What do Stephen Colbert, Cyndi Lauper, Derek Jeter and I have in common? We are all preachers of the magical pastrami experience at Carnegie’s. The only difference is that my picture has never made it onto the wall.
Sandwiched between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, Carnegie Deli is a small restaurant with a deli counter in the front for those who need lunch meat for tomorrow. It’s known for its small tables and a wall of celebrities who have all eaten there throughout its nearly 80 years of operation. It’s loud and crowded, and sharing is not caring in this little abode (unless you want to pay the $3 sharing fee). It’s a place tourists go to after reading reviews on TripAdvisor and hating it once they’re actually there. When they say the servers are rude, I say the servers are playful. When they ask why a pastrami sandwich is $20, I reply that it’s New York City and not prepackaged Oscar Mayer. I even heard a couple say to one another that “it’s too crowded and loud” during a particularly busy lunch rush. I have no comment.
Mixed customer service aside, Carnegie announced that it will be permanently closing down its business at the year’s end. Seventy-nine years of warm memories, hot corned beef and phenomenal cheesecake (which most certainly does not compare to Junior’s Cheesecake) will be coming to an end. So before you shed a tear like I did, here are four places to go to instead of this iconic Midtown restaurant and deli.
1. Katz’s Delicatessen
Located in the Lower East Side, Katz’s is comparable to Carnegie. It’s a no-frills delicatessen restaurant that still uses the old-school ticketing system to order your deli meats and sandwiches. Men stand behind the counter with menacing-looking knives that expertly slice your pastrami into beautiful slabs. Once you order, they give you a slice to hold you over until your order is completed. It’s a smart technique to keep customers quiet and their hangriness at bay. I personally prefer Katz’s pastrami sandwiches to Carnegie’s, but that’s just me.
2. Zaro’s Bakery
Before my parents lived their idyllic, suburban life in Pennsylvania, they spent a good portion of their time in New York City. My dad’s morning commutes would consist of black coffee and rugelach in white parchment bags. Zaro’s Bakery sells fabulous rugelach that comes close to that nostalgic flavor he so dearly misses. With a location in Grand Central Terminal, Zaro’s Bakery is the one place I always make an effort to stop by. It’s hard to find that same taste in Philadelphia.
Some argue that Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village is hands down the best pizza in the city. Others say that Artichoke Pizza is unbeatable. I don’t know if I went on an off-day, but the slice I got at Joe’s Pizza was less than stellar. I appreciate Artichoke Pizza, but it’s not your standard tomato-sauce-and-cheese pizza. When you want that classic, New York-style pizza, I would recommend Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. Right next to the Brooklyn Bridge, Grimaldi’s is a short subway ride from Manhattan. It doesn’t sell by the slice, but I have no trouble finishing off an entire pie. Plus, it’s always nice to walk the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan afterwards. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that view.
4. Joe’s Shanghai
When it’s hot and humid, people usually crave something refreshing, like iced tea. When it’s snowy and windy, people usually reach for hot soup or hot chocolate. Whenever it’s rainy and cold, I always crave soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown. The original Joe’s Shanghai was founded in Flushing (if you want good Chinese or Korean food, I would recommend foregoing Chinatown or Koreatown in Manhattan and instead head over to Queens), but it has since then opened two other locations, both in Manhattan. During lunch hours, you’ll be able to observe a lot of suits coming in to enjoy a solitary lunch at Joe’s Shanghai. I highly recommend this place. Plus, the prices are very reasonable.