Guest Post by Andy Zanzal, My Dad, Tourist Correspondent
If you’re looking for an intimate pre-matinee lunch in the theatre district, the Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue near 55th Street is not the place to find it. In this very busy establishment, diners are seated about as close together as US Airways economy seat passengers. A party of two is seated face-to-face, usually with a group of 2 or more on either side, at very small tables placed tightly together. This makes for a good view of your neighbor’s lunch and either eavesdropping upon or joining into a conversation with them. Since much of the lunch trade is either tourists or suburbanites in town for a show, the conversations are generally about what show they are seeing or where they are from. This is a popular place, so in the 90 minutes or so before matinee time the line is “out the door”. Fortunately, the service is almost as quick as a fast food restaurant and the tables are turned over in about 20 minutes
The walls of deli are covered with autographed 8X10 head shots and well wishes from stars of Broadway and TV, recording artists, and a lot of personalities from local and national broadcast news. The Carnegie Deli has been around for a long time so surprisingly a good number of the personalities that adorn these walls have been dead for 30 years or more. But in every 30 or so pictures you might see 2 or 3 that are relevant today.
On to the food – we have eaten at the Carnegie on many previous occasions and have learned that the size of their deli sandwiches are just too much for the average sized non-Sumo wrestler-type person to consume in one sitting. So we knew going in that we were going to have to split one of these monsters and forego any side dishes to walk out with something less than a food coma. Our waiter had delivered a dish of pickles along with our menus so we ate these as our appetizers. Not knowing anything about pickles other than how they taste, I can report that I liked the lighter green ones better than the darker green, which could be differentiated from a taste point of view by the degree of crispiness and the amount of dill. Our hot pastrami with Swiss on rye arrived at our table within 2 minutes of ordering. The lean, hot pastrami slices were stacked at least 4 inches high on the type of Jewish rye bread that is sold in grocery stores. There was about a third of a pound of swiss atop the pastrami, and it was slightly melted from sitting atop the heated pastrami during the trip to our table. The whole sandwich was topped by the other piece of bread, which in the end was pointless as no one eats one of these babies with their hands. The portion was enough for a week’s worth of brown bag lunches.Unlike other delicatessens we have tried in the theater district, the pastrami at the Carnegie is very lean and when heated does not end up as the greasy unappetizing mess we’ve experienced down the block. It was quite flavorful and is really just an integral part of the NY Jewish Deli experience. The menu here is quite varied with a number of other deli meats such as ham, corned beef, and tongue, but for me the pastrami here is a tried and true “no lose” proposition. A sandwich here is not cheap, with prices ranging from $15 to $22. There is also a $3 dollar charge for sharing, while soft drinks are $2.25 each with no refills. So two people can walk out of there after a shared lunch with the wallet only $30.00 lighter including the tip. Your wallet really will be lighter since this is a cash only business, so leave your credit cards at home! The Basics Name: Carnegie Deli Location: 854 7th Avenue between 55th and 56th Who to bring: Â Fellow Theater Lover Price: Â $$ if splitting, $$$ if eating solo Overall: A favorite. 4.5 stars.