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Dec 25, 2007 08:34 PM

Best Pastrami Sandwich

My wife and I have been thinking about indulging again after quite a lengthy layoff from pastrami. I think the last time we had a pastrami sandwich was at the old location of the Second Avenue Deli, and that was long before they closed, so it's been a number of years. We both liked what they served up at the Second Avenue Deli then, and in the distant past I've liked the pastrami at Katz's, but we haven't been there for quite some time either.

It might be a no-brainer to go to either the new Second Avenue Deli or to Katz's, but this may be the last pastrami sandwich for us for some time and we'd like to make the most of it. Who knows, maybe there's a place out there in the five boroughs that has even better pastrami than these two stalwarts.

So I put it to the Chowhounds in New York: where is the best pastrami sandwich in New York City today?

Thanks in advance...

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  1. Pastrami Queen on Lexington Avenue is very good....

    1. I was underwhelmed by the pastrami sandwich at the new Second Ave. Deli. Keep looking.

      1. My son and I recently indulged ourselves at Katz's on a Saturday afternoon. After watching the quality of the meats and service go downhill for years, Katz's has definitely made an impressive comeback. The pastrami, corned beef and brisket are again top notch. The portions are generous without being over the top, and the prices are reasonable given the going rate around town. This place is again the real thing , and in my opinion puts most of the uptown tourist mills like the Carnegie to shame. If you're looking for great pastrami, you can't go wrong at Katz's. Delicious.

        2 Replies
        1. re: maxdemontclair

          Well, the quality I can't dispute, nor do I wish to dispute it, since nostalgically at least, I WANT to say that Katz's is the best. It helps to set us (NYC) apart from the rest of the free and not-so-free world. However, all that said, for me the fact that the slicing is so thick due to hand-carving, kind of brings it down a notch. In truth, it's always been true for me. I wish they could keep the quality that sets them apart from, as you say, the "uptown tourist" delis, but use the slicing machine. Either that, or somehow hone your skills so that you can slice it even thinner than you now do.'s still Katz's, and I'll always recommend it as the best--thickness of slice aside.

          1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

            You raise a good issue. But, I would be on the other side. The thickness is important to me, and I like the thick-cut at Katz just fine.

        2. I second Katz's for the top spot... have been there many times in the past 15 years and I have yet to be disappointed. I find the pastrami on rye with a half sour pickle, fries, and a Dr Browns Cherry or Cream soda to be a very satisfying meal. Carnegie Deli is also very good but the sandwich is way to much for one and they love to hit you with that sharing charge... which on a $20 plus sandwich just seems greedy. I also find that Katz's cuts off more of the fat since they hand slice the meat... Carnegie slices their meats by machine and leaves far too much fat on.

          1 Reply
          1. re: iluvcookies

            Hey, cookies...that's IT! You've hit it on the head. I agree about Katz's Russian dressing being horrid, and I am a russian fan too for pastrami. I haven't been to Carnegie in years and haven't been to 2nd ave. Deli since the move, so I can't say, but I think I may have to try them. Forget Ben's, however. I know no one asked, but I'm just sayin'.

          2. I'm one of the few non-fans of Katz. It's perfectly done, but not flavorful enough. Also, I prefer Russian to mustard, and Katz's Russian is dreadful.

            I haven't been to Pastrami Queen for a while, but at least when it was in Queens, across from the courthouse, the meat was far too coarse-textured.

            Second Avenue Deli used to be fine, and I've read that the new incarnation at toidy-toid 'n' toid is very good, but killingly expensive.

            Sarge's makes its own, but I was underwhelmed.

            <flamesuit/ON> For me, Carnegie Deli makes the best pistol. The fat content is high enough for real flavor, and the bread is top notch. I usually get several extra slices of bread (free for eat-in, extra for take-out) and have it with Russian for half and mustard for the other half. That, plus the truly sour pickles to cut the richness, is my idea of nirvana. <flamesuit/OFF>.

            5 Replies
            1. re: KRS

              I like your technique, KRS, may have to steal it.

              also, thought you meant 2nd ave moved to "hoity-toid" and toid; works?

              1. re: KRS

                I think that KRS has it right. I am still on the quest for the best pastrami sandwich in the New York City area. The first test to determining which deli has the best pastrami is to find which ones make their own pastrami. Not to denigrate Empire National which is very good, but delis often purchase their pastrami from a wholesaler and pass it off as their own. For those who care, Empire National's pastrami is much better than Hebrew National's. That said, my quest is to find a pastrami place that makes their own pastrami that is rich in spices and flavor, moist and tender. To date, I have to say that I have found that the two best pastrami sandwiches I have had are in Philadelphia. One is at a place called the Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ and the other in central Philadelphia called the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. I find it ironic that to get the two most authentic and tasty pastrami sandwiches, you have to travel to Philadelphia. Insofar as New York is concerned, my rankings would be as follows:

                1. Carnegie Deli (still consistently the best)
                2. Stage Deli (on a good day it can be as good if not better than the Carnegie, but on a bad day, it tastes very processed)
                3. Junior's on Flatbush or Grand Central Station (pretty good as they make their own and gives the top two a run for their money on occasion)
                4. Sarge's (it is their own, it is very tender and moist, but there is not enough seasoning)
                5. Katz's (it has all the right stuff, hand cut, well seasoned but something is just not there)

                I am most curious about the Brooklyn Delis but heard that both Adelman's and Mill Basin use Empire National. I was wondering if anybody can confirm or deny this and whether there are any authentic pastrami places left in Brooklyn other than Junior's.

                So, with all of that said, I would still like to find the best place that makes their own pastrami in the New York City greater area. I welcome feedback from all pastrami lovers across the land.

                1. re: MitchPastrami

                  Can't say where they get there's from but Adleman's is definately not a top pastrami spot. Just a run of the mill pastrami sandwich. Still good to eat thought ;)

                  1. re: MitchPastrami

                    It has been a little over two years since I posted my opinion and I thought it was time for an update. My tastes have not changed but I have had a chance to eat at all of the places I listed in my first posting on several occasions so as to give each and every place a fair chance.

                    My new and updated list is greatly abbreviated. There are really three places where it is worth spending your money and where you will consistently get a great pastrami sandwich. Two are in the new New York metro area and one is in Cherry Hill, NJ.

                    I believe that Katz's and Irving's in Livingston, NJ might have the same supplier. Both places have without question, what is the best pastrami in the New York area. It is tender, flavorful, hand cut, well seasoned and just about perfect. I am not a big fan of the Rockland Bakery rye that they use but that aside, there is no better pastrami anywhere.

                    I must give equal mention to the Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ, just outside of Philly. Their pastrami is very different form Katz's or Irving's but consistently excellent. It is worth the trip to taste this wonderful pastrami.

                    Also, the guys as Hobby's in Newark have a very nice pastrami. They are worth patronizing as it is a Newark institution.

                    With those three delis, you now have the listing of the top three pastrami places in the world.

                    Rockland Bakery
                    94 Demarest Mill Rd W, Nanuet, NY 10954

                    1. re: MitchPastrami

                      What happened to Famous 4th St. on your list? and another Phila good one is Hershel's in reading terminal market. What about Barney Greengrass? l always eat fish but see a lot of pastrami being served there.