The Best Jewish Delis In New York
Here are the nominees for Forward Food Choice Award for best Jewish deli.
Learn more about the awards and vote for your favorites here.
There’s a reason deli mavens flock to this humble Queens storefront — and not just because of its star turn on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” One of the Big Apple’s few remaining kosher delis, Ben’s Best justifiably brags about “the best pastrami you’ve ever eaten”; house-cured, liberally spiced and intensely red, it’s the real deal. Bonus points: Owner Jay Parker is a passionate, articulate advocate for deli culture. And he’s managed to keep prices somewhat sane — a rarity among NYC delis.
96-40 Queens Blvd, Rego Park, Queens, 718-897-1700
You’d think a deli with seven locations — including Boca Raton, thank you — might lose points on realness. Ben’s, however, still oozes Garment District schmaltz at its Manhattan location, and its house-cured meats, homemade soups and desserts made in-house make it old-fashioned in the best way. A basket of all-you-can-eat pickles still plops down the minute you do, and servers dish out kibitzy attitude along with plates of blintzes or chopped liver.
209 West 38th Street, New York (and six other locations) 212-398-2367
Party like it’s 1888. That might as well be Katz’s slogan; after more than 125 years, New York’s most famous deli still draws capacity crowds. Katz’s 28-year-old, third-generation owner, Jake Dell, deserves credit for unflagging standards. Pastrami’s unfailingly moist, latkes appropriately crispy, matzo ball soup nearly ethereal. Then, of course, there’s the experience — the ticket-taking payment, fluorescent lights, perpetual motion behind the counter and Babel-like cacophony still make Katz’s a singular experience, and a remnant of a long-gone Lower East Side to cherish.
205 East Houston Street (and one other location)212-254-2246
Mile End Deli
Maybe it’s hyperbole to say Noah and Rae Bernamoff started a revolution. But their Mile End Deli sparked a golden age of nouveau delicatessens when it opened in 2010. Smoked meat, the Montreal specialty, got Mile End on the map; tender and spicy, the beef’s still killer. But Mile End’s also won raves for remixed classics, from smoked-meat poutine — the Quebec snack of fries and cheese curds — to grilled cheese with duck on rye. Purists may kvetch, but there’s no disputing the voltage in Mile End’s tiny kitchen. Bonus: The original location’s spawned a Manhattan satellite, a busy catering business and Black Seed, a hugely popular bagel chainlet.
97A Hoyt Street, Brooklyn (and other locations) 718-852-7510
2nd Avenue Deli
It hasn’t been on Second Avenue in years, and it’s run by the late founder’s nephews. But what hasn’t changed at this iconic kosher deli is the food — thankfully. Fluffy matzo balls defy gravity, sandwiches tower above their overloaded plates and Jewish soul food like cholent, kishke and gribenes elicit grateful, disbelieving “oys” when they land at the table. The interior here also faithfully reconstructs the original East Village temple of schmaltz.
162 East 33rd Street, New York (and one other location) 212-689-9000
Michael Kaminer is a contributing editor at the Forward.