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Best delis in NYC?


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19 replies to this topic

#1 Dakki

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 04:26 PM

Hello, all.

My sister will be visiting the city sometime next week. We both love deli-type restaurants. I would like to hear what the natives consider the best places, and what to order in them so I can pass it along.

(She's probably going to end up with a Reuben at whatever's close to the hotel, but, yeah).
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#2 patrickamory

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 08:05 PM

I'm probably going to get slammed for this, but it's extremely hard to find great delicatessen in the city these days. Pastrami on rye at Katz's can't be beat (their brisket on club is pretty great too), but the hordes of tourists make it difficult to deal with at the best of times.

Second Ave. Deli (now located on 33 St. between Third and Lex) isn't bad, though not up to what it used to be. Decent chopped liver.

For Montreal-style (Jewish) smoked meat, I've heard Mile End is good. There's a location in Brooklyn, and a newer branch in the city on Bond just west of Lafayette.

Now if you're going for fish, the best is still here. Either Russ & Daughters on Houston (takeout only), or Barney Greengrass on Columbus just north of 86th. Both heavenly for sturgeon, lox, nova, herring and everything else.

Edited by patrickamory, 14 October 2012 - 08:08 PM.


#3 dcarch

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 08:16 PM

Just came back from Katz's an hour ago.

Go there. You will not be disappointed.

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#4 bmdaniel

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 08:48 AM

I can confirm that Mile End is excellent (Boerum Hill location in Brooklyn).

#5 kathryn

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 10:55 AM

I can't speak to their reubens but really like the chicken in a pot and matzoh balls at 2nd Avenue Deli.

Their pastrami isn't that great, though, I prefer Katz's for that.
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#6 Andrew

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 12:08 PM

From a tourist - Katzs or how about Carnegies?

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#7 daisy17

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 06:51 PM

Carnegie is terrible. Katz's for pastrami and a homemade potato knish (round, not square), 2nd Ave Deli for everything else (matzoh ball soup especially).

I would note that Russ & Daughters is for appetizing, not deli. Appetizing is the dairy side of Jewish food (and includes smoked fish, bagels, cream cheese, etc), while deli is the meat side. The laws of Kosher dictate that dairy and meat not be mixed, and so there were traditionally separate stores for each. Neither Katz's nor R&D are Kosher, but for the most part the food they're each serving is traditional. Both are definitely worth a visit. Russ & Daughters is one of my absolute favorite places in this entire city. Their whitefish salad is laced with crack.

#8 rlibkind

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:28 PM

Hooray! Someone else recognizes the dif between a deli and an "appy".

Katz's is a no-brainer, though I disagree with calling the Carnegie terrible. Just not quite as good.

When I worked in Midtown Berger's on 47th was my go-to deli, but I understand it's been gone for a few years. Also too bad Pastrami King has departed Queens for Long Island.

As long as I'm talking suburbs, if you find yourself on the NJ Turnpike, Harold's is only a couple minutes off Exit 10. The quantity of food is outrageous, and the quality is pretty good.

But Katz's is the only spot I know for hand-carved pastrami, corned beef, etc., other than Herschel's at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.
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#9 MelissaH

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:32 PM

Although I grew up eating New York pastrami sandwiches, I now have a strong preference for Montreal-style smoked meat. Mile End does a fine sandwich.

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#10 markk

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 06:25 PM

I don't know that the Carnegie Deli is so much terrible as it is totally inconsistent.

I'm a pastrami guy. And I remember the days when all deli pastrami was crumbly and fork-tender, not some rubbery slice that you can stretch to several times its size without breaking.

And some nights the Carnegie deli will serve you great, crumbly pastrami, and some nights they'll serve you some that tastes and acts like you bought it in a packet at the supermarket.

The owner (whose name I just forgot) is Always there, in a suit and tie, sitting near the front. He's sort of a miserably unpleasant guy, but if you explain to him that you want old-fashioned crumbly pastrami, there's a chance that you actually might get it.

I've always been a Katz's fan, but one day when I ordered my pastrami sandwich from the waitress (yes, I do that sometimes), I asked her to be sure that the pastrami was hot - I don't remember why I asked that, but obviously I must have gotten some previously that wasn't hot. And what arrived was some very strange, soggy meat, not at all like Katz's usual pastrami. I don't know if they nuked it, or what....

And for what it's worth, I've had mostly great luck with the pastrami at Artie's Deli on the Upper West Side.

Well, it wouldn't be a pastrami thread if I didn't post this picture.... (which i now see comes at the end of my post)

No, it's not from anywhere in NYC. It's from Harold's Deli in Edison, NJ. (Note that there are several Harold's in NJ with the same logo; they were all once owned by Harold, who sold them and the logo; oddly, he didn't require them to buy their deli meats from him, so if you don't go to the one in Edison that he still owns, you're very likely to get some horrific supermarket pastrami at one of the other Harolds and think badly of them. A very strange business move indeed,)

The pastrami is unusually smoky. And though it's usually nice and crumbly, it does have off nights.

