‘Starting small and thinking big’ at Mo’s Deli

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This story was originally written for the Anchorage Press.


A Jewish deli has opened in Anchorage, stocked full of matzah ball soup, potato latkes and pickled tongue.

Husband and wife duo Jason Ellis and Betty Sheldon, sole owners of Mo’s Deli, opened the doors on June 11, 2018. Since the grand opening, people have been “coming out of the woodwork,” Ellis said, from old high school friends to members of the Jewish community.

One Facebook reviews says, “Best pastrami in Anchorage, probably the whole state,” while another says “Best [Reuben] in town. I was sad to see Quiznos go, but something much better has replaced it!”

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time,” Ellis said. “It’s something that’s missing from Alaska.”

Ellis grew up in the state, but his father and grandparents were raised in Brooklyn, New York.

His grandparents, who were married for more than 67 years, inspired him to open the restaurant. The deli is named after his grandfather, Morris, who went by Mo.

In the restaurant, there’s a framed photo of Mo, with a plaque saluting him for his honorable service during World War II and the Korean Conflict. He lived to be 100. Mo’s pet name for his wife, Mildred, was Piggy, which is incorporated into the menu, too. You can order Grandma Piggy’s Soup like chicken noodle or beef barley.

Mo’s Deli doesn’t serve ham but makes up for it in a whole menu of tasty foods, like bagel and lox, potato knish and chopped liver. All meats used are sourced from Sy Ginsberg United Meat and Deli.

Ellis’ wife, Sheldon, is from Noorvik, an Iñupiat village of less than 700 people.

“I do Christmas, they do Hanukkah, and I love that. I’m learning their culture,” she said.

Growing up, Ellis oftentimes visited the East Coast to see family, and a place they would frequently visit were Jewish delis. Sheldon says she recently visited New York with Ellis to meet his family, and not much has changed.

“We went deli hopping every day,” Sheldon said.

A Quiznos was previously located in the strip mall where Mo’s Deli is now. Ellis said that the crew who used to work at the sandwich shop now work for Mo’s.

“The big dream is to expand and have different locations, but that’s down the road,” Ellis said. “I’m starting small and thinking big.”

Mo’s Deli is located at 9222 Lake Otis Pkwy, Suite 1 and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Author

Hi! My name is Sam Davenport. I am a freelance writer and lifelong Alaskan who loves reporting on the state’s history, food and culture. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, where I received bachelors degrees in journalism and political science. I was the executive editor of The Northern Light — UAA’s student-run newspaper — for 2.5 years During my time at UAA, I completed internships at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. I am the managing editor of The Spenardian, an award-winning hyper-local news blog and magazine for the neighborhood of Spenard. I have been published in Vice, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News, The Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Magazine, Alaska Business, The Northern Light, The Anchorage Press, The Frontiersman, Alaska’s Energy Desk, KSKA, KTOO, Last Frontier Magazine, Crude Magazine, Mountain View Post, The Spenardian, Alaska Contractor Magazine, Wildheart Magazine and True North Magazine. For freelancing rates or a copy of my resume, please email me at samanthabdavenport@gmail.com.

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