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A Good Jewish Deli for Returning Native

I was born and was bred (bread?) on kosher-style delis in the boroughs. I'll be visiting for the first time in a couple of years, and since then the Second Ave. Deli has closed. Carnegie seems too touristy and kitschy. I know that Katz' is still around. But is there anywhere else worth exploring for the pastrami, kosher hot dogs and stuffed derma of my dreams?
(I figure that what goes on outside my cardiologist's office, stays outside my cardiologist's office).

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    1. I hear Ben's in Midtown is the "new" go to place. Katz's just isn't up to par at this point I don't think.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rjm

        Ben's is an overpriced tourist trap, and third rate food. Katz's pastrami is unchanged - still the best.

        1. re: gutsofsteel

          Don't know about the Manhattan Ben's' prices, as I am an Island/Queens person and don't see the magic in going into Manhattan for something good I can have nearer to home. That said, I have eaten at various Ben's locations in Queens and on Long Island over the years (Greenvale, Bayside, Carle Place and Woodbury, particularly the first two many times) and they may not be cheap (nothing Kosher is) but the food is very good, so I am surprised that the food at the Manhattan locale would be much different. The potato salad and cole slaw are not the same industrial stuff they throw on the table at most deli's and they have some great other sides to supplement the traditional stuff. I never went to the Carnagie until a cousin from out of town recently wanted to go there and it is "touristy and kitchy" bit the food is pretty good. My sister raved over the rugelah cheesecake--that's something you would not get at a Kosher place...

          1. re: Shayna Madel

            I have not been to Ben's in Manhattan but, several years ago would go to the one in Queens.. Was a big fan.. I could eat a bucket of the coleslaw..

      2. Katz's, of course, for superior pastrami. However, if you're willing to shlep to Brooklyn, everything at the kosher Mill Basin Deli is delicious!


        5 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          Cant compare Bens to Katz's. if you're stuck in midtown its convenient, but the best deli is still to be had at katz's.

          and btw wasnt there talk of 2nd ave deli reopening on east 33rd st near 3rd ave sometime this summer? anyword on this?

          1. re: ricky7

            That info about the 2nd Ave. Deli re-opening on 33rd St., b/t 3rd & Lex, is correct. We've passed by that location several times, and renovations are underway. They don't seem to be far enough along for a summer opening. Some time in the fall seems more likely.

            1. re: RGR

              That's great news! I was heartbroken when 2nd Ave Deli closed. (And infuriated when a Chase Bank opened in the space.) Thanks for the info. I work in the nabe, so I'll stop by and check out the progress.

              It would be great if they could pry the plaques up from the sidewalk outside their old location and somehow install them at the new location. But something tells me Chase owns them now.

              1. re: RGR

                SHUT UP!!!! Oh wow that is soooo awesome! That makes me sooo happy! I'm coming to NYC in a week but I'm sure they won't be open then. But maybe the next time around. I'm dreaming about their chopped liver sandwiches already. Mmmmmmm!

                1. re: Elyssa

                  If you like chopped liver, you have to stop at Russ and Daughters and buy a container to go. Its heavenly!

          2. Katz's is the way to go!

            1. No one has mentioned Sarge's yet, so I will.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Fydeaux

                I love Sarge's. They've always had amazing pastrami sandwiches, chopped liver, sweet noodle pudding (the best!). I've recently moved out of the neighborhood, but will definitely be making my visits back to Murray Hill for Sarge's.

                1. re: Fydeaux

                  I have never been to Sarge's before midnight.. Place delivers up and down the East Side and had ended many a drunken night in my early 20's.. I am glad to hear it is still doing well, havent thought about that place in some time..

                2. I don't think that their food compares at all to Katz's but if you are the Upper West Side at all then Artie's will do.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: samiam123

                    Artie's has excellent franks, and is decent but not exceptional in other respects. For pastrami in Manhattan, it's still Katz's. With the passing of 2nd Ave (and I'm not at all confident a re-opened, relocated one will be as good as it once was), Carnegie -overpriced and kitschy, to be sure - is a good spot for derma.

                    1. re: Striver

                      Hey, Striver,

                      Why would a re-located 2nd Ave. Deli not be as good as it was? It's not like restaurants have never moved from one location to another. For example, Via Emilia moved from Park Av. S. to 20th St. The food is just as delicious, and the new digs are much bigger and nicer than the old ones. And Park Bistro is in the process of re-opening two blocks south of its original location, and I'm sure the cuisine will still be excellent. So, in the case of the 2nd Ave. Deli, if it's still owned and will be operated by a Lieberwald, the quality of the food should equal what it was on 2nd Av.

                      1. re: RGR

                        I agree. As long as it is run and operated by the same family I don't imagine the quality will change much. They will hopefully use the same recipes and buy from the same dealers they used in the past. The place might be a little more updated but as long as their chopped liver tastes the same I'm sold!

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          Where is the relocated location?? Is it open?

                          1. re: LeahBaila

                            As I mentioned in my previous post, things are still in the renovation stage. It's on the south side of 33rd St., b/t 3rd & Lex, across the street from Trio and Cosette. The space was previously occupied by a restaurant called Marbella.

