This is an interview that I conducted with an owner of the BlackForest Deli, located on the west side of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on 745 Union Boulevard & 7th Ave. I want to thank Victoria of BlackForest Deli for taking the time out of her busy schedule to respond to my interview questions.
Why did you guys begin BlackForest Deli?
I began BlackForest Deli because I always had passion for cooking and food – wanted to share my recipes with the rest of the Lehigh Valley!
Your website says BlackForest Deli began in 1997 and your Facebook page says you began in 2003. Did you guys take over for a previous restaurant? If so, why did you decide to keep the same name?
I took over the place in 2003 which used to be a little convenience store but also sold subs, when I took over I totally created a new menu which included a variety of healthier options such as wraps, salads, paninis, homemade soups, and other homemade dishes that come from our Russian/Ukrainian background. The name was already there so I decided to just keep it but create my own brand and show people that you can still get awesome flavors even if the food is healthier.
What are a few of the bestsellers at the BlackForest Deli?
Best sellers are our famous macaroni salad, our homemade halupkis, our yummy Russian borsch, homemade pierogies, Italian subs and Arzunian panini which has avocado, turkey, spinach, tomatoes, honey mustard and lots of cheese grilled to a crunch on our freshly baked bread
What are your favorite menu items?
Of course, my favorite items are the Russian ones, borsch – love beets – homemade pierogies (especially the ones with the meat).
What makes BlackForest Deli unique and makes your customers return?
BlackForest is unique because it’s authentic, if you come in to our place we have Russian music blasting, mama screaming at me because I didn’t do something right. Anything goes at BFD (BlackForest Deli) – Customers return because this is not just a place where you get your sandwich and you are on your way out, everyone is our friend, we know everyone by their name and what they like and don’t like and everyone feels like they are home. It is a very friendly environment and you just can’t not return!
Where do the BlackForest Deli recipes come from?
All our homemade food is made by mama – she makes everything from scratch and with lots of love. Recipes have been made for generations and keep getting better and better – it is all about the taste – and making sure that everything has its own flavor.
Explain a little about BlackForest Deli Russian dinner nights.
We like to call our Russian Dinner Nights that occur every Thursday at BlackForest Deli – Kiev (as that’s where we are from) – it is a very exclusive kind of a night – RSVP only – very exclusive as we have limited seating and it is all fresh homemade Russian dishes – 5+ courses – soup/appetizer/specialty salad/ entree with mashed potatoes and herb salad/dessert and more! RSVP on our fan page every Thursday – and experience a Russian night in Bethlehem! Russian food – Russian music.
BlackForest Deli offers delivery and catering. Tell us a little bit about that and how new customers can utilize these services.
We cater and deliver to many local companies in the Lehigh Valley – we can make about anything – some of our specialty dishes for catering are assorted sandwich trays, king size salads, our yummy fresh bruschetta platter and much more – check out our website online bethlehemdeli.com – our food is freshly prepared as you order and very well-priced for what you get! We also cater any special events such as weddings, birthday parties, engagement parties and more!
The BlackForest Deli has been receiving lots of media publicity in recent weeks. Why do you think that is?
It all started with my first segment that I did for PBS 39 about a month and a half ago – it was actually about small businesses and how they utilize social media for their business. I, of course, am on every social media you can think of – facebook/twitter/linkedin/yelp and more – then channel 69 WFMZ called to me to do an episode on our borsch and do a segment on our deli and I also will be on WFMZ in June to do their AM cooking segment – stay tuned for that! I think people are noticing the love and efforts we put into our food, we make our food for you like we would make it for ourselves. You can taste a difference in food when there is lots of flavor and I think there is a lot of demand for the ethnic foods that we serve and I think Lehigh Valley is lacking ethnic/international authentic dishes!
You have been utilizing social networking more then most restaurant establishments. Tell us a little bit about your methods of networking and how successful they have been.
It’s been very easy for me to network – I don’t have to try – it naturally comes to me and I just say what is on my mind. I try to engage my fans on Facebook and not always talk about my deli but ask them how their weekend was. It’s not always about business but it’s about making that connection and building a relationship with that person. There are many things that we do and go out of our ways for our customers/friends. I want these people to feel like they are part of BlackForest Deli and not just a customer who is buying a sandwich and dropping me $5. We give out free lunches, treat our fans to free birthday cake and much more! I think social networking has definitely spread a lot of buzz about my deli and word of mouth maybe is slow but is the most effective and best way to get your name out there and my name is definitely out there!
Can you guys recall any funny moments while managing the BlackForest Deli?
Everyday is a funny moment – we are not a normal running business. You can come into our deli and see my mother and me screaming in Russian at each other – or me dancing in the middle of lunch or my mother feels the need to have the door wide open in the middle of January. It is not just a deli but maybe 50% comedy club! A lot of people call it “Cheers” of the Lehigh Valley because every time someone comes in they seem to know someone who is dining in.
What can BlackForest Deli customers expect in the near future?
Future will bring a bigger Russian/Ukrainian ethnic menu and we are definitely going to get more and more of the Lehigh Valley to come and try our food especially our Russian Thursday Night Dinners. There is a possibility of online ordering in the future but right now phone orders or email orders (firstname.lastname@example.org) work just as great.