What a great place! One of my fellow Fans of Roadfood, the presiding genius behind BZ Maestro Eats, had just reported on Shapiro’s, see here, and Nancy and I made Shapiro’s our first stop when we got to Indianapolis after the drive from Lansing. I’d eaten there before back when I was in Indianapolis coordinating the multi-state investigation of a church arsonist whom we eventually tagged for 39 fires in the Midwest and South. The little white church that appears in the opening of the film Hoosiers was the first. The arsonist had been traveling all over the US with his girlfriend, an ecdysiast. He persuaded some 300 young men to sign contracts in blood selling their souls to Lucifer. Or perhaps it was something about her, We tracked the pair by some credit card charges and by dispatching ATF and FBI agents to scores of strip clubs. (They generally used $1 bills for expenses. The arsonist pair, not the agents.) Once captured, he pleaded guilty to the Indiana fires, and one in Georgia on which then-Assistant US Attorney Chris Wray and I coordinated, in which a firefighter died.
While in Indianapolis, I’d had a lot of lunches with various law enforcement officers, which is a great way to find excellent and affordable food. One of those great places was Shapiro’s. Fast forward, and Nancy and I were back in Indianapolis the day after our 10k state capital walk in Lansing, Michigan (#30 of the 50) for another 10k walk to check #31 off the list.
But first, lunch. Shapiros is just south of downtown, near the Colt’s stadium. The Shapiro family has run it for well over 100 years, and it is a treasure, a spacious cafeteria-style treasure, with scores of tables and a constant line of customers.
There are daily specials, but the stars of Shapiro’s are the corned beef, the pastrami, and the other big thick deli sandwiches. Shapiro’s must have a high speed slicer to keep that line moving so fast.
After looking at the size of the sandwiches, both of us ordered the soup and a half sandwich. Nancy ordered the turkey and chicken noodle soup combination, and some raspberries.
I also went with the chicken noodle soup and at checkout, the cashier asked if I wanted crackers for my soup and, expecting a pack or two of saltines, said, “Please,” and was pelted with club crackers. Another guy cut in and asked for applesauce and received several of those little half cups. Shapiro’s does not skimp.
For my half sandwich, eschewing corned beef and pastrami (!), I chose salami on rye with mustard.
With its long history, Shapiro’s is a place that evokes nostalgia. I’ve been a huge fan of garlicky kosher salami since the 8th grade, when we moved to Crestline Village in Mountain Brook, Alabama, outside Birmingham. Mountain Brook has a substantial Jewish population and an enormous JCC. Although we were back-sliding Methodists, our family joined. The JCC had handball courts (for my father) and they also showed foreign films — Buñuel, Fellini, De Sica, and the like. My mother, Dear, went there for water aerobics into her 90s. (She and her buddies were upbraided at least once for drinking champagne in the pool.) Anyway, there were several delis in Crestline Village, and I chose salamis based on the predominance of Hebrew lettering on the packaging and garlic in the sausage. My favorite deli was Davis’s. It had matchless rye bread, outstanding salami, very good chili, and an oyster bar. Birmingham is very ecumenical.
So I ordered salami at Shapiro’s. Their salami is delicious, and their rye bread is, if anything, even better. The bread is moderately dense with a good resistance in the crust, and an evocative flavor and aroma. Their mustard has that good German character. The sandwich took me back to the days of my youth.
Of course, thinking of my misspent youth has, not to put too fine a point on it, a down side once you get into the details of the misspending. Next trip to Shapiro’s, I’ll go for the corned beef. Or the pastrami. Or maybe split one of each with someone. Either way, I’ll go to Shapiro’s, and you should, too, on your next trip to Indianapolis.
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