Most people wouldn't necessarily associate basketball with deli food, but for a large group of Toronto Raptors fans in California, Canada's new favourite sport and deli go together like pastrami on rye. Canadians have been flocking to Augie's Montreal Deli and Tap Room, a Canadian family deli located in Berkeley, to watch the Raptors face off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Deli co-owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski told KQED News, "We’ve become kind of a place for Canadians to come celebrate and get together here in the East Bay."
Gopnik-Lewinski grew up in Toronto and makes sure that his customers know it. A Canadian flag hangs proudly inside the deli, and every Canada Day, Augie's Montreal Deli hosts a massive party. The deli brings in impressive crowds for hockey games, so according to Gopnik-Lewinski, throwing Raptors viewing parties made total sense to him.
He admits, though, that his enthusiasm for basketball took some persuasion. "Basketball is a fun sport, a little too soft for us Canadians sometimes. Don’t like the flopping around and stuff like that. We’re hockey players. We play with broken hands and broken feet," he explained to KQED News.
According to KQED News, approximately 16% of the Canadian ex-pats that live in the United States reside in California. And while he doesn't explicitly refer to his deli as a haven for Raptors fans living in the Bay Area, Canadians certainly feel at home at Augie's. For Game 2, Gopnik-Lewinski served customers all-you-can-eat poutine and Montreal smoked meat accompanied by Molson and Moosehead beer.
"We're in the Bay Area. And it's the Toronto Raptors," he said. "It's not like it's the Houston Rockets or the New York Knicks. And we're Canadians. We're a humble people. We're probably going to be embarrassed if we pull this thing off."