Shapiro’s delicatessen-cafeteria began in 1905 as a storefront grocery at 808 South Meridian Street. During the early years, Louis Shapiro, a Russian immigrant from Odessa, sold kosher meats and groceries to the Jewish community living on the southside. 

Max Shapiro with customer Frania Kaplan, May 1950
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

After Prohibition ended, the store sold cold beer for 10 cents a bottle, three bottles for a quarter. Soon, customers were asking for “something to eat” with their beer. Shapiro responded to their requests by making and serving deli sandwiches, kosher corned beef, and pastrami.

The grocery business suffered in the 1930s as the city’s southside Jewish community dispersed and gradually relocated to the northside, a move that had begun in the 1920s. The shift in population hurt the grocery business, which closed in the late 1930s, but the deli-cafeteria flourished. Over the years, the sandwiches and other kosher foods served by Louis Shapiro continued to be the mainstay of the restaurant’s menu. Shapiro’s has remained a family business and still follows a simple set of rules established by its founder: “Cook Good; Serve Generously; Price Modestly; People Will Come.”

Today the storefront grocery has expanded into a deli-cafeteria that seats over 200 people. Shapiro’s Delicatessen-Cafeteria operates an additional franchise at Indianapolis International Airport.

Revised February 2021

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