Save the Deli

Ed Levine wants to know, “What’s Your Favorite Deli?”

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Gail Simmons (Food and Wine/ Top Chef) and Ed Levine at Artie’s in New York

New York Times food writer, meta foodie blogger, and cosumate fresser Ed Levine wants to know what your favorite deli is. The head honcho over at his website Serious Eats, who knows his way around a spiced, smoked navel, is all aflutter over the reopening of the 2nd Ave Deli, and his passion for deli is rising once again.

It started yesterday with his comment on the New York Times article on the 2nd Ave Deli.

The city has been a lesser place without the Second Avenue Deli. I for one can’t wait to have a bowl of that incomparable mushroom-barley soup. a corned beef sandwich, and an order of french fries. Welcome back, Second Avenue Deli.

In that article, he lay out the challenge for young Jeremy Lebewohl as clearly as he could. Many delis have declined in quality in New York. Levine believes the 2nd Ave Deli was never the same after Abe Lebewohl died in 1996, and his brother Jack, a real estate lawyer, took over. Ed’s words are those of a seasoned critic…direct, insightful, brimming with opinion, and often pointed.

Click to read “The Second Avenue Deli: Reopening to Close an Old Wound”

Today he’s back on the deli train. Levine wants to know your thoughts on where the best delis rest. He is a firm defender of New York’s, and though he acknowledges Langer’s and Schwartz’s, he remains focused on the five boroughs.

Here’s a selection of his tops:

Artie’s –The pastrami is excellent (ask for it well-steamed), the hot dogs are just about as good, the chicken soup has gotten better over the years, and the skin-on french fries are solid if not spectacular.

Ben’s Best– Ben’s Best owner Jay Parker is an old-fashioned deli man, a chip off Abe Lebewohl’s block.

Carnegie Deli — Yes, the Carnegie Deli’s portions are obscene, and it is indeed a haven for tourists in search of the deli experience they can’t get at home, but the Carnegie still makes a terrific if gargantuan pastrami sandwich, fine matzo ball soup, the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had (ask for it extra crispy), and an overly large, extremely greasy, but utterly delicious potato knish.

Katz’s — The soups are ordinary, the french fries a pale, frozen shadow of their former selves, but a hand-cut pastrami sandwich from Katz’s is a gift from the deli gods.

Liebman’s — The Bronx has a long, proud tradition of Jewish delis, but in the last 20 years their numbers have dwindled precipitously. Liebman’s in Riverdale is doing its best to maintain the Bronx deli tradition.

Sarge’s– Sarge’s has everything a deli should have, bad florescent lighting, a wisecracking waitstaff, fine house-smoked pastrami, and terrific french fries. I don’t think I’ve ever had soup at Sarge’s.

I’ve responded at length in Ed’s comments, as should you. It’s due time for some serious deli discourse and Ed Levine is putting us up to the challenge.

Click here to read “The Best Jewish Delis: What’s Your Favorite?”

Click here to read “An Ageless Pleasure Between the Rye” from the New York Times in 2003

Click here to see the audio slideshow from the Times article

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