Shapiro’s Heir Tweaks Tradition at Fashion Mall

Indy’s deli dynasty changes things up at a new location, thanks to Brian Shapiro.
Brian Shapiro never figured on a life of corned beef and rye. The New Castle native, who grew up stocking the shelves in his father’s Central Indiana grocery stores, enrolled at IU’s School of Law, hoping to be an international tax lawyer. But when his great-uncle Max, longtime proprietor of the legendary Shapiro’s Delicatessen on South Meridian, called in early 1984, just a few months before he passed away, Shapiro quickly became heir apparent to childless Max’s landmark Jewish deli. Shapiro was no stranger to the restaurant, having helped out over the holidays and summers, but at the time, he had little idea of the changes he would eventually usher in. “We didn’t serve chicken salad back then,” Shapiro recalls. “We didn’t even grill the Reubens.” This winter, he opened a satellite location in the onetime home of Dalts American Grill at The Fashion Mall. At just around 4,200 square feet, a third of the size of the downtown deli, the new space has a smaller, more contemporary menu featuring trademarked “Twisted Traditions” such as a rare roast beef sandwich topped with arugula. One tradition Shapiro won’t compromise on is keeping customers well-fed: “Food is a universal language. Fill someone’s belly, and they’re more likely to be your friend.”

Brian Shapiro’s Favorite Things

(1) Ice cream: “I loved Howard Johnson’s banana and black-raspberry flavors. But coffee is a favorite, too.”
(2) Leelanau County, Michigan: “We own a home in the woods.”
(3) Mama Irma Restaurant: “I admire how the owner [Hilda Cano] is teaching customers about her native heritage—just like my grandparents did at Shapiro’s.”
(4) The Internet: “I keep reading until I reach the end of what’s out there. I’m one of those kind of guys.”