Photo courtesy Sarge’s
When you think of great, classic New York City fare, it’s hard to top a solid deli sandwich. Stuffed to the brim with smoked meat and dripping with spicy mustard, oil, and vinegar, it’s portable, potent, and downright delicious. While the beloved Katz’s Delicatessen is known far and wide for its iconic Pastrami Sandwich, it’s worth trying some of the city’s hidden and lesser-known gems, where you can dodge tourists and try equally robust and noteworthy concoctions.
The first Jewish American deli opened in 1888, right here in New York City. As such, it’s no wonder that the city has become synonymous with such institutions, and that every year or so, another hot spot appears in the vein of the old-school tradition. Join us as we explore 10 noteworthy delis you may have missed on your way to other stops around the city. This Friday, February 9, also happens to be National Bagel and Lox Day, so you may want to celebrate by paying a visit to one — or a few — of the eateries below.)
1. Fine & Schapiro
Since 1927, this Upper West Side Kosher deli on 138 W 72nd Street has been dishing up decadent and timeless deli fare with a twist. Grab your favorite sandwich to go (try the hot corned beef or pastrami sandwiches) with a side of the institution’s signature Kreplach soup.
If you get a little hungry while you wait inside the aromatic, no-frills interior, Fine & Schapiro also offers coleslaw and pickles to munch on — totally on the house. It also happens to be one of the oldest continuously operating Kosher restaurants in New York City.
2. Sarge’s Delicatessen & Diner
Photo courtesy Sarge’s
Craving matzo ball soup at 3am? That’s where Sarge’s on 548 3rd Avenue really shines. Believed by most to be New York City’s only 24-hour Jewish diner, it offers filling comfort food at its finest. The waiters and clientele are also refreshingly down-to-earth.
The Pastrami Sandwich. Photo courtesy Sarge’s
Inside, you’ll find vinyl booths and walls, lined with celebrity photos. You might not leave here with an autograph book full of signatures, but you will leave with a full belly, stuffed to the max. That’s especially true if you brave “The Monster.” Claimed to be New York City’s biggest sandwich, it’s a beautiful concoction of five different kinds of meats, tomato, lettuce, slaw and Russian dressing on rye. Try it to say you did, then bring the leftovers home to sustain you the rest of the week.
3. Mile End Delicatessen
New York City might be known for its delis, but Montreal also has its own smoked meat tradition. While searching for authentic Canadian eats in the city, you used to have to get by with specialty menu items off an otherwise Americanized menu. That all changed with Mile End Delicatessen, located on 97A Hoyt Street in Brooklyn, and 53 Bond Street in Manhattan.
This hybrid Jewish delicatessen and Canadian-style restaurant, which was featured in the Showtime show Billions, is chocked full of the country’s specialties, from smoked meat to poutine to whitefish salad. The founders were inspired by their grandmothers’ traditional recipes, which they “elevated” using high quality ingredients. Stop in here to get your fix, eh?
4. Liebman’s Kosher Delicatessen
When you think of a classic New York City deli, do you imagine sinking into a padded booth, with your order served up at an old-school, throwback Formica counter? If so, Liebman’s in the Bronx is the place to go. Originally one of more than 100 Jewish delis gracing the city, it’s now one of only two original establishments left standing.
You simply can’t get more authentic than a stacked-high cold cut platter, or a pastrami on rye so thick and melty it makes your mouth water. When you want an authentic taste of the New York City deli scene, this luncheonette-style diner, located on 552 W 235th Street, can’t be beaten.
5. Tal Bagel
While New York City delis shine at lunchtime, they’re equally illustrious in the wee hours of the morning, when weary commuters need something crunchy and salty to start the day off right.
Look no further than Tal Bagel, which offers bagels that are chewy on the outside and doughy on the inside. Alongside chopped liver and egg salad plates, you can also stop by for a warm pastry and coffee on your way to work. The local favorite is the whole wheat everything bagel loaded with veggie cream cheese, but this unconventional bagel shop also sells an an assortment of deli meats, like salami, turkey and ham. Pay a visit to one of its many locations.
6. Pastrami Queen
By the name alone, you might note that modesty isn’t this spot’s strong suit — and it doesn’t have to be. The pastrami on rye is some of the best in the whole city, offering up more than one pound of the succulent meat.
An offshoot of the standby Queen’s Deli, Pastrami Queen on 1125 Lexington Avenue #2 is quickly gaining buzz around town as one of the top places to go on your hunt for an authentic kosher deli spot. If the overstuffed sandwich alone doesn’t fill you up, spring for one of the monumental sides, including the garlic stuffed potatoes or the quirky, yet fantastic Noodle Pudding.
7. Murray’s Sturgeon Shop
When it comes to New York City delis, smoked meat isn’t the only kosher option. Other beloved favorites include whitefish, pickled tongue, gefilte fish, and sturgeon.
For the best sturgeon in the city, this under-the-radar local favorite, located on 2429 Broadway, is one find you’ll appreciate stumbling upon. Interestingly, it’s also well-known for its array of caviar, which notably includes the silky and difficult-to-source French Osetra variety. Join the other West Siders who know that Murray’s is the place to visit when fresh fish is on the menu.
8. Court Street Grocers
Some foodie reporters have dubbed this locale’s Rueben sandwich the best in the city. Caraway Rye cradles heaps and heaps of salty and sweet pickled meat. Featuring local ingredients, including kraut from Brooklyn-based, Ba-Tampte, and bread from Orwasher’s, it’s a fresh twist on a traditional favorite.
In lieu of the traditional Russian dressing, Carroll Gardens’ Court Street Grocers, on 485 Court Street, swaps a spicier Mississippi-style roux and uses fattier short ribs instead of brisket. The result? A melt-in-your-mouth wonder that will leave you licking your lips. In addition to the aforementioned outpost, you can also find Court Street Grocers Hero Shop on 116 Sullivan Street in Brooklyn, and at 540 Laguardia Place.
9. Pickler & Co.
Sometimes, you have to wander a little bit away from the usual path to find the hidden treasures. This is true of Pickler & Co., both a craft deli and a swanky coffee bar, located inside Midtown’s LIM Fashion College on 216 E. 45th Street, between Third Avenue and Second Avenues. The crux of the eatery is its dedication to healthy and nutritious fare that’s as appetizing as it is good for you.
Established by two Pittsburgh friends, David Lowenstein and Eric Haber, it’s quickly growing into a local favorite that patrons can’t help but wander across the city for. Those lucky enough to be privy to the eatery like to opt for the Pickler Reuben: topped with corned beef sliced exceptionally thin and a housemade Russian dressing, it’s one fabulous sandwich.
10. Foster Sundry
It’s last on our list, but certainly not least. Almost everything in this Bushwick eatery, located on 215 Knickerbocker Avenue at Troutman Street, is made in-house, from the sauerkraut to the special sauce. Come for the smoky and savory sandwiches, but don’t leave without trying a honey biscuit. It’s the sweet and sticky treat you need to compliment the vinegary, tart main course.
Foster Sundry also allows online orders of its famous meats and other grocery items. Although the option is only offered in New York City so far, you can hop on the sign-up list to be notified when the service goes nationwide.