Click here to read: The Junket - A Love Story
Old school European Café & Deli since 1979
Come find your German & British groceries here.
Open November 1979
Closed December 2021
235 El Cerrito Plaza
El Cerrito, CA 94530
The Junket’s shelf life expired December 30, 2021
Who knew that longtime Bruno and Cindy’s Labor of Love, and Fountain of Youth, The Junket Delicatessen & Café established in 1979 in El Cerrito would have such a 42 year deli-cious run. If those Deli slicers could talk! Countless stories of love, mystery, Clotted Cream, Limburger, Spotted Dick, Köstritzer and…Headcheese. “Tales from the Deli” is sure to be a bestseller.
The Junket was truly a one-of-a-kind place. It’s not often that you find a family-run business these days. Bruno and Cindy opened the The Junket in 1979 at the El Cerrito Plaza. (I do remember talk of an Earthworm Farm or Almond Ranch?). They quit their corporate jobs at age 50, because they wanted to work for themselves. They ventured into “unknown territory” with no restaurant experience. They were however, familiar with “unknown territory”. They got engaged the night they met, despite the fact they did not speak the same language. “I’m from Jamaica” said Cindy. “I’m from a Shoemaker” heard Bruno. Bruno asked Cindy to marry him and put a piece of wire on her finger, and off they went to find the Land of Plenty.
Cindy had left her large family in Jamaica to study nursing in England after WW2. She grew up in Galina, near Ian Flemings (James Bond) Goldeneye estate. Her mother Gwendolyn Cleopatra ran a straw hat shop and also worked for Noël Coward (the playwright), who lived nearby at Firefly, in pirate Henry Morgan’s former home. (Ok enough name dropping). Bruno grew up in Southern Germany, Schwabenland. He was a young teen during WW2 and witness to many atrocities. They fell in love at a dance party in Germany and yearned to flee depressed Europe and start life elsewhere. A “Golden” bridge in San Francisco? the Land of Opportunity? The young lovers headed west. They emigrated first to the icy land of Sault Ste. Marie with practically nothing and knowing no one. They lived in an attic. 6’5” Bruno (and Sean Connery doppelgänger) could only stand up in the center. They were married ‘below the alter’ in a church because Cindy was not Catholic, and that preacher also told them their marriage would ‘never work’. Their generous Canadian landlords threw them a wedding reception. They did not know any of the guests, but there was a money tree!
“San Francisco, open your Golden Gate, you’ll let nobody wait outside your door” – Those song lyrics eventually rang true for them. They arrived in Berkeley in the sixties. Lived in El Cerrito for a couple years and then moved to the beautiful Shire of Kensington.
Bruno and Cindy are now in their nineties. They have been happily married for 65 years. They absolutely loved their so called “work” at their beloved Junket and had been “working” together just about everyday for the past 40 years, until the pandemic forced them to “shelter at home”. The Junket was their "Fountain of Youth”. You’ll not find two more vibrant 88/89 year-olds doing what they did. They even worked on their days off. Cindy handled the business-end of The Junket, and was also the social butterfly, flitting around her place, chatting with customers, handing out treats, donating to causes, and multi-tasking like nobody's Headcheese… And Bruno handled customer-to-go transactions at his cash register with the utmost care, “NO… you MUST take a napkin!” He also vacuumed/swept the entire place, lifting up all the wooden chairs to the tops of the tables (next to his own hand-hewn napkin holders)…every single night. Ask him if he needs help? No, you don't. He also doled out little “chewing candies” to kids and meat scraps to dogs. He traversed the Bay Area speeding around in his giant truck picking up fresh produce and other supplies from the same vendors he has dealt with for 40 years. He built the giant wine wall with my brother Gary, among other things.
Many a spectacular employee (Junketeers they are called) filtered through the deli. A heartfelt thanks to all of them. Heather did an incredible job, especially at the end. We salute all the past employees; Dave, Eloise, Maria, Tanya, Rachel, Brandon, Garrett…the list goes on.
And yes it wasn’t always a piece of cake working for Bruno. It was Bruno’s way or the Hiway. New employees had to learn the proper way to use a ‘broom’. But I’ve heard former employees are still thankful for the things they learned from him…and think of Bruno whenever they sweep. Cindy on the other hand gave many employees second or third or nine chances…She hired a homeless fellow to bus tables. Hired an almost blind man (that was rough) and I remember her telling one employee “No guns at The Junket!”. He had concealed weapons under that apron of his. Wish I had set up that Deli-cam to catch all the excitement at their place. Would have made for quite a sit-com as well.
Bruno and Cindy helped, and befriended thousands of customers. So many stories to share. There was Karl “Mr Underberg” an older German gentleman. He was a regular at The Junket. He came in everyday to smoke his cigar and have a stein of beer at The Stammtisch. One day Karl did not come in. Bruno and Cindy were concerned, so Bruno went to Karl's house nearby, climbed the back fence and peeked in the bedroom window. Karl was on the floor and had passed away from a heart attack. Oh and the time an American fighter pilot came to The Junket and realized he had bombed Bruno’s hometown of Heilbronn in Germany during WW2. Bruno and him shook hands…Just two of many stories.
I write this on my behalf of my parents. It’s their daughter, Schatzie the Renegade Deli Heiress www.SchatzieFrisch.com.
Thanks for the outpouring of Junket love. I sat with them recently and we read the lovely cards the community sent. I have only the utmost respect for my mom and dad and The Junket. I am truly sorry to see the doors shuttered, but we must celebrate 42 years, and I think laughter is still the best medicine…
Bruno and Cindy will miss everyone.
Auf Weidersehen and Cheerio
The Junket 1979 - 2021
*Headcheese /ˈhed.tʃiːz : A cold cut that originated in Europe. Headcheese is not a dairy cheese. There is no cheese involved.