Paul Saginaw Takes Las Vegas at the Circa Casino and Hotel

We may be in Las Vegas, but Saginaw’s Delicatessen located in the posh and very hip 1.25- million-square-foot, $1 billion Circa Casino & Hotel in the trending upwards historic Las Vegas district called the Fremont Street Experience, certainly has a Michigan spirit to it all. Paul Saginaw, who dropped out of graduate school and co-founded Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor almost 40 years ago, helping to grow the little Jewish delicatessen into a business that brings in over $45 million a year and has upwards to 600 employees.

Now at an age when many people are planning on retiring, Saginaw has rented a condo that’s just an eight-minute walk away. That way he can put in 12 to 18 hour days at his deli which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“My friends think I’m insane,” Saginaw tells me over a lunch the includes many of the sandwiches recognizable by those who have eaten at Zingerman’s Deli—such as their corned beef topped Swiss Emmental cheese, coleslaw & Russian dressing on Jewish rye bread, kreplach—the house made chicken broth with a brisket-filled dumpling, latkes, and knishes.

But despite the hours, Saginaw says that owning a place in Vegas is exactly where he wants to be.

Saginaw is a storyteller, often breaking into asides. Talking about growing up in the Detroit area, he says his sisters taught him to dance because he wasn’t handsome. That couples with being able to make women laugh was how he snagged his wife Lori Saginaw decades ago.

I’m torn, wanting to write everything down which is, of courses, why I’m here, but also nibble on the food that’s spread out on the table in front of us. Not exactly sophisticated of me, was it?

But here’s the gist of how our meeting went.

As I take a bite out of Ben Sherman’s Corned Beef & Pastrami, the  house-made Russian dressing drips on my notebook. I’m torn between whether to try to clean it up with a napkin, eat more of the sandwich, or take notes as Saginaw tells me about how as kid, he ground-up chicken livers for his Grandmother Sherman as she prepared Friday Shabbat dinner. That quickly leads him talk about making gribenes from schmalz (chicken fat)—a necessary if complicated step to create what he describes as the most sublime chopped liver dish ever. 

He recites the entire recipe for his grandmother’s or as its listed on the menu Bubbe’s chopped liver, but by now I’m too busy eating a matzoh ball. Talking about Grandma Sherman leads us next to Saginaw’s great uncle Charles “Chickie” Sherman, the number one Detroit bookie who was first arrested in 1925 and then added at least another 64 to the score before the big bust at Detroit’s Anchor Bar in 1971. That’s when two guys playing pool all of a sudden jumped over the bar and announced, “this is a raid.”  

Chickie and 151 other people including about 15 policemen were arrested. Saginaw tells me he read the transcripts of the wiretaps the Feds made before the raid which ran thousands of pages. But Chickie’s business problems didn’t hurt the bookie’s popularity. When he died three years later, his funeral at the Ira Kaufman Funeral Chapel in Southfield, Michigan set the all-time record for attendance.

As an aside, those who want to take a stroll through Detroit’s mob days, the Anchor Bar is still in business.

Uncle Chickie is a big part of why Saginaw, who co-founded the very famous Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor with Ari Weinzweig back in 1982, is in Vegas.  He’s always wanted to be here since first coming when young and hearing  Chickie ask for chips and the pit boss ordering five big ones be sent over.

Indeed, we may be in Vegas, but really—as I mentioned earlier–there’s a lot of Detroit here as well. Derek Stevens, who owns the Circa, used to eat at Zingerman’s when he was a student at University of Michigan. When he emailed and asked Saginaw to open up a place at his new casino, what could Saginaw do but say yes.  There are other East Michigan restaurants at Circa and as well as Stevens’ The D Las Vegas also part of the Fremont Experience as well including Andiamo Steak House, a high end Italian-inspired restaurant and the family owned American Coney Island. Owners Chris Sotiropoulos and Grace Keros also started up their first new concept Victory Burger & Wings Co in over one hundred years at Circa. The restaurant overlooks Circa’s sportsbook – the world’s largest, in fact.

 As if Saginaw isn’t busy enough, he and partner Steve Mangigian also developed Jack Pots for Circa, a contemporary coffee stand serving their only-at-Circa coffee blend.

Honoring the original Detroit Tiger Stadium in Corktown where Stevens spent a lot of his youth, Circa’s Overhang Bar is located on the top floor of the Sportsbook, which by the way is the largest in the world. It was created to look like one of his favorite overlooks at the sports venue.

 There’s also, though this has nothing to do with Stevens’s hometown of Detroit except that it’s every Michigan sports fans’ dream, a three-story, high-definition 78 million megapixel television screen. Don’t even think about buying one, because it cost approximately $20 million.

