Dan Stein is the owner and namesake of Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 504-527-0771; www.steinsdeli.net), a sandwich, beer and sundries shop in the Lower Garden District. Stein spoke with Gambit about the store and its expanding beer program.
What's the Stein's origin story?
Stein: After law school, I got a job working at the Court of Appeals here for three years, then I quit and went up north when I decided I didn't like practicing law. I ran a cheese store for a couple of months while I was up there, then it shut down, so I moved back down to New Orleans. I wanted to open up my own store then, but I wasn't ready. I worked at Whole Foods (Market) for a while — couldn't stand it — so I ended up at Martin Wine Cellar, where I stayed for a couple of years. After (Hurricane) Katrina, I moved back (from Philadelphia) and about a year and a half later found a space and opened Stein's.
Stein's has an ever-expanding beer program. What beers are you most excited about right now?
S: When I went to work at Whole Foods, I worked at the one on Esplanade (Avenue) that's no longer there. I wanted to do cheese, and it was great but didn't really take up that much time. I had to have other responsibilities in the department and one of them was beer, coffee and wine. I started putting away the beers, started reading about the beers, started taking the beers home and started drinking the beers, so I taught myself a lot about them.
It's strange in New Orleans, because even when fall beers are coming out, it's the hottest it's ever been. We're getting in the first batch of pumpkin beers, though: (Wychwood Brewery Company) Pumpking, Crown Valley (Imperial Pumpkin Smash) and (Southern Tier Brewing) Warlock.
My favorite beer depends on my mood and who I'm drinking with, but if I'm by myself I like a nice little hoppy session — not too heavy, an IPA or something that doesn't go above 6 or 7 percent alcohol.
The beer classes we've taught have been good; everyone seems to enjoy them. They really teach people about beer and help them feel more comfortable about what they like and their future selections. We've never really gone above an intro class, but we do riffs on themes sometimes with classes — sour beers, stinky beers or funky beers.
A video you released recently has gone pretty viral. What's the back story?
S: When I moved back up to Philly about a month before Katrina, this woman who worked with me at Martin Wine Cellar also moved up to do a bunch of internships involving film things. She started working on this Dating on Demand show and asked me to interview for it. I was like, "I don't know ..." but I interviewed for it. She finagled me onto this dating show and then quit two days later. It was too late for me to back out then, so I was on the show. I went on this stupid date. Strangely enough, her brother James, who I call "Baby James," ended up being one of my first employees at Stein's and has been with me on and off for seven years.
My social media presence lately has just been a relentless bludgeoning of my image and my reputation, so I thought, "Why not up the ante a little bit?" I showed James the video and said, "Why don't we put it on the Internet?" So he went through NOVAC (New Orleans Video Access Center) and got it converted and out there. I don't know what you can really do as an encore to that video. At this point, I run the deli and make certain decisions there — run the register, fix the AC like I did today — but really I'm just here for your entertainment.