Have you seen the Deli Guy on TikTok (@parkwooddeli) with nearly 500,000 followers and 6 million likes? Picture this: a jolly fellow behind a counter staring intently into the camera, eyes lit with excitement as he slices imported prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. Each video begins with, “Parkwood Deli!” or, “It’s me, the Deli Guy!” Often, there’s a yelp followed by, “There’s nobody better than me!”
That’s Roger Schnorrbusch talking. He’s the owner of Parkwood Deli in Midland Park, and he loves making sandwiches. How much? Just ask the 24 million people who watched him make a 4-foot-long hero with salami, ham, provolone, Jersey tomatoes, lettuce—aka “roughage”—and hot peppers.
“We do it good, we do it fresh, we show enthusiasm!” Schnorrbusch says.
@parkwooddeli LA beast is coming to take down this MONSTER! (Going live at 2:00) #parkwood #parkwooddeli #roger #food #njeats #nj #fypシ #EatFreshRefresh #xyzbca #f ♬ original sound – ParkwoodDeli
New Jerseyans know we’ve got it good: the Shore, the food, the personalities! And now, thanks to TikTok, our unique quirks and hilarious characters are broadcast to people everywhere. The hashtag #newjersey has more than 6 billion views on TikTok, #jerseyshore has over 2 billion, and #newjerseyeats has more than 2 million. People love us.
In @saybeast’s TikTok videos about the Jersey Shore, creator Alex Burman brings to life characters New Jersey residents will find familiar. In videos about Avalon, Sea Isle City and Wildwood, Burman name-drops local restaurants and charmingly role-plays folks you’d expect to see in those Shore towns. The Wildwood video, shot on the boardwalk, received more than 2.2 million views by late September.
@saybeast Can’t spell Wildwood without “wild” 🏖🤪- follow my IG @SAYBURM #philly #delco #nj #wildwood #beach #shore ♬ original sound – saybeast
“Can’t spell Wildwood without w-i-l-d. Can’t spell it without w-o-o-d either,” says the character, sporting a tank top emblazoned with the word Jawn, with a belly laugh. Anyone who’s spent time in South Jersey knows this guy. And anyone anywhere gets the humor.
“I like immersing myself in the culture and showing people what it’s all about, and poking fun at it at the same time,” explains Burman, whose account has over 71,900 followers and 2.2 million likes. “I like to look at what’s relatable.”
Virality is achieved when emotions get stirred—happiness, surprise, FOMO (fear of missing out). New Jersey TikTok certainly inspires these feelings and responses, but the reason Jersey culture is resonating with people inside the state and out is more meaningful than that. These videos highlight what residents already know and love about the Garden State. The people are authentic. The accents are thick. There’s a lot of pride.
Pearl Gabel, one of the masterminds behind the legendary @NJGov Twitter account, says that what makes New Jersey so appealing online are the authentic characters who aren’t afraid to be funny and who proudly promote themselves.
“One of the strengths of TikTok is you show all these diverse people with quirks that are just thriving and owning it,” says Gabel, who is now director of brand strategy and digital integration at a strategic-communications firm. “Humor is one of those universal things,” she says. “You can really tap into that and connect with people.”
Burman, who is from outside Philadelphia, says people enjoy his videos because the characters he portrays are memorable and recognizable. But they are also appealing because they’re funny.
“There’s some sort of attitude or impression we give off,” he explains. “We want to be right or headstrong, and from time to time, we like to argue.”
Schnorrbusch, whose TikTok account was his son’s idea, is grateful for the attention the deli is getting from people all over the country; a bulletin board in the deli is signed by visitors from as far away as Toronto, Daytona Beach and Rhode Island. But he thinks his videos are resonating because of his work-hard-get-the-job-done-have-fun persona.
“You go to work every day, you didn’t go to college, but you’re very exuberant,” he says of himself. “You’re the person that shows people what they can achieve.”
Gabel calls that classic Jersey.
“New Jersey is the ultimate underdog, and everyone loves an underdog,” she says. “When you’re from the seeming armpit of America, it’s a punchline…. But to find that universal humor, it’s a great connection. That’s New Jersey.”
“Official” New Jersey is on the platform, too. The @NJGov account on TikTok, which doesn’t have quite as popular a following as its original counterpart on Twitter, is nonetheless also leaning into Jersey’s unique culture. There are videos about the Shore, as well as Taylor ham versus pork roll, of course. On #nationaleatahoagieday, the account posted a clip from The Office, in which Michael Scott (Steve Carell) orders “gabagool” at a restaurant. The text overlay reads: “POV you’re in South Jersey,” accompanied by the emojis for bread, tomato and lettuce.
@njgov ✔sub ✔hoagie ❌hero #nationaleatahoagieday ♬ original sound – New Jersey
Good food is indeed synonymous with New Jersey, and the many TikTok accounts that showcase the restaurants here are testaments to that. Mariam Aqeel runs the @wandering_for_eats account on TikTok (100,000+ followers, 1.4 million likes). She says her videos on birria tacos and the best burgers in New Jersey are popular because restaurants are an important part of Jersey culture.
“It’s a thing—we focus on our food,” she says. “And we have a lot of fun, unique restaurants here.”
@wandering_for_eats What’s your fave burger spot? #njfoodie #jerseycitynj #jerseycity #hobokennj #hoboken #burgers #njeats #hudsoncounty #njrestaurants #njfoodblogger #nj ♬ Believe Me – Navos
Aqeel, who also runs a marketing company to promote restaurants online, says her videos are appealing because she’s just a regular Jersey girl whom people can relate to.
“I’m the girl next door who found a place,” she says. “It’s a lot more interesting coming from a local person.”
Social media provides users with a lot of things: information, entertainment, an escape from life for a few minutes. Garden State TikTok provides all of that, but with what Gabel calls Jersey energy. Says Gabel: “It’s loud, it’s brash, it’s very honest. You can’t mess with New Jersey energy.”
Georgia Kral is a frequent contributor to New Jersey Monthly.
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