                        2. re: RGR

                          My only fear is that the Bubbe-like servers will not be at the new location. They really made you feel like you were eating in their home. Very casual but flawless, efficient service. I'm not as worried about the food quality or ambiance.

                          1. re: RGR

                            Oh, I know - but I'm very wary. 2nd Ave was not quite the same after the succession, and I have some doubts (possibly baseless except for my native nyc paranoia) that the new place will be family-managed. People are hoping for the best, and there's nothing wrong with that - but as Mel Brooks once wrote, "hope for the best; expect the worst".

                      2. Now I'm not a native New Yorker but my favorite deli when I came to visit was always Second Avenue Deli and I was heart broken when they left. Their chopped liver was incredible.

                        Since then I've been to the Stage Deli a few times and Katz's. I liked both very much.

                        You are smart to stay away from Carnegie....I wasn't too impressed with the food anyway when I was there years ago.

                        1. I still love Stage deli's peppery, juicy pastrami...Call it touristy or whatever, it's just as good as Katz's...and I'm a big Katz fan! Stage has flavor!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: buenosds

                            Ya but aren't all these places fairly touristy? lol

                            I've always been surprised that whenever I've been to the Stage Deli we never had to wait longer then 15 minutes or so. Which really isn't that bad for that type of deli in that part of town.

                            Their turkey is delicious and I liked their matzo ball soup and kugel as well. Mmmmm now I'm craving some good ol', artory clogging, diet-crushing NY Jewish deli food. DC is seriously missing anything in that category!

                            1. re: Elyssa

                              Why is "touristy" so bad? If you're visiting New York and want pastrami as New York is famous for pastrami, of course you're going to go to the places where it's the best, so being "touristy" is a good thing!

                              1. re: bronwen

                                As I see it, the fact that the Carnegie and Stage Delis are in a part of town heavily visited by tourists, i.e., the Times Square are, and are, therefore, considered touristy, is not the problem. The problem, in my view, is that the food at both is mediocre. Many of the tourist who go to those two delis either do not know about Katz's (crazy as that seems) or don't want to make the trek to the LES. However, plenty of tourists do visit Katz's because they know that when it comes to the quintessential NYC deli experience, it's the best!

                                1. re: RGR

                                  You and I rarely disagree, RGR, but we part company on this one.

                                  Granted, Katz's is currently the best Manhattan deli, but Carnegie is better than mediocre. It's not as good as it was in the 60's, but they still serve good pastrami - and both their kasha knishes (I don't do potato) and their derma are better than good.

                                  Yes, I'd certainly go to Katz's over Carnegie - but if you're rooted in midtown, it's a good - if overpriced - option.

                                  1. re: Striver

                                    Hey, Striver,

                                    I haven't been to Carnegie in more than 10 years, and I can't remember when the last time before that was. In any event, my last pastrami sandwich there, the meat was dry and tasteless. Maybe you've had better luck. :-)

                            1. re: LeahBaila

                              Eisenberg's serves stuffed derma?

                              Frankly, I don't consider it a Jewish deli. The only time I've been there, my BLT was horrible, and the egg cream was mediocre.

                            2. The whole isle of Manhattan is touristy. Verdict: Katz's or the Carnegie. Put blinders on and focus on your plate and you'll be just fine at either place.

                              And remember, the subway only improved once air conditioning was installed. Some change is good. I await the second incarnation of the Second Avenue.

                              1. just a few other thoughts- these days, katz's is meh and carnegie generally even worse. for pastrami, strictly speaking, i prefer mill basin kosher deli in brooklyn and ben's best in queens. ben's has the old school fatty delicious dripping good meat. mill basin is a bit more hit or miss but can be excellent. if you do end up at katz's, go for the oldest looking dominican guy behind the counter, tip him $2 first right when he says can i help you, and tell him you want your pastrami old school fatty. it can be excellent at katz's, a crisp dog on the line while you wait and some fries and a seltzer and some sours and you are there- how bad could it be. but prepare yourself- the general level of jewish deli in NY has sadly declined tremendously in the past 15 years and is a shadow of what it was in days gone by. when i was a kid in flushing there was a great jewish deli on every corner, now you need to ask on a food board to find something even close... i've personally found better jewish deli meats in farther flung spots- montreal smoked meat at schwartz's, attman's in baltimore, even harold's in edison has it's spot in the deli firmament (like carnegie in the old days but in nj). good luck on your deli quest, don't waste your time at carnegie (sooo weak these days), and please report back on what you ate and how it went... enjoy fb

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: frankbooth

                                  If you want great jewish deli , nothing can beat the Kosher Nosh in Glen Rock nj. Top quality meats and appetizing!!

                                2. I'll wait for 2nd Avenue deli to open. Nobody does chicken soup like they do...

                                  (there are more good delis in LA than in NYC now and that is just sad...)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: BW212

                                    IMHO, Katz's is arguably tge best deli left in Manhattan. I agree with frankbooth above, the smoked meat at Schwartz's is better tham most deli in NYC. And don't get me started on Montreal bagels...