Latkes, matzo ball soup, a towering pastrami on rye...these are the dishes that fill a deli's menu. Here's where to eat those and other classic NYC fare, at the city's best delis.
Mile End (Boerum Hill)This is Montreal Jewish fare, the stuff comfort food dreams are made of. Think of thin slices of corned beef piled high, topped with kraut and Russian dressing, blanketed in melted Swiss and wedged between toasted pumpernickel. Side dishes are as serious as the main ones, like that Canadian classic poutine, finished in a number of ways, including cheese curds, gravy, eggs, and even chicken schnitzel.
Russ & Daughters Cafe (Lower East Side)From white-jacketed servers to that pristine counter, this updated yet model LES café channels the very spirit and charm of its mothership, set only blocks away. Serious diners find a seat and get noshing on hot- and cold-smoked Scottish salmon teamed with everything-bagel chips, a thrilling contrast in flavor and texture. Caramelized chocolate babka French toast is crowned with strawberries for a sweet-savory treat.
Katz's (Lower East Side)One of the last-standing, old-time Eastern European spots on the Lower East Side, Katz’s is a true NY institution. Tourists, hipsters, blue hairs and everybody in between flock here, so come on off-hours. Walk inside, get a ticket and don’t lose it. Then pick up your food at the counter and bring it to a first-come first-get table; or opt for a slightly less dizzying experience at a waitress-served table. Nothing’s changed in the looks or taste. Matzo ball soup, pastrami sandwiches, potato latkes—everything is what you’d expect, only better.
2nd Avenue Deli (Midtown East)While the décor may be more deli-meets-deco and there’s a tad less attitude, this food is every bit as good as it was on Second Avenue. The menu remains as it should: kosher, meat-loving and non-dairy with phenomenal pastrami, pillowy rye, tangy mustard, perfect potato pancakes and fluffy matzo balls in a comforting broth. Have the best of both worlds with the soup and half-sandwich combination.
Barney Greengrass (Upper West Side)Legions of customers flock here—and have been for a century. Cured and smoked fish, as well as deli items may be the classic order, but they also serve a terrific breakfast. Start your day with a Nova scramble sided by a bagel and cream cheese. The menu offers a roster of all-time favorites: homemade chicken liver, smeared on a toasted bialy, with hard-boiled egg and caramelized onions is always a good bet; as is an overstuffed pastrami sandwich on soft rye, served with mustard and crunchy half-sours.
This iconic kosher deli is still stuffing sandwiches and ladling matzo ball soup (reputed for its healing powers) just as it has for over 50 years. Soulful classics include stuffed veal breast and tongue sandwiches with tangy pickles, but it's positively blasphemous to skip the pastrami sandwich, with layer-upon-layer of warm pastrami shavings piled on soft rye.