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I'm a young professional living in Astoria (formerly of Williamsburg, the UES and Murray Hill - I move a lot!). I'm always looking for something fun to do or the best place to grab a drink and dinner at an affordable price around the city. Have a suggestion? Email me at Laura AT 89thandbroke DOT com.

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Carnegie Deli, Serving Up Delicious Sandwiches

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:  Fellow Theater Lover
Price:  $$ if splitting, $$$ if eating solo
Overall: A favorite. 4.5 stars.

Carnegie Deli on Urbanspoon

6 comments to Carnegie Deli, Serving Up Delicious Sandwiches

  • Doug

    Any sandwich that is large enough to be referred to as both a “monster” and a “baby” in the same review is always worth trying in my book.

    And kudos on the well placed airline metaphor.

  • Rob

    Andy, I don’t think you missed a thing in this post, but if I may, I would like to recommend a few things for your next visit.

    1) You need to try the matzoh ball soup. First off the are just amazing. Not too firm, not mushy at all, come with noodles and are the size of softballs. Two come with an order, so sharing an order is perfectly fine.

    Now you may be thinking, how can I eat that and then eat a huge sandwich, but not to worry. As you point out, having leftovers from Carnegie is one of the best things that can happen to you (as for extra bread on the way out, even if they charge you. You won’t regret it.)

    2) The potato latkes are really, really good. Personally I am fine with them plain, but they are also amazing with some applesauce or sour cream.

    3) You think the pastrami is good? Try the cornbeef, and ask for it “extra lean.” One word… gold. This stuff is gold and while you may be in a slight coma after eating it, it is part of the high.

    While there is never, ever, ever room for desert, I “hear” the cheesecake is pretty good, and based on everything else there .

    Yes I have penned a post or two about being a health concious correspondent here on 89th and Broke, but when I go to Carnegie, I kind of forget about that for a little while.

    Great post and tribute to a New York staple.

  • Andy


    Just to point out – leftovers are usually not an option when your a tourist in town just for the day. Who wants to drag a half sandwich around Manhattan to a show, later to dinner and then on the train back to CT? But it certainly a great option for you NYC residents.

    I agree with you on the corned beef. I have had it on a previous visit here and I would go farther and say it was platinum. We had the pastrami this time for a change of pace

    The cheesecake certainly looked good when the waiters walked by my table with it. However, it was about 3.5 inches thick and far more than two of us could consume when shared. I am trying to drop a few pounds anyway, so a look was as far as I wanted to go.

    I’ll take you advice and try for the matzoh ball soup next time I am there. Softball-sized sounds a little daunting. Are you exaggerating just a little?

  • Rob


    Glad to hear we are on the same page when it comes to the corned beef.

    In terms of leftovers, why not whip out the deli meat in the theater or on the train? It’ll likely be a memorable experience.

    As for the matzoh balls, check out this pic – http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2376/2525438267_6b6549c6d4.jpg?v=0

    Maybe slightly smaller than a softball, but very close.

    Sorry I missed you at the Wharf last week!

  • Andy

    I am watching carbs – these would be an overload

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