In the mid-1960s, Barry Schwartz and Jerry Gurewitz started in the restaurant business together as 12-year-olds, bagging orders and doing odd jobs for Gurewitz's father at Queenstown Deli in Prince George's County. Today, both are 57 and still working together as owners of B.J. Pumpernickel's in Olney.
Their deli, which opened in 1989, is known for a seemingly endless variety of subs, colossal five-layer cakes and a free pickle bar, where patrons can choose from five briny varieties, including whole kosher dill and pickled tomatoes.
Half-price specials on Monday and Tuesday nights draw senior citizens and families, and the lobby is packed with patrons awaiting an empty table. In addition to small pitchers of crayons and coloring sheets for children, B.J. Pumpernickel's is one of the few restaurants that keep a toy box on hand to placate impatient kids.
The decor is simple, with utilitarian brown vinyl booths and walls plastered with caricatures of diners. Each Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., an artist sets up shop, sketching free portraits of patrons. The restaurant displays the caricatures for several weeks, then gives them to their owners.
B.J. Pumpernickel's voluminous menu is updated monthly, with a completely revamped menu yearly. Most items are available to carry out.
This fall, the new menu offered a wider selection of breakfast items. Served all day, they range from corned beef hash and eggs ($5.49) to fried matzo served with cinnamon and sugar or applesauce ($4.99). Also available are a variety of pancakes and Belgian waffles ($3.49 to $6.99).
In addition, there are dozens of sandwiches, from subs to wraps. Takeout subs are a bargain at $2.99, including a drink. Choose from such subs as the minced BBQ chicken with a half-pound of chicken topped with coleslaw or the turkey Reuben with steamed turkey pastrami and Russian dressing, hot sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
Other sandwiches include sesame chicken breast, crab cake and French dip ($7.49). Deli sandwiches include kosher bologna and chopped chicken liver, and range from $4.29 to $7.99.
There is a creative array of wraps, such as the Chinatown chicken Alfredo with vegetable fried rice, stir-fried bell peppers and onion in a cracked pepper wrap, and grilled chicken and spinach pasta salad in a spinach wrap. Each is $6.99.
Entrees run the gamut from roast brisket of beef ($10.99) to chicken and dumplings ($9.99) to jumbo ravioli stuffed with spinach cheese ($8.99).
Many entrees are available for half-price on Mondays and Tuesdays, lowering the cost, for example, of the jumbo crab cake dinner from $18.99 to $9.50. In addition, the restaurant's frequent dining club card allows patrons to earn points based on what they spend. Spending $50, for example, earns a free dessert. After $150, diners receive a free dinner and dessert.
The restaurant offers several vegetarian choices, each noted with a "V" on the menu. These include spinach ravioli ($8.99), stuffed eggplant parmigiana ($8.99) and spinach and feta omelets ($6.49).
Diners at the front of the restaurant can watch glass cases of five-layer cakes revolve. The most popular is chocolate cake with chocolate icing embedded with chocolate chips. A massive slice, which feeds at least two voracious appetites, is $3.99.
In addition to feeding the Olney community, B.J. Pumpernickel's contributes to such community institutions as Montgomery General Hospital, the Olney Theatre and the Sandy Spring Fire Department. In the past decade, the restaurant has donated $1 million to these and other local groups. Part of that money is raised at an annual October carnival.
"We believe very strongly in supporting the community, especially since it supports us so much," said Schwartz, who lives in Olney, as does Gurewitz. "I'm in love with this town."
B.J. Pumpernickel's, 18169 Town Center Dr., Olney. 301-924-1400. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.