When's the last time anyone ate at Sarge's?
I'll admit that I've never been a regular at Sarge's. The last time I was there (before last week) was many years ago. I remember a brightly-lit, bustling place with enthusiastic service, terrific pickles and coleslaw and really great deli sandwiches. Last week, I was wandering the neighborhood in search of lunch - actually craving a burger and fries, not a deli sandwich - and went into Sarge's. It appeared to me to be half the size of the place I remembered and I was a bit nervous about ordering anything at all. The tables were only about 30% occupied and I was seated quickly, but waited for attention for quite a while. A waitress handed me a limp, stained, photocopied page for my perusal and quickly walked away.
About 5 minutes later, she stopped schmoozing with her co-workers long enough to come back and take my order: burger deluxe and unsweetened iced tea. "Ham or cheese?" she asked, which confused me. Usually, it's "What kind of cheese?" isn't it? Anyway, neither, thanks. So perhaps that's where I made my mistake -- in not ordering corned beef, pastrami or roast beef. Dunno.
Another 5 minutes passed and a busser dropped off a bowl of coleslaw, topped with two pickles, along with knife, fork and napkin. No small dish, no glass of water. While I was waiting, a couple of construction types came in, stood behind my table and discussed ripping out the chair rail, new booths, etc. I don't think it's going to help.
About 10 minutes later, I caught her eye while she continued to do pretty much nothing. Something may have clicked at that point. She finally came back with my lunch order after another 3 or 4 minutes, mumbled, "Sorry," as she shoved the plate in front of me and hurried off. So I guess she was physically able to move quickly, just not predisposed to do so in the performance of her job.
The pickles were okay, the coleslaw inedible, the burger was only so-so, and the fries - cottage fries, not french fries - kind of lumpy-looking and mushy in texture. Naturally, the waitress waited until I had a mouthful of food and then rushed up to me. "How's everything? Everything good?" I began to gesture but, before I could swallow what was in my mouth, she disappeared again, to go chat with her colleagues.
I ate about half of what was presented to me and gestured to her, actually succeeding in getting her attention, to ask for the check. She didn't ask me if there was anything wrong and didn't seem interested in returning to the table to clear or to take my money. So I went up front and waited to pay while the two women running the two registers tended to other matters.
I don't think even Gordon Ramsay would be able to do anything with Sarge's at this point.
When we go to Sarges, we don't go for the service or the atmosphere- it's really all about the pastrami. Although I did go in a few weeks back and order a whole chicken from the counter. Done in minutes and was very good.
My only complaint about sarges is that their a bit pricey - but that said I can live for three days off of one corned beef and pastrami sandwich.
I went there about a year ago based on hound recommendations and had their pastrami. The atmosphere was pretty much as you describe it - kind of dreary and more than a bit run-down (and not in a cool old roadhouse kind of way). Service was fine, though - no complaints on that score. The pastrami (ordered extra fatty, as I usually do) was totally ordinary - I found it underflavored and somewhat on the salty side. It didn't compare to Carnegie's, let alone Katz's; in fact, a pastrami sandwich I had a few weeks later at Artie's on the UWS (which I don't love but I was in the area and had a yen) was better.
Based on that single visit (which did not encourage me to return), Sarge's is an OK neighborhood deli - no better than that - and certainly not worth a special trip.
I don't think I'd go to Sarge's for a burger--pastrami/corned beef is definitely the way to go. Usually their fries (not cottage fries) are among the best. Service has always been lackluster. They did downsize the restaurant a number of years ago. I understand they're in the middle of renovations so that may have made things worse for them. Sarge's is my "go to" deli (even though I now live on the UES). In addition to the pastrami, I love their fries, noodle pudding and chopped liver. My mom has always liked their brisket. So much so that I'm ordering it for the holidays.
we had great service when we were there earlier this year, and our food (lox, eggs and onions and corned beef hash) was tasty. the atmosphere doesn't bother me at all, and the menus we got were large, laminated, multipage ones. i agree that it's not a destination restaurant, but imo it's a solid neighborhood choice.