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The best New York delis

From kosher old-timers to tradition-keeping newcomers, these are the best New York delis for bagels, sandwiches and more

Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Pastrami Sandwich at Carnegie Deli

There are few things more inherently New York than the delicatessen, and this city is rife with top-notch takes on the classic form. Whether you’ve got a hankering for heaping pastrami sandwiches, want to compare Gotham’s best bagels or are looking for a kosher restaurant 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

Artie’s Delicatessen

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 and flavorless potato pancakes for an enormous plate of stuffed cabbage in a classic sweet-and-sour sauce, dotted with golden raisins.

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Upper West Side

Barney Greengrass

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.

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Upper West Side

Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen

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 than War and Peace, 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.

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Midtown West

Carnegie Deli

This sexagenarian legend is a time capsule of the bygone borscht belt era, when shtick could make up for cramped quarters, surly waiters and shabby tables. All of the gargantuan sandwiches have punny names: “Bacon Whoopee” (a BLT with chicken salad), “Carnegie Haul” (pastrami, tongue and salami). A waiter sings the deli’s virtues in a corny video loop, and more than 600 celebrity headshots crowd the walls. Still, when you’re craving a deli classic, you can’t do much better than the obscenely generous pastrami and corned-beef sandwiches on rye.

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Midtown West

David's Brisket House

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.

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Katz’s Delicatessen

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.

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Lower East Side

Liebman's Kosher Delicatessen

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.

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The Bronx

Mile End Deli

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.

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Boerum Hill

Sarge’s Deli

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.

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Murray Hill

2nd Ave Deli

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.

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Kips Bay