Steven Peljovich took over Michael’s Deli at 256 Harvard Street in Coolidge Corner from Michael himself in 2012. He planned to maintain the classic, quality deli offerings while adding a heavy dose of neighborhood friendliness. “Part of the allure of the deli is that it’s a family place,” says Peljovich. “I bring an element of goofiness to things.”

Family is the root value of the deli, and of Peljovich’s life. His children play an active role in the business. Every year on New Year’s Day, he gives the staff the day off and has his family work in the deli. They also run the deli on Marathon Monday.

Charity is another significant element of the deli’s mission. “I’ve got three kids, and I want to teach them to give back to others,” says Peljovich. Two of the sandwiches on the deli’s menu donate part of their proceeds to charity. Proceeds from the “Cancer Sucks” sandwich, a turkey, red pepper hummus, and gouda creation invented by Peljovich’s children, are donated to Relay for Life. The “Thorty Black and Gold” sandwich combines black pastrami with cheddar cheese, honey mustard, and hots, and proceeds go to the Shawn Thornton Foundation.

The Reuben is a bestseller at Michael’s Deli, and it deserves the title for the high-quality meat and subtle blend of flavors. But the real secret of the deli lies in the knish counter. Peljovich, it turns out, is a master knish maker. He offers standard daily flavors and a specialty flavor every week. Previous specialty flavors have included birthday cake (a request from his son for his sixteenth birthday), bacon mac-and-cheese and pumpkin cheesecake. “Nobody does knishes the way we do,” says Peljovich. And he’s not kidding.

Equally as exciting as the exotic knish flavors are the flavor reveal. Every Thursday Peljovich sends a photo out on his social media of what he’s putting in that week’s specialty knish, which comes out on Friday. If you can guess what the flavor is, you get a free knish. With enough lead-time, Peljovich will also make knishes by request for special occasions.

The deli has used the same vendors since its opening. “Deli-wise, the meats you get here are closer to the old school deli meats than anywhere else,” says Peljovich. In addition to the large selection of sandwiches, the deli offers classic meats by the pound like pastrami, corned beef, tongue, and liver.

He says the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the deli stir up old memories for its guests. “It puts a smile on my face, cause these are happy memories,” he says. “Being in the deli sparks memories 30, 40, 50 years back.”

Whether you’re coming in for a classic Reuben or a specialty knish, you won’t leave Michael’s Deli without a smile on your face.

By Celina Colby