12 August, 2006

Carnegie Deli, NYC

It's the most famous deli in New York City - maybe even the world, right around the corner from Carnegie Hall, and on a recent roadtrip a group of friends and I decided to try them out.

Foods we sampled on this visit:
  • Pastrami - Slightly less fatty than I'm used to (depending on your point of view, that could be good or bad, right?) Very good, not too salty, and a nice mild smokiness, but a little on the bland side (t could use more pepper and coriander in the cure I would say.) My pastrami sandwich was four inches thick in the center and must have had a pound and a quarter of meat. I split it with my daughter.
  • Corned Beef - Very lean for the most part with a couple of good fatty pieces slipped inside. Like the pastrami it had a good flavor and was not too salty, but because of the leanness it was a bit dry. And like the pastrami sandwich, it was piled about four inches high with a ridiculously generous portion of meat.
  • Potato Knish - Creamy delicious potato inside a delicate pastry crust. Mighty fine.
  • Chicken soup - It would be far more honest to call this "broth" (there isn't a bit of chicken or vegetable in the stuff, though the broth itself it obviously made from scratch. I just wonder what they do with the chicken after the 'soup' is made.) Carnegie's offers a choice of noodles, matzoh balls, or a combo of both. the noodles are tender homemade egg noodles and the matzoh balls are big, fluffy, and the best I've had since I was a kid.
  • Hot Dogs - Two massive kosher "dinner franks" in soft steamed buns served with kraut on the side.
I have mixed feelings about the Carnegie. The service is excellent, attentive, and friendly; the sandwiches are tasty and HUGE; as you are seated, the host drops off a big bowl of marvelous assorted deli pickles; the dining rooms have atmosphere and yet are clean; the food is tasty. But on the other hand, those huge sandwiches are bare (no kraut, no cheese, no nuthin - it's all extra, except for the bottles of mustard on the table); the prices are astronomical ($20.00 for a reuben?? Puh-leez); and there are no refills on the drinks. A strange combination of tightfistedness and generosity.

I've heard complaints that the Carnegie Deli is little more than a tourist trap nowadays. I don't think it's quite that bad yet, but it would be nice if they offered a little extra without nickle-and-diming the customer to death with additional charges, scaled back on the huge portions, and moderated the prices.

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