Carnegie Deli..and The Vegetarian

You'll use lots of napkins when eating at the Carnegie Deli

New York City has always been a food mecca for me.  I’m like a kid in the candy store when it comes to food in the city because there are more varieties of food and cuisines than I can count.  As a kid it was always a treat when my family would go to the
Carnegie Deli (just across the street from Carnegie Concert Hall). The ubiquitous tin bucket of pickles, both sour and fresh,  sitting on the stark table tops always prepped my taste buds for the humongous meal that was about to pass through my lips. The meal was usually pastrami on rye with massive amounts of dark mustard or my all time favorite a Reuben with piles of corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese all on pumpernickel bread.    When our sky high sandwiches would arrive my mom would immediately take at least ¾ of the meat from all of our sandwiches and place it in a takeout container along with the pickles…that would be our lunch meat for the week! I think she was afraid we would eat all of the meat and not save any for lunches.

Sandwich being composed with mega amounts of meat

Not much has changed at the deli. The tables haven’t changed and still have stark Formica tops with vinyl chairs.  Sharing tables is common when the deli gets crowded. The pickles no longer sit out in a bucket on the table, probably due to health concerns, but they now arrive in bowl as soon as you sit at the table.  Perhaps there are more celebrity pictures on the wall than before.  I wonder how they decide where to put the pictures…and which ones to remove as new ones come in.  The food hasn’t changed either, gargantuan portions of good quality East Coast deli food.

The deli is a destination restaurant for many tourists and is easily accessible to Broadway theatre goers.  My family stays at the Park Central Hotel right next to the restaurant…generally because we get good rates and is very conveniently located…but sometimes I wonder if we stay there because it is easy to run over to the deli and pick up a quick meal or dessert.

I’m not sure how or when the deli became a favorite of my vegetarian daughter. …maybe it was the cheesecake or potato pancakes, or the potato knishes (we don’t want to know what type of grease they use in the fryer…because that could ruin it for a vegetarian).  All I know is every time she is in NYC the first stop is “The Carnegie”.  She was very disappointed when her high school drama group went to the city and she couldn’t get anyone to go to the deli with her.  The kids all wanted to eat at the chain restaurants such as Bubba Gumps but not Allison (we brought her up right…don’t eat at chain restaurants!)  So Allison had to venture out on her own to get her deli fix.

Potato knish...seasoned mashed potatoes wrapped in puff pastry and fried

Now that I think about it the cheesecake is what keeps Allison going back. The rich, creamy, dense, and slightly sweet with cookie crust that almost as tall as a fork. It is a classic New York style cheesecake. Several restaurants in NYC promote their cheesecake as the original. I don’t which one is correct but the Carnegie’s can’t be beat…and they even publish the recipe for their cheesecake.

Yummy New York style cheesecake

On our recent trip to the city, to celebrate Allison’s 21st birthday, the first stop after we dropped our bags off at the hotel was the deli.  Instead of eating the large sandwiches I had grown up with I now opt for saner portions and quite often get a bowl of the homemade chicken broth soup either with matzah balls or kreplach (triangle pasta filled with ground meat).  The soup comes with a side of bread and the pickles…making it a very full meal for only $7.95.

Homemade chicken broth with kreplach

Allison used to get the plate of potato pancakes, 3 large (about 8 inches in diameter) potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. While the pancakes are gut busters she would only eat one and take the rest back to the hotel to eat later.  But on this day the waiter asked if she wanted just one pancake, a great idea.  So for $4.95 Allison had her 1 pancake with sour cream and applesauce, bread and pickles…then dessert…the sky high cheesecake ($9.95).  The kid was a happy camper!

Digging into a potato pancake

During the five days we were in the city we went to the deli 3 more times….one time to pick up dessert to eat in our hotel room.  The classic black and white cookie for me and, you guessed it, cheesecake for Allison.  Then on the morning we were leaving we had breakfast there…an omelet and bagel for Allison and great homemade corned beef hash (made with the pits and pieces of homemade corned beef) and eggs for me.

The final trip to the deli was just as we were hailing the taxi to take us to the airport.  Allison had planned for months to buy a cheesecake for her good friend, Katelyn’s birthday.  Katelyn accompanied us on a trip to NYC 2 years ago and also fell in love with the deli and the cheesecake.  I was stunned at how Katelyn, as thin and in shape as she was, could eat a whole piece of cheesecake!  The deli quickly became a favorite stop for Katelyn on that trip and Allison knew Katelyn would love to have another bite of that sumptuous cheesecake…and share some with her friends and relatives.  Allison made sure to save room in her carry-on bag for the whole cheesecake … a delicious birthday treat for her friend.

Big smile for the cheesecake with strawberries

What I like most about sharing the deli with Allison is all of the good childhood memories it brings back to me of sharing the deli with my family.  Now I’m passing the fun, good food, and memories.

The Vegetarian and The Deli

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3 Responses to Carnegie Deli..and The Vegetarian

  1. Sharon Badian says:

    Ah, many fond memories of those heroic sandwiches at Carnegie Deli. My favorite was tongue, corned beef and swiss. Once we sat next to a business traveler who was totally overwhelmed by the size of the sandwich delivered to him. He ate half and gave the other half to us since he couldn’t take it with him. With our sandwiches and his, we could have fed a family of four for a week!

  2. Lea Ann says:

    Very nice to meet you today and I have subscribed to your blog. I’ve bever been to New York City and one day will make that trip. I want to experience a real NY Deli and a real NY Cheesecake. Have you ever tried their published recipe? I’ve never heard of kreplach and it sounds and looks wonderful floating in that obviously well flavored broth.

    • Jane says:

      It was great meeting you too! I haven’t tried the recipe for cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli because I have a family recipe for New York style cheesecake (NY style is very dense and heavy). When I reviewed the recipe from the deli it is very similar to my family recipe so I’m sure their recipe is good…but I do like my family recipe the best. The only problem with making cheesecake is it makes so much and then I eat it:( which my waistline doesn’t like. I recently bought a pan for mini, bite size cheesecakes and have had fun playing with that. Now I need to take my recipe and adapt it for that pan so I could make some minis and not a whole cake. Hmmm, maybe that will be a project for a cold, snowy afternoon!

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