately as “3-ucky’s” (see sign above). Also, it was just up Wilshire from another teen hangout – Harold Lloyd’s bowling alley, Lodamar, and Lincoln Park (now Reed Park) was only 2 blocks east.

  • Mitch Levine says:

    I heard that the owner or a waitress was the winner of a California early lottery.

  • Sean McGeever says:

    I worked in the Deli in the mid 80,s and Im trying to get a hold of some old coworkers.All the Mexican guys that worked there use to call me charito .The place changed after fred sold it.I also met so many stars and famous people.I moved back to NY in the 90,s for a job in manhattan.But I miss that place ,Iwas the Deliman with the NY accent. I thought everyone else had the accent.

  • Kathleen Blanchard says:

    Even before Zucky’s was at third and Wilshire, it was on the promenade at Pacific Ocean Park. That’s when I was introduced to deli food. When they relocated, I think due to the construction of POP, we followed. The original place was a huge room in the 1920′s style,with simple semi-enclosed with benches for seats. Similar to the booths at Phillippe’s. Good food and lots of it. Though we liked the “new” location, it just wasn’t the same.

  • don kinsinger says:

    Lola and Alison- I worked at Llo Da Mar Lanes during my teen age years and ate at Zucky’s often. In 8th grade I worked after school at the Broken Drum Jr. While living in No. Cal. and hearing Llo Da Mar was closed it was a very sad day. It should have been on historical preservation list.

  • KaMaBuA says:

    Our H.S. was only blocks away so Zucky’s was our favourite hangout when we ditched classes. 45 yrs later and just thinking about the patty melts there has me salivating! The waitresses all knew where we went to school yet never dropped a dime on us. They did, however, only let us stay undisturbed until we’d finished eating; then they would remind us every couple of minutes that we could make it back for the next class if we left, NOW. Loved those gals!

  • Teri Rogers Unger says:

    Loved the number 6 sandwich, amazing! Loved the multi level interior and Fay the waitress!!

  • Susan Altman fedelchak says:

    My father Fred and my Uncle Hy opened Zuckys in 1954 and I worked there part time as a youngster through high school. It was a great place to watch the city of Santa Monica grow and prosper and the restaurant along with it The building is now a bank but the Zucky sign remains at Fifth and Wilshire, a proud addition to the National Historic Registry. Not bad for a place that had its start as a small deli on a pier at the beach. Thank you all for your kind words and, of course, your patronage.

  • John Hindsill says:

    Hi Susan. My cousin Miriam (Marian) served at Zucky’s from sometime in the 50s. I’m not sure if she was still there at the end, but was for a long time. Too many of the old delis are gone…the one on National near Centinela, the Beverlywood Deli on Robertson and many family ones in the Valley.

    My fondness is for the Beverlywood. Forty-six years ago my fiance and I had breakfast there most every Sunday morning during our engagement. We married, went on our honeymoon and set up household in Palms. On our first Sunday at home, I woke her up to go to breakfast. She confessed to me that she did not really like delis, and we never went again. It was many years before we did eat at a deli together, but she still isn’t really keen on them even today.

  • Michael Fuhrman says:

    I remember their lox sandwich I used to ask for it with sour cream not cream cheese, also the best creamy cheesecake. One night there was a huge wrestler named “Haystaks Calhoun” as they brought a large serving plate to his table he started grabbing the sandwiches before the plate was even on the table. Another time a guy was shaking a bottle of ketchup and it sprayed all over the guy behind him at another table, he was not a happy camper!!

  • Mel P says:

    Back in the early to mid 70′s, I was at UCLA. A lot of us students went to Zucky’s regularly when we pulled all-nighters either for partying or for study. I can’t count the number of actors and celebs I saw there in the wee hours after midnight — everyone from Marsha Wallace to Al Pacino, and an assortment of TV people whose faces I knew but names I didn’t. The food was basic greasy deli — breakfast and blintzes pretty good — never went near the real dinner meals. It wasn’t the food that brought us in, it was the 24 hrs when nothing else was available. Loved the place and the memories, and it wasn’t for Zucky’s culinary virtues. It is a perfect memory to me of that time and place in my life.

  • Shari Swick says:

    Great cheese blintzes in the late 1960′s

  • Karen says:

    Growing up in Santa Monica, Zucky’s was a staple. After a date for dessert, when the bars closed, and hanging out with friends, it was always open and full of people. I remember it fondly. I couldn’t tell you what I ate there, that wasn’t the point! It was a great place to see and be seen. Even years after everyone left for college, I could hardly go back and not bump into old friends.

