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New York Delis
History Of New York Delis
Delicatessens can be found all over the world. To many, they are simple counters in supermarkets serving cold cuts of meat and a variety of relishes and sauces. The original delicatessens first opened in New York. It was in the late 1800s that the city had large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe.
Coming from places like Germany, Russia, Poland and Romania, many immigrants were Jewish and they brought with them their kosher recipes for cured meats, breads and other traditional dishes. Cured and pickled ingredients are a staple of all authentic New York delis. These old family recipes came from a time before refrigeration, when people learned clever methods to preserve the life of food. And, of course, to make it taste good.
There is some confusion as to the exact derivation of the word delicatessen, but most agree that it means "delicate things to eat". This is what you’ll find at all authentic New York delis. Expect kosher, non-kosher and kosher-style delis. You’ll have your pick of traditional dishes like pastrami on rye, matzoh ball soup, blintzes, blinis, corned beef sandwiches, and a range of cakes and desserts.
Famous New York Delis
New York has many famous delis. Some have been featured in movies and some have photographs on the wall of the celebrities who’ve eaten there.
Katz’s Delicatessen is the oldest in the city. Located on 205 East Houston Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it’s a very busy place which stays open until 3a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It opened its doors in 1888 and claims to be the first to have served pastrami. Often served on hot rye bread, pastrami is a meat made from brisket which is brined, seasoned, smoked and then steamed. Katz’s Delicatessen is known for its excellent foods, the pastrami on rye being very popular. Their hot dogs are also very popular, and they serve around 12,000 of them in a single week.
Opposite Carnegie Hall in Midtown Manhattan is the Carnegie Deli. It’s being going since 1937, and is as known for its mile-high pastrami sandwich as it is for its cheesecake. You can count on large portions, and there is the option to order non-kosher foods off the menu. The waiters are known for their typical New York demeanor, which lends a bit of theatricality to any meal.
If you’re hungry late at night, you can head to Sarge’s Deli, which is open around the clock. It’s to be found on Third Avenue in Murray Hill and also serves beer and wine.
The 2nd Avenue Deli’s name might be misleading, since it’s no longer located on Second Avenue. It’s now located on 33rd Street, in Midtown, and there’s another branch on the Upper East Side. This is a fully kosher deli which has been running since 1954. You’ll find favorites like corned beef, knishes and gefilte fish. The deli also serves cholent, a traditional stew which cooks overnight for twelve hours. The 2nd Avenue Deli is a place for the whole family. There are even high-chairs for the younger diners.
Pastrami on rye and matzoh ball soup are not the only specialities of the New York delis. Smoked fish, salmon and whitefish are readily available. Barney Greengrass, on the Upper West Side, is a great place for those who love their fish. Opened in 1908, it became known for its excellent sturgeon, earning the Barney himself the nickname, “Sturgeon King”.
Finding The Right New York Deli
Where you eat will depend on a few things. You might want to try someone’s recommendation, in which case you’ll head to that specific deli.
There is a high concentration of delis in Manhattan. If you just want to grab a sandwich and head to Central Park, you’ll have a wider choice than those wanting to have a sit-down meal with wine. Fully kosher delis don’t serve alcohol, while most kosher-style delis serve both wine and beer.