Mamoun's FalafelAddress and Info
Mamoun’s has been open since the early ‘70s and remains a staple among the late-night NYU crowd and Village lunchers alike for good reason: Both NYC locations are open until 5am on the weekends, and at just $3.50, the warm pita sandwich stuffed with perfectly crispy falafel, vegetables, and just the right amount of hummus or tabbouleh is one of the cheapest and most filling meals you can get in New York.
BaohausAddress and Info
Eddie Huang’s bao-centric restaurant is the prototypical new-school New York sandwich joint: Hip-hop blares over the speakers, the walls are littered with stickers, and the staff is dressed to appear on a street-style blog. There are several different types of “bao” (steamed bun) sandwiches on the menu -- all of which are extremely portable and perfect for on-the-go dining -- but the Chairman Bao is by far the best: an open-faced bao filled with tender and fatty pork belly, topped with Haus Relish, crushed peanuts, and Taiwanese red sugar.
Sal, Kris & Charlie's DeliAddress and Info
The Bomb is iconic simply because of how incredibly massive it is. The foot-long sandwich from this no-frills Astoria deli combines the full spectrum of Italian and American deli meats and cheeses: pepperoni, ham, salami, turkey, mortadella, American, Swiss, and provolone, along with vegetables. You’ll likely have to wait on line to try it, but for a hero the size of the thick part of a baseball bat (for just over $8), it’s worth it.
Luke’s LobsterAddress and Info
If you’re looking for a moved-to-NYC-and-actually-made-it story, it doesn’t get much better than Luke’s: an investment banker quits his job to start a hole-in-the-wall Maine lobster-roll shack in the East Village that, eight years later, is worth over $8 million and has over two dozen shops around the States and in Japan. While other lobster rolls in the city err on the fancier side (including a hefty price tag), the beauty of Luke’s is in its simplicity: just a split-top hot dog bun, a smidge of mayo, a few spices, and a quarter pound of high-quality Maine lobster claw meat.
Smoked meat sandwich
Mile End DelicatessenAddress and Info
Mile End Deli doesn’t fit into a neat category; it’s non-kosher Jewish French-Canadian comfort food with a hipster twist. The specialty here is the Montreal-style smoked meat (think less-fatty pastrami made from a kind of brisket popularized by Canadian Jews), which gets sandwiched between two slices of rye bread and topped simply with mustard.
Pulled Duroc pork
Num PangAddress and Info
Num Pang’s affordable Khmer-esque sandwiches have bred six locations in New York City since the very first opened in 2009. The secret is the sandwiches’ all-encompassing flavor, from the savory-sweet taste of the meat to the bitter flavor of the pickled vegetables to the spicy Sriracha topped off with a hint of cilantro. Eastern and Western flavors are combined for the Pulled Duroc Pork sandwich, which features tender, marinated Western-style BBQ pulled pork resting inside a pickled vegetable-laden Eastern bánh mì-style baguette drizzled with Sriracha.
Defonte’s of BrooklynAddress and Info
Defonte’s is one of the city’s most hardened Italian delis. The Red Hook sandwich shop was founded in 1922, when the neighborhood was one of the city’s most violent (that same year, 13 residents died from drinking poisonous moonshine, and several people were gunned down on the streets). Despite the tumultuous backdrop, Defonte’s kept serving its famed Nicky Special: an enormous hero piled with a trinity of ham, salami, and capocollo; slabs of super thin, super-crispy fried eggplant; and provolone, topped with Defonte’s signature “house salad” (a mix of hot peppers, oregano, and pickled vegetables).
ParmAddress and Info
Parm took a classic Italian-American red sauce dish and turned it into hip, high-end comfort food. Its rendition falls somewhere perfectly between home-style and sophisticated, with a sizable chicken cutlet that’s lightly breaded and fried, then topped with lots of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a thin layer of basil leaves on a soft semolina roll.
Bastirma with labne
Kalustyan's DeliAddress and Info
Way before Murray Hill was saturated with post-college lax bros, there was Kalustyan’s Deli. Founded in 1944, this humble Armenian sandwich shop has managed to maintain its integrity for over nearly three-quarters of a century, despite massive changes to the neighborhood since. There are several types of traditional Mediterranean fillings to add to your pita here, but the bastirma with labne is by far the best, combining thin-sliced salt-cured beef and creamy labne inside a warm pocket.
Classic beef sliders
Meatball ShopAddress and Info
Seven years and seven locations later, the Meatball Shop’s simple conceit still works. Of all the different ways the menu lets you consume meatballs, the classic beef sliders are by far the best. The balls combine traditional beef meatball ingredients with mortadella and carrots and get topped with your choice of sauce (go for the tangy classic tomato) inside small toasted buns.
