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Which deli to choose in Manhattan?

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Hi! I spent a nice year ('06) living in Manhattan and going to culinary school -- and managed to dive into a huge chunk of the food scene that the city had to offer. However, the one thing that I didn't really get to sink my teeth into was the deli scene. The only one I had tried was Carnegie, because of its proximity to where I was staying. I must say, though, that I did enjoy my pastrami and corned beef sandwich.

This spring I'm bringing my little brother to the city and I promised him some of the best eating of his life.. which brings me to my question: if I could choose just one classic New York deli to take him, which one should I go to? Carnegie, Katz, the new 2nd Ave...?

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  1. if i had to choose one and only one, it would have to be katz's. hands down, the best pastrami in town -- order it, like everything else, from a counterman, NOT a waiter, and slip the guy a couple bucks for an advance taste as big as a sandwich in some burgs. lots of other smaller highlights on the menu as well -- top flight dogs with loads of snap, addictive fries, fine potato pancakes -- but the pastrami is the main draw. that, and a century-plus of ingrained atmosphere.

    haven't been to the new 2nd ave yet, but if it's at all like the old one, it should have charms of its own. chopped liver, matzo ball soup and old-school jewish plates like chicken in the pot were the stars of the old menu.

    1. Katz's would definitely be a classic experience. As someone who doesn't keep kosher, I'd prefer not having to forgo cheese or dairy just to get a deli experience, which makes Katz's ideal since, though it might not be kosher, it has sacrificed little else in authenticity.

      1. Katz's all the way. Pastrami, knoblewurst and hot dogs.

        1. I've become partial to Second Avenue Deli. Been there for lunch and breakfast (HIGHLY recommend the matzoh brei) and I've been really pleased with what I have eaten. Besides, what's bad about sitting down to complementery fried chicken skins and ending the meal with a comlementary shot of chocolate egg cream?

          3 Replies
          1. re: veralouise

            oh yes! the matzoh brei! i totally forgot about that....have to sneak a weekday breakfast one of these days (can only imagine the weekend wait is still pretty rough).

            1. re: david sprague

              Get one matzoh brei and one smoked fish platter and split them. That's what I did with my brother. We went during the week for breakfast before work and it was empty - but I'm sure the weekends are a zoo. Enjoy!

              1. re: veralouise

                first, i'd go to katz. then i'd go to katz. and then, to katz. to recap:

                1)katz
                2)katz
                3)katz

                :-)

          2. hey thanks folks! looks like Katz's is the clear choice (as I kinda suspected..) Though now I'm curious about Second Ave Deli's matzoh brei.. :)