Save the Deli

The Parker Tributes Pour In

Since announcing the sad news of Milton Parker’s death Tuesday night, the story that originated on this site has spread across the web, as tributes to the legendary deli owner have poured in.

Today’s obituary in the New York Times is the gem of them all:

Milton Parker, Carnegie Deli Partner, Dies at 90


Milton Parker, who brought long lines and renown to the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan with towering pastrami sandwiches and a voluble partner who kibitzed with common folk and celebrities alike, died in Queens on Friday. He was 90 and lived in Manhattan.

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

The cause was respiratory problems, his daughter, Marian Levine, said.

Mr. Parker was primarily the back-room planner who brought taam — a Yiddish word suggesting great flavor and quality — to the pastrami, corned beef, brisket and tongue; the cheesecake and matzo balls; the soups and the pickles that placed the Carnegie, at 55th Street and Seventh Avenue, at or near the top of deli maven lists. Theater district tourists have made it a regular stop.

His partner Leo Steiner, who died in 1987, was the shtick-happy frontman who greeted customers and escorted celebrities like Henny Youngman, Jackie Mason, Woody Allen and the French actor Yves Montand to their favored tables.

The five-inch-high sandwiches were largely Mr. Parker’s domain.

Mr. Parker and Mr. Steiner, along with a less active partner who later sold his share, bought the Carnegie from three previous owners in 1976. Mr. Parker retired in 2002 and handed over control of the business to his son-in-law, Sanford Levine. According to, a Web site that celebrates delicatessens nationwide, Mr. Parker’s business card read “Milton Parker, CPM (corned beef and pastrami maven).” Mr. Levine’s card reads “MBD (Married Boss’s Daughter).”

The Daily News weighed in with its own obit:

The cold-cut king who turned the Carnegie Deli into a New York institution has died at age 90, but his legacy will live on in every over-stuffed corned beef sandwich.
Restaurateur Milton Parker, who bought the famed joint on Seventh Ave. 33 years ago, passed away in Queens last Friday of respiratory failure.
His son-in-law said the family won’t change a thing at the world’s most indulgent greasy spoon.
“The Carnegie Deli is about the experience,” said Sandy Levine, 66. “It’s the food, the communal tables, the menu. That’s not going to change.”

The blogs have been all over it too.

Ed Levine over at Serious Eats, wrote a nice intro to his posting.

Although many Serious Eaters have complained over the years about the rude waitstaff and high prices at the Carnegie Deli, I remain a fan to this day.
The pastrami still rocks, the corned beef hash might be the best I’ve ever tasted, and the leaden potato knishes are still the tastiest knishes I know. As we found out in our own Serious Eats lab experiments, one Carnegie Deli pastrami sandwich “cell” divides into five normal-sized sandwiches.

At the Feedbag, the blog by grand carnivore Josh Ozersky, the obit is spectacular.

Let Us Pause to Remember Milton Parker, A Great Deli Man

Milton Parker, R.I.P.
Milton Parker, the proprietor and guiding spirit of the Carnegie Deli, died yesterday. He’s been eulogized throughout the deli-venerating community; Save the Deli has the longest and the best, but we thought we might add something to the discussion. Over the past few years, the Carnegie Deli has come to be taken for granted by New Yorkers; it seems like a tourist trap, and its oversized sandwiches more show business than classic cookery. This is both right and wrong. The Carnegie Deli is a magnet for tourists, because it is the quintessential midtown deli. In fact, it wouldn’t be going too far to call it the Federal Reserve of delicatessens; it’s the one you can turn to, at any time of the day or night, and rely on getting a textbook sandwich. The reason for that is the commitment of Milton Parker, a tiny, wizened figure infrequently seen in recent years outside of the logo, in which he appears, holding a giant pickle. Parker was more than just a businessman; he was a Yoda of gastronomy, and the author of the best quote I ever heard about hot corned beef and pastrami: “If you have to chew it, you might as well eat gum.” He said many other wise things as well, and made the Carnegie into a world-famous restaurant, with both a long and prosperous future and a storied past, thanks to his sweat and care. His son-in-law, Sandy Levine, now carries his torch. But there’s only one Milton Parker.

There’s also stuff by Gothamist, UPI, Eater, and others…

3 Responses to “The Parker Tributes Pour In”

  1. julia s Says:

    Great reading! And so nice to see that Save the Deli is so well known and acknowledged!

  2. Peter and Shirley Davidson Says:

    An obituary for Milton Parker appeared in the Globe and Mail, and we immediately recognized Carnegie’s as the spot we ate in on our first visit to NYC in April 2008. We were amazed at the size of the pastrami sandwiches we ordered…..I even took a picture of my huband trying to wrap his face around his!! So sorry to hear that you have lost one of those who made the place the institution it is.

    PS We live in Nova Scotia

  3. ???????? Says:

    ??? ????

Leave a Reply

E-mail It