All in all—Stevens has brought Michigan to the desert.

“This has been on my bucket list forever,” says Saginaw who says he had a fascination with downtown Las Vegas versus the stretch of casinos on Las Vegas Avenue further south called the Las Vegas Strip.

But it’s not only restaurants that migrated out here. Saginaw brought along a lot of Zingerman’s menu items including the corned beef made exclusively for them by Sy Ginsberg at United Meat & Deli in Detroit.

According to Zingerman’s blog, when they first opened, “Sy delivered our corned beef out of the back of his Volkswagen. Then he’d stick around the deli for a few hours during the lunch rush to help out on the sandwich line. Paul sometimes introduces Sy as ‘the man who made the first corned beef sandwich at Zingerman’s.’”

As for the bread, well, it seems that though we’re still in U.S., there’s enough of a difference between the water and the climate that Saginaw worked for several years with Carlos Pereira, a well-known Vegas baker to perfect the rye bread so it tastes like what you get at the Ann Arbor deli.  Cheeses come from  Zingerman’s Creamery and sweets from Zingerman’s Candy in Ann Arbor along with other items made by their eleven community-based businesses.

The décor at Saginaw’s Delicatessen also reflects Detroit. An entire wall—a very large one—has blown up photos for the family including Great Uncle Chickie, who standing with his wife, doesn’t look like a mobbed up bookie but rather just an ordinary guy. Lori Saginaw was also at the deli the day I was there. She works with her husband and comes out to Vegas regularly. 

“They branded me,” says Saginaw about the big stature of him by the deli’s entrance. Indeed, Saginaw’s name has become so connected with Zingerman’s quality foods, that drawings of his trousers with suspenders, jaunty hat, and black glasses are used in ads. But while Saginaw and Zingerman’s always had a type of hippie-ish ambience going on, there’s a lot of glitz at the new delicatessen in keeping with Circa itself whose tag line is “The Conduit Between the Las Vegas of the Past and the Las Vegas of tomorrow.” 

As for Saginaw—well, he describes it as “a dream come true.”

Some recipes to try from Zingerman’s.

Zingerman’s Curried Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups roasted turkey, diced and packed
  • ¾ cup roasted cashews, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ½ medium red onion, diced small
  • ½ bunch scallions, sliced
  • ¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Épices de Cru Trinidad curry blend
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

Serve the turkey salad on a bed of greens or your favorite Zingerman’s bread. To do it up Zingerman’s Deli style, place a couple generous scoops of curried turkey salad topped with microgreens between two slices of toasted Zingerman’s Bakehouse pecan raisin bread.

Bea’s Molasses Cookies

  • 2 1/3 cups Zingerman’s Bakehouse All Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cups butter
  • 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice

Cream butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. Then molasses.

In thirds, add dry ingredients to wet, mixing between additions. Wrap in plastic, chill 30 minutes up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll 2″ balls of dough, roll in sugar. Place on baking sheets 2-3″ apart, flatten slightly with fingers.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the corned beef with a little water, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven.

Meanwhile, put the whole loaf of rye bread (unwrapped) into the oven. Bake the bread until the crust is very crunchy, about 15 minutes. Set the bread on the counter and let it cool for about 5 minutes.

When the rye bread is cool enough to handle place it on a cutting board. Hold the bread knife at a 45-degree angle and cut 12 slices.

Take the corned beef out of the oven and unwrap it. Spread each slice of bread with Russian dressing. Layer half of the slices with corned beef, sauerkraut and slices of Swiss cheese, then top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread (dressing-side down).

Heat 2 large heavy skillets over medium heat. Brush the bread with butter. Put the sandwiches in the pans and weight them with a lid or heat proof bowl topped with something heavy. Cook until the first sides are crisp and golden about 7 minutes then flip the sandwiches. Cook until the second sides are also well toasted, and the cheese is melted. Lift the sandwiches onto a cutting board. Cut each in half diagonally and serve.

Russian Dressing

Yield: 2 cups

  • 3/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped curly parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced Spanish onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine the mayonnaise, chili sauce, sour cream, parsley, onion, pickle, lemon juice, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and mix well.

Ann Arbor vibe: Where social consciousness meets creativity

There’s a definite vibe in Ann Arbor — one where social consciousness and creativity converge. And so I mapped out interesting places in the eclectic Westside to immerse myself in all this trendy city has to offer.zingerman camp bacon t-shirt

A first stop is the Selma Cafe, located in the home of Jeff McCabe and his wife, Lisa Gottlieb. The cafe is open Friday for breakfast in their historic home. Local chefs, such as cookbook author Max Sussman, formerly a chef at Zingerman’s and the now-closed Eve who is now chef and co-owner of Samesa Restaurant in Williamsburg, volunteered to create wonderful meals using local ingredients, sometimes serving up to 180 meals during the event.

