Food & Drink

New York's Jewish Delis Are Becoming an Endangered Species

Published On 12/22/2016 Published On 12/22/2016
Carnegie Deli
NYC's Carnegie Deli opened in 1937 | DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio dines on pastrami | Carnegie Deli
“The Carnegie represented the idea of the Jewish delicatessen in the American imagination."
Celebrity portraits spotlight the deli's famous clientele | Carnegie Deli
Deli owner Marian Levine | Carnegie Deli
A crowded house at Carnegie Deli | Flickr/Joakim Jardenberg
"Is it a tourist trap? Is it expensive? Are the sandwiches ridiculous and meant for tourists taking pictures? Sure. But it’s also a fascinating, wonderful, funny, and often delicious place in a part of the city that has really lost all of that."
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1. Carnegie Deli 854 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Carnegie Deli is a city food landmark in Midtown West that can get a little clogged with tourists (and New Yorkers, if we're being honest), but is still well worth your time. Pick up the half-pastrami, half-corned beef Woody Allen, which was named in the director's honor after he featured the deli as the backdrop in Broadway Danny Rose. Pair your sandwich (on rye, always on rye) with pickles and matzoh ball soup and you're golden... and incredibly full.

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2. Katz's Delicatessen 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

Open since 1888 on the corner of East Houston and Ludlow Street, Katz's is synonymous with iconic New York City food, specifically, slow-cured pastrami and corned beef. There's usually a line filled with a mix of tourists, die-hard New Yorkers, and everyone in between, and the wait is nothing but proof of the stacked sandwiches' pure goodness. You receive a paper ticket when you walk in, order at the counter (be ready!), and wait while the servers sling layers of pink meat onto cafeteria trays. If pastrami on rye (or better yet, a hot reuben) is your kind of late-night food, then you're in luck -- Katz's is open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Words to the wise: stock up on napkins, order a generous side of pickles, and whatever you do, don't lose your ticket.

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3. 2nd Ave Deli 162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

There are a few Jewish delis you need to know about if you live in New York. There's Katz's, that tourist-clogged Lower East Side bastion of pastrami, and there's 2nd Ave Deli, whose two locations (one is in Murray Hill, the other is on the Upper East Side) are newer replicas of the original East Village one. 2nd Ave Deli is more low-key than Katz's in the sense that there's no rigid ticket system, but the food fits into the same category of Jewish deli fare. If you like pickles and coleslaw, then you'll be happy to know that they're free here, which is the first sign that you're in for an authentic deli experience. The menu is extensive and filled with typical diner items like knishes, triple decker sandwiches, and burgers, but keep it simple and order the Jewish Penicillin (matzoh ball soup) and the Twin Double (a duo of hot pastrami and corned beef sandwiches).