By Robert Field
I had an evening alone in Manhattan and a craving for a good, old fashioned Jewish delicatessen.
For half a century I would have headed for the Stage Deli around 54th and Seventh Avenue, but by the last visit their customers were ordering corn beef on white bread and tuna fish salads and the servers all spoke Spanish. It just wasn’t the same.
A block to the north is the Carnegie…not the concert hall, but the Deli! The food was supposedly as good as the Stage, some said better, but I found the atmosphere lacking. Where the Stage was a show case, with lots of windows along the avenue so that one could watch the passer bys while they gawked at the customers to see if they could recognize a star actor or athlete. One did not have to share a table and there was at least six inches of space to serve as a buffer zone from the often oversized customers.
Unlike the Stage, the Carnegie has limited Avenue frontage and long, narrow tables for eight people are lined perpendicular to the central aisle, so you were seated with the ‘hoi polloi.’ (Us common people.)
But once I glanced into the Carnegie and saw the servers lined up in their black pants, black vests and white shirts and the long counter filled with traditional deli delicacies, and the crowded restaurant, I knew I had to go in.
Now a sandwich at the Carnegie is filled literally with four inches of meat! Many take half the sandwich with them for lunch the next day.
Blintzes: CHEESE – STRAWBERRRY- BLUEBERRY –CHERRY WITH SOUR CREAM OR “BIG APPLE” SAUCE
PRIME BRISKET OF BEEF POT ROAST in rich brown gravy with potato pancake, and fresh vegetables
Milton’s boiled beef flanken in the pot with matzoh ball, noodles, consommé, fresh vegetables and cole slaw
“THE WOODY ALLEN” For the dedicated fresser only! Lotsa Corned Beef plus lotsa Pastrami
Nova salmon, Sturgeon, Baked salmon, a cut from a large white fish… all served with cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, oniono, and a bagel on the side.
MILLIES STUFFED CABBAGE ROUMANIAN STYLE – In sweet and sour sauce, with boiled potato, fresh vegetables and cole slaw
And of course there is cheese cake as well as strudel to die for. (And if you eat your entire entre’ plus the dessert, you likely will.)
My choice was “Harveys Midnight Special: All beef knockwurst with baked beans, and sauerkraut.” To which I added a side of rye bread and a side of cole slaw. (Hang the extra cost!) There were two giant knockwursts on a platter of baked beans. (Instead of the traditional Dr Brown’s Cel–Ray Tonic, I cheated by ordering a Heineken.) I applied the special mustard and dived in. I ate and drank half of everything!
While growing up, every other Sunday when our housekeeper had her day off, we often swung by the deli row in North Philadelphia and picked up corned beef, pastrami, all beef hot dogs, sauerkraut, pickles (from a barrel), and Jewish rye and kaiser rolls to take home for a dinner spread.
So this evening I wasn’t just satisfying a craving. As I sat at the end of a table of eight, I was revisiting the distant past.
Post Scrip: A reader forwarded an article reporting the closing of the Stage Deli last November. Small wonder.
Also, if you visit the Carnegie, bring cash. They don’t accept credit cards.