On a mission

Proceeds from these breakfasts support the area’s Community Sustainable Agriculture operations, including building hoop houses — inexpensive structures that continue the growing season once the weather turns cold.

A moveable feast


At my next stop, I eat freshly baked Welsh scones topped with Devonshire cream and housemade plum and vanilla rooibos tea jam at the elegant TeaHaus, on Fourth Street north of the downtown. The TeaHaus features a wall of drawers filled with more than 200 varieties of tea leaves from around the world.

Also on the same street is the People’s Food Co-op, a community-owned natural foods grocery store, where customers can stock up on at least three types of kale and four varieties of sprouts, among other items, and enjoy a Fair Trade coffee and meal at its Cafe Verde.

Across the street is Fourth Ave Birkenstock selling the low-carbon transportation alternative with just two moving parts and featuring one of the few in the nation to have a Birkenstock shoe repair team.

Around the corner on Ann Street is Vicki’s Wash & Wear Haircuts & Heavenly MetalDSC_0316 (1), a gallery and gift shop featuring a range of global art works, including furniture, jewelry, clothing, purses, shoes and gift items. Tucked away in a front corner of the store is the lone salon chair where you can get your hair cut by owner Vicki Honeyman, a film school graduate who morphed into hair styling and retail more than a decade ago.

Later, I drink lattes with Ari Weinzweig, a Russian history major who eschewed grad school and instead co-founded Zingerman’s Deli, which grew into the food empire of seven businesses. The food emporium features expensive imported olive oils, freshly baked breads, retro pimento cheese and chopped chicken liver. Each year, 10 percent of sales go toward community projects and another 5 percent goes into a community chest for employees.DSC_0047

Though so far I’ve been able to walk to all these places, all within a radius of a few blocks, for my next stop I hit the road to chat with Alex Young, the James Beard Award-winning chef at Zingerman’s Road House, part of Zingerman’s mega-business, which is located off the Jackson Avenue, Exit 172 of I-94. Young not only creates fantastic meals, he also has a farm where he raises heirloom and organic produce and animals for his restaurant. Young’s next goal is to grow ancient grains such as farro, an Egyptian precursor to wheat.DSC_0188

A jump onto the interstate and a few miles later on the southeast side of town I’m at Motawi Tileworks, where owner/designer Nawal Motawi creates tiles using local clays and glazes mixed on site and offers tile-making workshops.

At dinner that night, chef/owner Brandon Johns of the farm-to-table restaurant Grange Bar & Kitchen in downtown Ann Arbor is serving one of his best-selling menu items — fried pig’s head served with gribiche, a French mustard mayonnaise sauce. I don’t ask for the recipe, but Johns, who stops by my table, gives me a brief description anyway, including such steps as boiling and then removing the meat from a pig’s head. I sigh with relief to learn that eyeballs are not part of the recipe. Trust me, you don’t want to know any more about the process, but the dish is delicious.DSC_0059

Creating a custom tour is easy. Go to the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website,, and make a list of what sounds intriguing. It’s a wonderful way to while away a day with an adventure both enriching and enlightening.

Chorizo with Blue Cheese and Dates

Courtesy of Chef Brandon Johns, Grange Kitchen & Bar

1 pound Spanish style dried chorizo sausage

½ pound blue cheese, Cabrales is recommended

8 Medjool dates, pitted and halved

Toothpicks or skewers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Slice chorizo into 16 pieces and lay flat on cutting board. Fill center of date with cheese and place cut side of date on top of each chorizo. Skewer each chorizo with toothpick.

Place skewers on baking sheet and place in oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until sausage is warm and cheese is a little melted. Serve immediately.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse Mac & Cheese

Courtesy of Chef Alex Young

Coarse sea salt

1 pound macaroni

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup diced onion

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 pound grated raw milk cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and stir well. Cook until the pasta is done. Drain and set it aside.

Melt butter for the sauce in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat being careful not to scorch the butter. Add the onion and bay leaf and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Add the flour, and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.

Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid lumping. When the flour and milk have been completely combined, stir in the cream. Keep the mixture at a gentle simmer (not at a high boil) until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the mustard, cheddar cheese and salt to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.

In a heavy bottom skillet over med-high heat, get the pan very hot. Add olive oil and when it begins to smoke add the cheese sauce and the drained cooked noodles. Toss thoroughly and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until you have approximately 15 % of the mixture golden brown. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat.