Wednesday Was a No Good, Very Bad Day at Philadelphia’s Most Iconic Deli

We've reviewed the health inspector's reports. They're not pretty.

The Philadelphia Department of Health put this cease operations sign on the door of Famous 4th Street Deli after a restaurant inspection on Thursday revealed some major problems

The Philadelphia Department of Health put this cease operations sign on the door of Famous 4th Street Deli after a restaurant inspection on Thursday revealed some major problems. (Photo by Bradford Pearson)

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Thursday Was a No Good, Very Bad Day at Philadelphia’s Famous 4th Street Deli

Famous 4th Street Deli has held an important place in the fabric of Philadelphia for many years. Philadelphia politicos love to hang out there on Election Day and talk shop and talk shit, and people like Barack Obama have shown up there. When Famous 4th Street Deli was on the verge of celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023, we dedicated this print piece to it, pleading with the Queen Village restaurant: “Don’t ever change.” And when we heard earlier this year that Famous 4th Street Deli’s would be getting a new owner, we all wondered what was next. So, naturally, when we spotted a “cease operations” sign on the restaurant’s door on Wednesday, we took notice.

It turns out that the Philadelphia Department of Health ordered Famous 4th Street Deli to temporarily shut down on Wednesday after an inspector found some major problems inside the restaurant. And if you’re thinking that maybe it was just a one-off bad day, let me take you back to April, when an inspector showed up there for the first time in 2024.

An inspector arrived around 11 a.m. on April 29th, and spent more than two hours inside Famous 4th Street. According to city records I’ve reviewed, the inspector found lots of “visible physical evidence of rodent activity,” including on surfaces used for food prep. Foods were being held at up to 61 degrees, when they are supposed to be held at temperatures no warmer than 41 degrees. (Bacteria start to grow rapidly in food at temperatures above 40 degrees.) And, in what is perhaps the worst luck a restaurant has ever had during an inspection, the inspector observed a roach on a customer’s table. There were plenty of other health code violations, but these were among the most serious. The inspector issued a warning and said the department would reinspect soon.

Well, that new inspection happened on Wednesday morning, also at 11 a.m. And I’ve also reviewed that report. It was the same inspector. The word “roach” doesn’t show up in the report, thank goodness. But that’s really the only good news. The inspector once again found foods being held at 61 degrees. There were flies. The inspector, once again, found lots of evidence of rodent activity, including on the food prep areas. And they added that there was an accumulation of “mouse turds” on the food contact surfaces of the deli’s slicer.

With these and other serious violations observed, the inspector ordered the restaurant to shut down, clean up and await a new inspection, which could happen as early as Friday. Above the cease operations sign, there’s a handwritten sign reading: “Long story. Thank you for understanding. C U Friday. Famous Family.”

On Thursday morning, this was the scene at the restaurant as workers appeared to be in the middle of a deep cleaning:

Famous 4th Street Deli

(Photo by Bradford Pearson)

The new owner of Famous 4th Street Deli told the Inquirer that the restaurant “dropped the ball.”

Local Talent

Jill Scott is in town for this weekend’s Roots Picnic. And Mural Arts took the occasion to honor the singer with this new mural outside Girls High, from which she graduated in 1990:

the new jill scott mural from mural arts in philadelphia

(Image courtesy Mural Arts)

Scott takes the stage at the Mann Center on Saturday, the first night of the music festival. She’s co-headlining with Nas.

And if you’re looking for a good beach read right about now, might I suggest The Lost Letters from Martha’s Vineyard by former Philly Mag staffer Michael Callahan. Vanity Fair absolutely loves it. Callahan comes to The Athenaeum of Philadelphia next week to tell you all about it.

By the Numbers

$200: Average fees that students graduating from Philadelphia’s public schools are asked to pay in “senior dues.” But sometimes that number is more like $375. And it’s unclear what the money is for and where it goes, in some cases.

1st: Ranking of Orlando on a list of cities with the most departing flights from Philadelphia International Airport. I’ve never done Orlando nor will I ever do Orlando, but you do you. Next in line: Atlanta, Boston and Chicago.

$15: Cost of one Philly’s best burgers, which recently returned after a long hiatus. The $15 is for a single patty. It’s $22 if you’re really hungry and want a double.

And From the That’s-More-Like-It! Sports Desk …

Kyle Schwarber sent starter Kyle Harrison’s fourth pitch out of the park to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in their final matchup yesterday with the Giants at Oracle Park. And they added another in the second, on singles from Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott and Cristian Pache, creating a nice pad for Cristopher Sánchez. There was a kerfuffle that cleared the benches when Bryce Harper thought he was being thrown at by Harrison …

But the unfazed Phils scored two more in the fifth, on a double by Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos’s homer. The mojo was back!

Luke Jackson replaced Harrison for the sixth, and Sánchez came out in the seventh, having given up no runs, four hits and one walk, with seven strikeouts. Gregory Soto came on and got three quick ones. It was Randy Rodríguez for the Giants in the bottom of the seventh, which he began by walking Whit Merrifield and Garrett Stubbs on nine pitches total. Schwarber and Harper then each singled: 6-0 Phils.

Seranthony handled the eighth, well, handily, though in the ninth, Spencer Turnbull gave up a run on a double and a single. Eh, no worries! A big 6-1 win. They come home to face the Cardinals this weekend, starting Friday night.

Any Doop News?

Not exactly. The Union hosted FC Toronto on a soggy Subaru Park last night, and not much happened in the first half, as has been the Union’s wont this season. And guess what? Not much happened in the second half, either — and I’m not one of those folks who think soccer is boring. Even the commentators said this game was boring. Well, sub goalie Oliver Semmle did have a great save in the 81st minute, but the result was yawn.

The Union haven’t won at home since March. This is no way to keep the Sons of Ben happy, dammit.

All Philly Today sports desk coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.