So, what was my first thought when I went to 2nd Ave Deli? It’s not even on 2nd Avenue! What was my second thought? Man, these pastrami sandwiches are amazing!
Okay, okay maybe that wasn’t exactly my SECOND thought because I’m sure I was thinking some things when I walked in, sat down, and got served some cole slaw and pickles, but you get the idea. And regarding 2nd Ave Deli not actually being on 2nd Ave, you can read up on the history of the place on their website here, and fair warning, it’s actually a bit sad. Despite the hurdles they’ve had to overcome, I’m glad the business managed to stay in the family, and is, well, simply still around to serve some great food.
I went to the Midtown East location with some friends who were visiting from back home, because I wanted them try some true pastrami from a true New York Jewish deli. I had already been to Katz’s before, and I was eager to try other places to compare. I saw online that quite a few people favored this deli to Katz’s, which they deemed too touristy.
My friends and I arrived at the deli in the mid-afternoon for a late lunch as we had been full for most of the morning and early afternoon from Ess-a-Bagel. Because of the odd meal time, I think there was maybe one other party in there eating? A few more people came in when we were leaving, presumably, for dinner, but for the most part we had the whole place to ourselves. It was fairly spacious and the tables were divided into little sections with partitions and glass so it felt a little more private and relaxing than some other busy delis.
As soon as we sat down, we were given two dishes, one with cole slaw and another with two varieties of pickles. Some of my friends were a little confused about whether to just eat the cole slaw or to wait and put it on their sandwiches, but it was tasty on its own. Since we did our research before on Yelp and saw how big the pastrami sandwiches were going to be, we decided to each share one with another person. Again, it takes a while to recover from those giant meal-sized bagels at Ess-a-Bagel. After ordering, it didn’t take long for our sandwiches to come out, and they were just as big as we expected (still huge but less meat than at Katz’s). I was delighted that the pastrami was relatively thinly sliced compared to other places, and after putting a dollop of mustard (which they also gave us in a little dish) and taking a bite, I knew this was going to be the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. With a sandwich that’s made up of only bread and one kind of meat, you really have to make that meat special because nothing else can redeem it. And it’s super important to make sure the meat isn’t dry when you’re going to serve that much on a sandwich, because otherwise, you’re just left chewing a lot of tough, chewy meat. As you would expect from my rave review already, the meat was flavorful and juicy and absolutely everything I would want it be and while I enjoyed my time at Katz’s, I have to say that I prefer how 2nd Ave Deli does their pastrami sandwiches.
And don’t worry if you’re not a pastrami person. The deli has plenty of other kosher offerings on their menu with appetizers like gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, smoked salmon tartare; a different soup every day with matzoh ball soup always available; various knishes and blintzes; plenty of other entrees; and, of course, lots and lots of sandwiches. They even have a section on their menu for “3 Decker Sandwiches.” Yeah. Look at that photo and imagine it tripled. Woah!
After we were done eating, the waiter gave each of us some complimentary chocolate soda in a little shot glass to end our meal which was a nice, little unexpected treat. Any time I’m craving a hearty pastrami sandwich, you’ll find me heading here.
162 E 33rd St.
New York, NY 10016