Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

Front of Hofberg's menu, c.1950sApril 2013

Object No.: 1998.24.4
Donor: Ann Hofberg Richards
Description: Hofberg's menu, yellow and maroon printed cardboard, c.1950s

Background: Does this menu bring you back to a time when a corned-beef sandwich cost 35 cents? Many Washingtonians' have early memories of Hofberg's, located on the District line. Shepherd Elementary and Beth Sholom Sunday School students visited after class was over. When these young patrons became teenagers, they returned to Hofberg's, a great date place where all enjoyed the famous sandwiches, hot dogs, and pickles.

Some 40 years before opening his deli on Eastern Avenue, Abe Hofberg was born in Argentina, where his Eastern European parents had lived since they were children. Dora and Solomon Hofberg brought their family to Washington in the early 1920s. Abe and his siblings attended Roosevelt High School while their parents, like so many Jewish immigrants, ran a grocery store at 20th & E Streets, NW.

Hofberg's, 116 Kennedy Street, NW, Washington, DC, 1938When Abe launched his first deli at 116 Kennedy Street, NW (seen left) in 1928, the family lived four blocks away at 710 Longfellow Street, NW. His parents opened the doors every day at 6 a.m., and took over the counter while Abe served his country during World War II.

Shortly after Abe's return home, he sold the business on Kennedy Street, but quickly picked up where he had left off. In 1948, he opened a new Hofberg's where Eastern, Alaska, and Georgia Avenues meet on the border between Washington and Silver Spring. The sandwich shop became an popular hang-out for area teens to grab a heaping sandwich and a dish of ice cream.

Inside of Hofberg's menuOver the years, Hofberg's added catering service, room service for a neighborhood motel, and The Penthouse, a dining room upstairs from the deli. A 1957 advertisement for the Penthouse's grand opening boasted the establishment would be "America's most lavish and hospitable kosher restaurant outside of New York."

When the ownership changed in 1969, Hofberg's spread into Montgomery County, but the suburban locations were never as popular as their D.C. predecessors. Ten years after Abe Hofberg retired, the Eastern Avenue deli was praised in The Washington Post: "In the case of Hofberg's…everybody comes out a winner." Regretfully, after decades of serving as a meet-and-eat spot, the shop closed in the early 1980s, followed by the Maryland locations in the next few decades. While Hofberg's is now part of Washington's history, many native Washingtonians fondly remember its renowned deli fare.

Do you have material documenting a local deli or restaurant that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC's rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.