Delicatessens have become synonymous with NYC, and there are few things New Yorkers love more than a big pastrami sandwich with a side of pickles. Some of the most famous NYC delis have become tourist destinations as popular as Central Perk or the Empire State Building, but they’re still equally loved by locals. And while the kosher Jewish deli is one of the many ‘classic New York‘ things that’s dying out as new things pop up, there are still lots of places that continue to make the same delicious stuff they’ve made for decades. So if you’re craving a ginormous, meaty sandwich, here are 10 of the best places to find one in NYC.
No list of delis in NYC or beyond would be complete without Katz’s, the absolute most iconic deli in NYC, perhaps even in the world. Whatever makes it so famous – the fact that it’s been open since 1888, the fact that it’s the setting for one of the most memorable scenes in When Harry Met Sally,or the fact that the pastrami is out-of-this-world-delicious – Katz’s is an institution that everyone should experience.
Opened in 1937, the classic delicatessen Carnegie Deli has been family owned and operated since day one. It’s named after its proximity to Carnegie Hall, and it’s known for never skimping on the sandwich stuffings. While most NYC delis will serve you a filling sandwich, at Carnegie Deli the sandwiches are supersized. Unfortunately, though, you only have a few months left to try one – Carnegie Deli is closing at the end of 2016, so get your sandwich while you can.
Frankel’s is a newcomer to the delicatessen scene, and some might dismiss it as a hipster-infused copycat version of the real thing. That would be a mistake, however, because Frankel’s does everything right. It’s owned by two native New Yorkers who used their memories of growing up on deli food to create to their own, modern version of the classic. Recipes come from their grandmother and everything is sensational.
Though Artie’s Deli looks like one of the original New York City delis, it’s actually only been open since 1999. Named after Upper West Side restaurateur Artie Cutler, it pays homage to the older delis of NYC, and does it well. The pastrami is excellent, the corned beef is even better, and even though it’s a newcomer (as far as delis go), it’s already becoming a classic.
Barney Greengrass is mostly known for its smoked fish (it’s often called ‘The Sturgeon King’), but it’s also a fully functioning meat delicatessen with all the stuff you want. Their meat sandwiches are a bit smaller than some of the other spots on this list, but that also means they’re slightly cheaper. Come here to sit in a famous deli and eat a reasonably sized delicious sandwich.
Opened in 1964 by a retired cop, Sarge’s Deli is open 24 hours per day for those times when you need a reuben sandwich at 4am (we’ve all been there). Along with all your favorites, Sarge’s offers some unique menu offerings if you’re looking to switch it up. There’s a ‘Souper Soup’ with a gigantic matzo ball, noodles, and meat-filled dumplings, a huge $40 ‘Monster’ sandwich, and a ‘Deli Wellington’ sandwich that’s wrapped in puff pastry.
Mile End Deli exemplifies the new generation of NYC delis, and it does it with a bit of a twist. Its owners, Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen, are from Montreal, and when they arrived in NYC they brought Canadian smoked meat and a new idea of what a deli could be. Mile End Deli’s food is as seasonal as it can be, and they cure, smoke, bake, and pickle everything in-house. If this is what the young, hip, Brooklyn version of the classic NYC deli looks like, we’re into it.
One of the last remaining fully kosher delis in NYC, 2nd Avenue Deli is no longer on 2nd Avenue but it’s still just as popular. Despite its change of location, it’s still managed by the Lebewohl family who started it, and the vibes are still the same. Aside from the deli sandwiches (which are excellent), try a mushroom-barley or matzo-ball soup and indulge in blintzes for dessert.
Back in the day, David’s Brisket House was a typical Brooklyn Jewish deli, but now it’s unique in that it’s run by Yemenite Muslims. The menu is still mostly kosher and full of all the classics, and the secret is to order your deli sandwich with a side of their gravy for dipping. Beware, though: once you’ve tried a pastrami sandwich dipped in gravy, it’s hard to eat it any other way.
Liebman’s is one of the last remaining Jewish delis in the Bronx, so of course it’s become an institution in the neighborhood. Walking through its doors you feel like you’ve stepped back in time; the place is totally stuck in time and full of regulars who have loved it for years. Keep your order simple here: get a pastrami and corned beef combo sandwich.