  • Stephanie says:

    Friends and I would hang out at Zucky’s in the late 60′s early 70′s because it was the only place opened all night. We’d sit, drink coffee, munch on bagals and smoke cigarettes (since you could do that in restaurants then) talk and write lyrics together until 2am! It was great! I have such fond memories of that place and felt really sad when it closed. (just like that portion of my life)

  • Sue Schmier says:

    Does anyone remember the original jacks at the beach on the pier? Or does anyone remember the Ming room and house of Murphy on la cienega or the barclaykitchen across from farmers market?

  • Bill Stevens says:

    Sue! I do indeed remember Jack’s at the Beach. Had many an abalone steak (while abalone what plentiful and not a delicacy) . Also, got introduced the Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac…while it was affordable.

    House of Murphy? Indeed, although not too many memories of Restaurant Row.

    Madame Wu’s in Santa Monica? The Madame was the consummate hostess but the food was too Americanized to be great Chinese. She finally sold it as the property, on Wilshire Blvd, was way more valuable then the restaurant’s intake.

    On to Zucky’s..none of the westside wannabee delis ever compared to Cantor’s or the real-new york/chicago “deals.” Even the “new” Cantor’s lost it’s roots.

    Without sounding racist…i look to the ethnicity of those in the kitchen of the so-called ethnic restaurants. Nothing more to say. Period.

  • Lewis says:

    On Sunday mornings I would have a kipper with eggs, sitting in the lower level. There was always a happy, chatty crowd there. Miss it !!

  • Chris says:

    My uncle and I went there many times and a couple of times Wilt Chamberlain would be sitting at the counter. I remember he never had shoes on. I don’t think anyone refused service to him!

  • Skip Piper says:

    After an evening of partying I found myself sitting among friends “and” Anthony Quinn and Margeret O’Brien….Seemed normal, after all, we were at Zucky’s. Thanks for the memories.

  • Ms. Terry Weygandt says:

    I miss Zucky’s every day…..always great food, fun employee greetings and loved the comfy booth..
    I still have a mini-to-go menu which takes me back, remembering the best of times..
    so grateful to have enjoyed one of our favorite spots in Santa Monica.
    Old friends remain in our hearts..

  • Mark Kraus says:

    What a place it was! I aye there with my folks since 1959 & as an adult into the 70′s. There was a wiry cheery gray haired waitress whose ne I can’t remember but very Nancy Walker in her mannerisms. What a doll! And although it had a very Jewish deli presence, my fave was the “Cheese omelette with Chili en Casserole.”

  • KAREN STAHL says:

    Loved Zucky’s. I would drive there from the Valley in the 60′s to meet my friends for lunch where I would pull out my “Zucky’s Charge Card” and treat.
    I also remember the Deli clerks who were all Jewish comedians (or they thought they were) who could outsell Cal Worthington.
    I remember super sandwiches on rye or marble rye bread, great dill pickles and great breakfasts.
    I miss you Zucky’s..

  • Amelia Sue Marshall says:

    Zucky’s has a special place in my fond memories of the late ’60s. After I was released from L.A. County juvenile hall to a Santa Monica foster home, Zucky’s was my first dining-out experience. Oh, the blueberry blintzes! The lox and bagels. The matzoh ball soup! This was not “county food”. I SO wanted to be Jewish! Later Zucky’s would be my meet-up place to rendezvous with my dissolute rock musician boyfriends. Can’t we bring it back again?

  • Sam D says:

    I worked at Zucky’s during the summer of 1962. I never saw Much of Hy but Freddie was there most of the time and was just a super nice guy. Zucky’s was the first place I ever saw a microwave oven operate. I was awestruck at such a marvel of technology.

    Since it was open 24/7 the place was a magnet for a lot of drunks after the bars closed, especially on the weekends. It frequently got a bit rowdy then. I remember a couple times when I was working there late and some major brawls erupted that required police intervention.

  • David D says:

    When I was a kid I recall wondering what a weird name for a diner
    - “3 uckys” – family went there often though Pickle Bill’s was tops, as was “Tops”

  • John Hindsill says:

    My cousin Miriam, whom I mentioned about nine months ago, died earlier this week at age 88 give or take. As I mentioned, she waitressed at Zucky’s for many, many years. Heavenly pastrami, anyone?

  • Curtis Plumb says:

    The “Bigger Burger” for lunch and lox and eggs and onions for early mornings after a night out. I worked at the post office on 5th street and ate there every day in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

  • paul curtin says:

    I remember going to Zucky’s with my uncle after a dead show at the Hollywood bowl in 74 when I was a kid. I also remember that gray haired energetic waitress and her wonderful demeanor. My uncle Chris knew her by name. She wanted to make sure the kid had enough food and was okay hanging out with the hippies. The roast beef on rye with cole slaw and russian dressing was phenomenal. As good as any NY deli. My uncle and I went there often on the way home after dodger games when I was in LA.

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