Everything bagel with Nova lox and scallion cream cheese
Ess-a-BagelAddress and Info
This original Gramercy Ess-a-Bagel was the epitome of the New York City bagel shop -- no toasting, no eggs, and an inevitable hour-long line on weekend mornings. While that location is now gone -- and its two others (one in Midtown East and a new one in Gramercy) are a bit more relaxed than their predecessor -- the bagels remain the city’s very best. They're perfectly dense with a crunchy exterior, chewy interior, and just a little bit of saltiness, and are made all the better when smeared with homemade scallion cream cheese and loaded with fresh Nova lox.
Burnt ends sandwich
Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
Mighty Quinn’s began with a humble booth at the 2012 summer Smorgasburg, asking people if they’d prefer a lean or fatty piece of brisket. Despite such a naïve question (always go fatty), the Carolina/Texas mix found its way into the hearts of New Yorkers and has since expanded into a half-dozen locations throughout the city. Its trademark meat is its burnt ends, which are the crispiest, fattiest, most heavily seasoned parts of the brisket. For the burnt ends sandwich, the meat gets coated in a sweet and vinegary house sauce and topped with coleslaw and pickles inside a dense, fresh-baked bun.
The Cinnamon SnailAddress and Info
New Yorkers have little patience for anything, especially waiting in long lines in Midtown during a lunch break. Still, the Cinnamon Snail’s original vegan truck (now supplemented with an outpost inside the Pennsy) constantly produces lines over an hour long, filled with vegans and non-vegans alike. The Thanksgiving Sandoo is the perfect explanation for this phenomenon: While so much vegan food attempts to mimic meat, the Sandoo succeeds at surpassing it. The combination of porcini mushroom-simmered seitan, orange cranberry relish, marinated kale, and rosemary parsnip bread pudding is arguably better than the real post-Turkey Day leftovers.
Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and capers on a bagel
Russ & DaughtersAddress and Info
Lower East Side
There’s a reason why tourists and locals alike line up for hours for a bagel with lox from this 100-plus-year-old appetizing shop. While Ess-a-Bagel can claim the city’s best bagel, no bagel shop in the city rivals the quality of the Russ & Daughters’ Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, the height of smoked seafood in New York. The nova has a little extra fat, a little less smoke, and is the perfect complement to R&D’s homemade cream cheese.
Open only for lunch (or until it runs out of bread), Alidoro has spent 30+ years building a reputation for not tolerating picky customers -- that means you get what’s on the menu, no substitutions (add-ons have only recently become available, along with hot heroes). There are over 20 sandwiches available at each of the shop’s three locations, but the Gregorio from the shop’s Midtown location is the one to get. The spicy sandwich (one of the first hot heroes introduced last year) features hot sopressata, hot peppers, and a hot spread, along with fresh mozzarella to balance things out a bit. While you can choose from several types of bread, the Gregorio is best suited for the crunchy whole wheat.
Mike’s DeliAddress and Info
While Arthur Ave may be a shadow of its former self, with its shrinking Italian population, there are still plenty of old-school gems like Mike’s standing proudly. Family-owned and operated inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market since the ‘50s, Mike’s is known for its wide selection of imported Italian goods (pastas, cheeses, meats, and sauces), as well as its massive deli menu, featuring everything from fried ravioli to shrimp stuffed bread. The hallmark of Mike’s menu, though, is its enormous heroes, including the Pavarotti, with smoked prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and Neapolitan-style eggplant.
Tino’s DelicatessenAddress and Info
While Mike’s lays claim to the perfectly made classic Neapolitan-style eggplant, Tino’s, the other iconic deli of Arthur Ave -- which also has a substantial sandwich roster -- holds the title for essential old-school chicken Parm. Over 50 years of recipe perfecting has yielded a wonderfully messy hero stuffed with tender chicken strips doused in homemade tomato sauce and lots of fresh mozzarella.
David Chang's fast-casual chicken sandwich shop may be inspired by Chick-fil-A, but the sandwiches here are a far cry from the chain's dried-out chicken patties. For the standard spicy fried chicken sandwich, Chang uses a tender, habanero-spiced fried chicken thigh that’s approximately three sizes too large for its bun. But it’s the Koreano sandwich that really stands out, enhancing the classic chicken sandwich recipe by adding bitter daikon radish and the spicy ssäm sauce, made from gochujang.
Pastrami on rye
Katz’s DelicatessenAddress and Info
Lower East Side
Katz’s may be touristy and overpriced, but the deli’s pastrami on rye is about as “old New York” as it gets. Aside holding down its corner of the Lower East Side since 1888 (when it was known as “Iceland Brothers”) and serving the only sandwich ever associated with an orgasm (thank you, When Harry Met Sally), Katz’s can also still claim some of the finest pastrami in the city thanks to a secret combination of spice rub and wood chips used for the smoking process. A 2in-thick stack of that pastrami gets sandwiched between two slices of rye bread with just a touch of Dijon mustard.