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Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#11 Merridith

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:54 PM

I would encourage you to try the Pastrami Queen at 77th on Lexington. It is the best pastrami I have ever had except for what I used to make for myself (since I moved to NYC last year I had to give up my smoker). I am evil so I ask for it "fatty" but you can ask for medium fat or lean, as well. It is definitely worth the calories.
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#12 patrickamory

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:16 PM

Ah, I've heard about Pastrami Queen. I think they are the same people who used to run Pastrami King in Queens back in the '80s, am I right? That place was superb.

Daisy and rlibkind, I'm perfectly aware of the difference between delicatessen and appetizing. That's why I wrote, "Now if you're going for fish."

For dairy restaurants, I truly miss Grand Dairy on the Lower East Side. Incredible, incredible restaurant.

#13 Merridith

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 02:07 PM

Ah, I've heard about Pastrami Queen. I think they are the same people who used to run Pastrami King in Queens back in the '80s, am I right? ...

For dairy restaurants, I truly miss Grand Dairy on the Lower East Side. Incredible, incredible restaurant.


I don't know if Pastrami Queen is connected to Pastrami King - their web sites certainly look different. As for dairy restaurants, I am old enough to remember the king of 'em all (drum roll) Ratner's. I did not know Grand Dairy but there is a tiny little dairy restaurant on 2nd at 9th called B & H Dairy and it is not only delicious it is dirt cheap.
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#14 patrickamory

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:49 PM

I've been going to B&H for years... I don't think it's as good as it used to be. They made one of the best mushroom barley soups in Manhattan... it's not the same.

Ratner's was okay but went downhill over the years. Grand Dairy went under years earlier, sadly.

edit: and I'm not sure exactly what the connection is between the Pastrami King in Merrick (which I presume is the website you're referring to) and the one that used to exist in Kew Gardens, Queens... but the Queens restaurant definitely moved into the city and became Pastrami Queen, back in 1998:

http://www.nytimes.c...-manhattan.html

"Pastrami King was famous for its rich, garlicky pastrami, made according to a Romanian recipe. Critics praised its cedary smokiness, which came from soaking and curing the meat over smoldering wood for 10 to 16 days.

"'It was a wonderful institution, like a beacon of eating on Queens Boulevard,' said Ed Levine, author of 'New York Eats,' a restaurant Baedeker. 'When their pastrami was good, it was as good or better than any pastrami in the city, and therefore the country.' But Mr. Levine judged that the quality had deteriorated by 1997, when he left Pastrami King out of his sequel, 'New York Eats More.'"

and more evidence here:

http://nymag.com/lis...pastrami-queen/

Edited by patrickamory, 20 October 2012 - 05:55 PM.


#15 markk

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 06:10 PM

Hooray! Someone else recognizes the dif between a deli and an "appy".


Of course I remember the difference between "appetizing" and "deli". When I was a kid in Fresh Meadows (Queens), my mother would frequently send me on my bike to go to the appy store for whitefish (a chunk of a large one), creamed herring, and salmon. And we also had "Deli Masters", which I think has achieved some small bit of notoriety.

But it's very interesting to note that there is one crossover: Delis always have whitefish, because one of the things you can order in a deli is the "whitefish platter".

Now that I've been living in NJ for the past 39 years, we (Hoboken) and just about every town I now has several Italian deli's. And i keep describing to my other half (not Jewish, though after 40 years together living in the greater NYC area, he could really fool you) that just as every town has at least one Italian Deli, when I was a kid in Queens, every neighborhood had at least one Jewish Deli, and at least one "appy" store; but at this point, he is a deli lover in his own right. To me it's so sad how they're disappearing. But, that's a whole other story!
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#16 rlibkind

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Posted 21 October 2012 - 02:51 PM

Didn't mean to offend anyone with my appy crack. But, alas, few people understand the difference (eGulleters excepted), especially now that there are so few true appetizing stores.

Of course, a kosher deli could, theoretically, sell whitefish and lox, since they're parve. Just no cream cheese! Today a good deli is rare enough, but a kosher one even rarer.
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#17 Steve R.

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Posted 21 October 2012 - 06:44 PM

I think Katz' has the best pastrami but there are other places. Here's a link for any of you that want to trek out to the far corner of Brooklyn:

http://www.millbasin...id=20&Itemid=31

I've been going for many years and it's among the best in all deli meats. And the guy's an art dealer, so the walls are lined with original Erte's, Calders and other great pieces of art.

#18 nikkib

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 11:30 PM

I really liked Artie's http://www.arties.com/ when we visited last a few years back. Couldn't speak to its authenticity but we had a good meal and a lot of fun at Zabars (which is across the road) later
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#19 markk

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 09:21 PM

I really liked Artie's http://www.arties.com/ when we visited last a few years back.


Also a few years back, I must say that I've had a great number of really good Pastrami Sandwiches at Artie's. I remember one or two clunkers, but overall they fared very well. Haven't eaten there in at least 5-6 years, possibly much longer even than that.
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#20 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 04:55 PM

I can't speak to their reubens but really like the chicken in a pot and matzoh balls at 2nd Avenue Deli.


2d Avenue Deli is Kosher. They couldn't have a Reuben.