The NY Book of Sandwich, Vol. 4: The Jewish Deli
NYC's eight essential Jewish delis, and what to order
Dear Carnegie Deli:
This one goes out to you, you mensch.
Come month’s end, the New York institution will shutter its doors. And we will most certainly pour out some seltzer in its honor. But before we get all verklempt, let us celebrate the time we still have together.
To ring in the Jewish New Year, we’re devoting this edition of the Book of Sandwich to the eight best kosher eats you’ll find on sliced bread in our fair city.
Compared to these sandwiches, none of us are real New Yorkers.
Carnegie is completely unremarkable from the outside, and inside, things improve little. It’s hectic and cramped — and we love it. The service is rushed but professional. The walls lined with celebrities who have paid them and their shtick a visit. The sandwiches are large and made from the very best. Carnegie smokes its own meats, cures its own corned beef and pickles its own pickles. Go for the Carnegie Haul, the Bacon Whoopee or the Woody Allen (the only famed regular who has a sandwich named for him). Many will argue whether or not Carnegie is the city’s best, but trust that once it’s gone, you will miss it. Pastrami enthusiasts, ready your flags for half mast.
854 7th Avenue (map)
Since 1888, family-owned Katz’s has dominated the Jewish deli scene. They’ve got a good thing going for ‘em despite the amusement park wait times. No matter. Sign us up. For the pastrami on rye, of course. It’s salty, perfectly spiced and complements the side of sour pickles. Outside the pastrami, the heavy-on-the-mayo chicken salad on whole wheat is outstanding, as well as the frankfurters, which we know, we know: not a sandwich.
205 East Houston Street (map)
So I asked a former native New Yorker who now lives in Arizona, “If you could have one sandwich right now from the city, what would you have?” His reply, “The Smoked Sturgeon at Barney Greengrass.” Nice. White smoky fish, buttery and delicate, coupled with red onion and cream cheese. I prefer the bagel, but my friend is partial to the thinner bialy.
541 Amsterdam Ave (map)
2nd Avenue Deli
Just to be clear, if you haven’t been, it’s not on Second Avenue. And just to be clear, if you haven’t been, you’re missing out. Everything you want from a N.Y. Jewish deli. Expect a pastrami that’s a little darker and more marbly, but will still go head-to-head with the city’s major players. Fully kosher, their non-mayo coleslaw is a hit and piled high enough to satiate two.
162 East 33rd Street (map)
1442 First Avenue (map)
Ben’s Best Kosher Deli
While you can’t go wrong by any stretch with the pastrami here, our vote is with the Corned Beef and Chopped Liver sammies. Some stuffed cabbage on the side should not be overlooked. And don’t give the waitstaff a hard time. As the menu points out, that’ll run you $1 extra.
96-40 Queens Boulevard, Queens (map)
Liebman’s Kosher Delicatessen
One of the Bronx’s last remaining Kosher delis, the nostalgic joint serves up one helluva a Corned Beef and Pastrami Combo, as well as a fabulous and fluffy matzo ball soup on the side.
552 West 235th Street, Bronx (map)
Jay and Lloyd’s Kosher Deli
How can you resist being greeted by co-owner Lloyd in his famed hot dog hat? Not possible. Jay and Lloyd’s is a kitschy, unpretentious staple. Bustling and friendly, they also happen to make one mighty Hot Brisket sandwich.
2718 Avenue U, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn (map)
Opened by a former police officer in ‘64, Sarge’s survived a serious fire, renovated and is back in business. Best part: you can get their Deli Wellington, a mix of corned beef, pastrami and potatoes wrapped in puff pastry, at 4 AM.
548 Third Avenue (map)