Joseph I. Mandell, a longtime Baltimore restaurateur whose ++ delicatessen was a popular gathering spot in Northwest Baltimore in the 1950s and early 1960s, died yesterday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Towson. He was 82.
He was co-owner with his father-in-law of the Mandell and Ballow Restaurant in the Hilltop Shopping Center, in the 5400 block of Reisterstown Road, which was open 24 hours a day, had 300 seats -- and seemed to be filled most of the time.
"It was 10 Downing St. for Northwest Baltimore. Everyone went there," City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, whose district includes the area, said yesterday.
Ms. Spector recalled that politicians from Northwest Baltimore would go there on election evenings to "finish off the night with a hot dog and a cinnamon stick."
The delicatessen included a downstairs catering hall that was the site of many weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs in what was then a heavily Jewish section of the city. It was across the street from the Hilltop Diner, which filmmaker Barry Levinson immortalized in his Baltimore-based coming-of-age movie, "Diner."
"The young kids went to the diner, and the old folks went to Mandell's," Ms. Spector said.
The restaurant was destroyed by a fire in 1966, and was not reopened.
Before starting the restaurant at the Hilltop shopping strip, Mr. Mandell owned Mandell's Restaurant in the old Emerson Hotel at the corner of Baltimore and Calvert streets. The downtown establishment was famous for its "chicken in the rough" -- fried chicken with biscuits and a cup of honey served in a basket.
Born in East Baltimore, Mr. Mandell attended Polytechnic Institute but dropped out in the 10th grade to help support his family. He began his restaurant career in 1932, at the age of 19, working at Katz's Restaurant on East Baltimore Street. Two years later, he took over the business and changed the name to Mandelicatessen.
He was a founding member of the Standard Club, a men's social organization, and Beth El Congregation and a former member of Bonnie View Country Club.
Mr. Mandell was married for 43 years to the former Eleanor Ballow, who died in 1981.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Bros., 6010 Reisterstown Road, with burial at the Beth Jacob Anshe Veshear Congregation Cemetery in Rosedale.
Mr. Mandell is survived by his wife of 11 years, the former Zelda Friedman; two sons, Jay Mandell and Sandy Mandell; two daughters, Barbara Desser and Sherry Mandell; two stepsons, Howard Friedman and Alan Friedman; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson. All are of Baltimore.