There are few things more synonymous with the city than the New York deli, and Gotham is rife with top-notch takes on the classic form. Whether you’re got a hankering for heaping pastrami sandwiches, want to compare and contrast the best bagels in NYC, or are looking for the best kosher restaurants to take your observing pal to, there’s a New York deli for you. Take a bite out of our roundup of NYC’s best delicatessens.
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Best New York delis
This cavernous cafeteria is a repository of New York history—glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls, and the classic Jewish deli offerings are nonpareil. Start with a crisp-skinned, all-beef hot dog for just $3.10. Then flag down a meat cutter and order a legendary sandwich. The brisket sings with horseradish, and the thick-cut pastrami stacked high between slices of rye is the stuff of dreams. Everything tastes better with a glass of the hoppy house lager; if you’re on the wagon, make it a Dr. Brown’s.
After the 2006 shuttering of the deli’s original East Village location, Jeremy Lebewohl, the founder’s nephew, reopened the place at this misleading Murray Hill address, menu intact. Most things are as good as ever: Schmaltz-laden chopped liver is whipped to a mousselike consistency, and the deli meats, including juicy pastrami and corned beef, skillfully straddle the line between fatty and lean. Good news for wistful aficionados: The decor, from the Hebraic logo to the blue-white-and-brown tiles and celeb headshots made the trip uptown too.
Mile End, a two-month-old restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, may be the first restaurant to bring the Montreal deli tradition to New York City. Perhaps more important, it could be the city’s first proper Canadian dining establishment. The eatery is neither a theme park—like T Poutine on the Lower East Side, with its drunk-food motif—nor a gimmick—such as the defunct Inn at Little West 12th, with its nominal Canadian offerings. Mile End showcases some of the country’s most beloved regional specialties—smoked meat, Montreal-style bagels and yes, poutine—with Brooklyn flavor: The coffee is Stumptown, the cream cheese is Ben’s, and the brisket is from Pat LaFrieda.
Raised on Jewish-food landmarks like Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s, brother-owners and Upper West Side natives Zach and Alex Frankel (former chef at Jack’s Wife Freda and half of Brooklyn synth-pop duo Holy Ghost!, respectively) preserve the traditions of their lox-peddling elders with menschy earnestness. There are no revisionist latkes or molecular-gastro matzo balls here—just the deli staples they, and New York, grew up on. The malt-sweet, hand-rolled bagels come from Baz; the smoked fish (kippered salmon, sable), from Acme.
Back when Joseph Liebman first opened this Riverdale, Bronx deli in 1953, it was one of nearly 100 Jewish delicatessens in the borough. Nearly six decades later, it's one of two old-timers left. (Loeser's on W 231st is the other.) The luncheonette–rigged with Formica tabletops, padded green booths, and counter cases showcasing hulks of brisket and kosher franks–was taken over by the Dekel family in the '80s, but the menu hasn't changed over time, offering cold-cut platters, hot open-faced sandwiches and pastrami piled on rye.
Despite decor that Jewish mothers might call “schmutzy,” this legendary deli is a madhouse at breakfast and brunch. Enormous egg platters come with the usual choice of smoked fish (such as sturgeon or Nova Scotia salmon). Prices are high but portions are large—and that goes for the sandwiches, too. Or try the less costly dishes: matzo-ball soup, creamy egg salad or cold pink borscht served in a glass jar.
This old-school Jewish deli—a Bed-Stuy institution since 1981—changed hands in 2008, but you can still find the original's legendary sandwiches. The menu features just three items: pastrami, brisket and corned beef. Get yours piled high on a roll or rye with a side of brisket-drippings gravy.
You’ll find all of your cured-meat classics at this kosher-certified south Brooklyn stalwart—which opens back in 1974—from hot brisket to hard salami, as well as newfangled options like a PLT (that would be bacon-like burnt pastrami slices with lettuce and tomato on rye) or potato chips made out of latkes, served with apple sauce.
Venue says: “Sarge's Deli is the destination for old world food like pastrami, corned beef and matzo ball soup.”
Sarge’s is generally believed to be the city’s only 24-hour Jewish delicatessen. And it’s a really good one, at that. The matzo ball soup is dead-on—a spongy orb submerged in a rich broth (offered, as it should be, with or without noodles), and the sandwiches are as flavorful and enormous as anything at Carnegie or Katz’s. The folks at Sarge’s are the real thing, from the appropriately gruff-but-friendly waiters to the not-insignificant number of old folks shuffling in. By the time you’ve finished your meal you won’t be hungry for days.
Knishes, hot pastrami, chopped liver—you’ll find deli classics and much more at Ben’s, proud sponsor of an annual matzo-ball-eating contest. The granddaddy of seven statewide locations, Ben’s Gotham branch features a loud, 250-seat purple dining room and even louder yellow menus, chock-full of exclamation points. Half an overstuffed sandwich, served on soft, tangy rye or wheat, is thicker thanp War and Peacep, and the beef, turkey and veggie burgers are bursting out of their buns. There are also steaks, veal chops and chicken livers, plus lighter choices, such as a Caesar salad.
Artie’s only looks like it’s been here forever. Opened in 1999, this old-school, nonkosher deli is the legacy of the late Artie Cutler, the restaurateur behind chainlets Ollie’s and Carmine’s, who passed on before it was completed. His widow Alice and a business-savvy deli fanatic Jeffrey Bank took the reins, and installed a black-and-white checkered floor, Formica tables, and salamis that hang over a counter piled with knishes and kugels. Irregular house-made hot dogs are grilled to a snappy, garlicky crispness. Pass over pierogi for an enormous plate of stuffed cabbage in a classic sweet-and-sour sauce, dotted with golden raisins.
Looking for an Italian sandwich shop?
There seems to be a slicery on nearly every street corner in the city, but sometimes, you need a pizza with a bit more finesse. Petaluma has been dishing out Italian-American cuisine for more than 30 years on the Upper East Side. The restaurant’s popularity is thanks in part to its wood-fired thin-crust pizzas with toppings like spinach artichoke ($21) and fried eggplant, ricotta and tomato ($18). The pasta menu offers classics such as orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage ($20), shrimp scampi ($24) and spaghetti carbonara ($22). The carb-conscious might want to skip the heavy stuff and go straight for a protein-centric entree, like the veal marsala ($29) or the pan-seared Atlantic salmon ($28). Select a drink from a long wine list with vintages available both by the glass and the bottle, or order that non-alcoholic Italian classic, San Pellegrino Limonata ($5).
Venue says: “We have opened our large outdoor cafe! Join us on Wine Down Wednesday for half price bottles of wine to sip on outside.”