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Requiem for a Sandwich

October 26, 2016

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At the beginning of this year, Mrs. Chatterbox and I decided to pay New York City a visit, but after our son suffered an aneurysm we decided we didn’t want to travel far. We hadn’t been to New York in decades and I’d wanted to see Ground Zero and check out the museums. I had another reason for wanting to visit New York.

           

In the 80s I won a trip to New York, and a friend told me that I absolutely had to visit Carnegie Deli, where Woody Allen filmed Broadway Danny Rose. I love pastrami and rye bread so we took a taxi to Carnegie Deli at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 55th Street, a few blocks from Carnegie Hall, where I ordered one of their massive sandwiches.

 

           

The pastrami was nearly a foot high, making a sandwich that was impossible to eat without first reducing the size of the pile. At first it seemed an impossible task to eat so much, even for me, but the pastrami melted in my mouth requiring very little chewing, and as George Costanza might have said, “I find pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted cured meats.” It was the best sandwich I’d ever eaten, and for decades I’d been haunted by it and yearned for another.

           

Last week Carnegie Deli announced that after seventy-nine years it will soon close its doors for good, denying me my long-awaited pastramigasm. Carnegie Deli has long been a New York tourist attraction and I don’t know why it’s closing, but I’ve since learned that of the hundred or so delis in New York City fifty years ago only a handful remain. The eatery will serve up its last pastrami on rye and other giant sandwiches on Dec. 31.  

 

 

 

 

I’ll always have fond memories of Carnegie Deli, sitting at long tables, reaching into aquarium-size jars of pickles, diving into a sky-high sandwich thicker than the stacked mattresses in the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, chewing the fat with locals and fellow tourists—and literally chewing the fat. So long Carnegie Deli. You’ll be missed.

           

Do you remember the best sandwich you ever ate?

 

 

 

 

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Comments

21 Comments
I have a restaurant that come to mind. DaGiovanni in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. http://www.dagiovanni.ca
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 26, 2016
I can't come up with the best sandwich I ever ate, but next time you're in New York, try Katz's Deli. Another prize and I think better than Carnegie. The last time I was at Carnegie was in the early '90s. A young English couple sat next to us. Their sandwiches arrived and she said to the waiter, "May I 'ave more bread, please?" THREE TIMES. Each time, she would take two slices of pastrami and fold them inside one slice of bread. Finally, in disgust, the waiter dropped an entire loaf of sliced rye bread on the table.
By: Mitchell is Moving on October 26, 2016
Shame they are closing. With fewer delis, you'd think there wouldn't be so much competition. It might even qualify as a historical landmark.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on October 26, 2016
I too love deli's. Sorry to learn that Carnegie is closing, I have enjoyed it. Another wonderful NYC delis is Katz on Houston. Old school as well. A classic is Shapiros in Indianapolis, older than Carnegie. Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City could fill your appetite as well. It also features chopped chicken liver and egg salad splits on rye, potato knish as well as the classics. I was always partial to corned beef on rye. The real tell about how good a deli may be is the Matzo ball soup. BTW we've got a wonderful place in Cambria known for it's pastrami and other sandwiches. Abby's. Not a deli in the old school style but a sandwich shop with a loyal following from LA to SF.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 26, 2016
I've never been to New York but that looks like a good sandwich. I was disappointed they closed FAO Schwartz last year, so no one can recreate that scene from "Big" on the giant piano anymore. All our cultural institutions are dying!
By: PT Dilloway on October 26, 2016
The best deli in Los Angeles (Junior's) closed a couple of years ago; its replacement is nowhere near as good!!
By: fishducky on October 26, 2016
Pretty sure there is still a deli on almost every block in Manhattan, and they all make great pastrami sandwiches...if you want rediculously big they will probably make one (for a price). My mom used to make a RB sandwich depression style, two pieces of read and a slice of RB you could read the paper through. My fist real RB sandwich at a loca deli is most memorable. It was well worth the .65 they charged.
By: cranky on October 26, 2016
SubShop 36. Lynnwood, Washington. When we returned several years after moving to Maryland, SubShop 36 had gone out of business. It was one of the greatest disappointments of my life. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 26, 2016
It wouldn't surprise me if things like this are disappearing because land is so expensive there. My brother just got back from NYC and he said his Uber driver rents a 350 square foot apartment for $3,000 a month.
By: Michael Offutt on October 26, 2016
When i used to eat them, my favorite was the double decker BLT with grilled onions and Swiss cheese. Yes, really, try it, you will love it!
By: messymimi on October 26, 2016
at least you got to experience it...
By: TexWisGirl on October 26, 2016
How can I NOT HAVE a favorite sandwich? I want to see an aquarium-size jar of pickles!
By: Val on October 26, 2016
I'm not a big sandwich fan and people will cringe when I tell you what sandwich I like best. I like my toasted cheese whiz and tomato sandwich. and the tomato just has to be out of my garden.
By: red Kline on October 26, 2016
Your painting's lovely. I especially like the play of the light on the dress. I'm so sad about Carnegie. I used to live in NYC and ate there a few times. I had other restaurants I liked better, but Carnegie has a huge history in NYC. :( Actually I liked looking at the photos/caricatures more than I liked the food.
By: Lexa Cain on October 26, 2016
Probably all the Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame sandwiches we gorged on when traveling in France! Or maybe the delicious red wine accompanying helped? Have a lovely day!
By: Kathe W. on October 27, 2016
Wow! That Pastrami sandwich! The best sandwich I ever had was a rubin at a local place here in town that sadly also closed down. Lisa
By: Lisa D on October 27, 2016
That would be way too big for me, but it would be a fascinating place to visit. What a shame it's closing. My favourite sandwich is probably a Ploughman's. Salad, cheese and pickle.
By: LL Cool Joe on October 27, 2016
I used to go to the Miracle Mile deli at Park Central in Phoenix and have the Straw Sandwich - hot pastrami, melted swiss cheese and steaming sauerkraut on your bread of choice. I usually had it on an onion roll. And fries and a dill pickle. Oh no, I'm hungry!
By: Catalyst on October 27, 2016
That was a sandwich?? Or was it a meal for a family of 4. Mercy. So sorry it is closing and maybe you can get in before it closes?? That would be a great way to end the 2016.. I did love a "Flaming Rooster" sandwich at a local mom and pop that sadly has closed. Sure was good.
By: Arkansas Patti on October 27, 2016
The colors of the painting are beautiful. Hope I've done all the following/commenting to earn an entry into this giveaway!
By: Tamara Narayan on November 2, 2016
I don't have a favorite sandwich, but "pastramigasm" made me laugh out loud. So you have eight weeks to make it to NYC - what's stopping you?
By: Pixel Peeper on November 5, 2016

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