The classic deli is an American staple that has incredibly deep roots. Richard Gorelick discusses the origins of the delicatessen in JMORE Magazine saying they first began to flourish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, started primarily by children of the first wave of Jewish immigrants.
What’s amazing is that much of that history is still very much alive and well with some delis being 50, 75 and even over 100 years old. Walking inside some of these culinary institutions is like stepping back in time, and you can’t help but feel a deep appreciation for the tradition behind these establishments.
Here are 13 delis that have stood the test of time and are still going strong today.
Attman’s – 1915
Attman’s is a Baltimore-based deli that’s been around for just over a century. They serve up authentic New York style eats that keep loyal patrons coming back for more. Some of their favorites include the hot corned beef and Swiss and the Reuben with Jewish corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss and Russian dressing. It was even voted Baltimore’s best.
Food critic Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post also recommends their matzo ball soup, which is gently flavored with carrots, celery and chicken.
Barney Greengrass – 1908
With 110 years in the deli business, there’s no doubt that Barney Greengrass knows a thing or two about making amazing sandwiches. Located in Harlem, they’re known as “the Sturgeon King” and have one of the best sturgeon sandwiches in America.
Besides that, you can get your fill of countless other fish sandwiches including Nova Scotia salmon, lox, whitefish and sable. And let’s not forget the deli meats. They’ve got you covered there too with their roast beef, corned beef, hot pastrami, chopped chicken liver and more.
Shapiro’s Deli – 1905
Here’s a place that screams tradition. Shapiro’s is your quintessential Jewish deli where you’ll find all of the classics that you know and love. There’s corned beef, brisket, the Reuben and smoked tongue. All of which are piled high with generous portions to satiate even the most ravenous of hungers.
They’ve got some delicious soups like split pea, bean and barley and of course matzo ball. You just can’t go wrong at Shapiro’s.
Canter’s Deli – 1931
This place is a Los Angeles landmark and has received innumerable rewards including being voted as the LA Hotlist’s best deli four years in a row. Their sandwiches are certainly award worthy; among the favorites are “The Jersey City” with pastrami, corned beef, oven-roasted turkey, baked ham, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye and “The Bronx Special” with pastrami and chopped liver served open face on rye.
Besides the amazing food — which Canter’s has an abundance of — patrons also enjoy the wave of nostalgia they feel when stepping through the door. The deli still maintains a 1950s vintage decor and is somewhat like walking into a time capsule.
Fine & Schapiro – 1927
Here’s a deli that’s been a long-term fixture in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. At Fine & Schapiro, you’ll find an old school ambience with wooden booths that suggest great food without an ounce of pretentiousness.
Check the menu and you’ll see a full spread of mouthwatering deli meats including hot corned beef, pastrami and brisket as well as liverwurst, chopped liver and Nova Scotia salmon.
The Original Gonella’s
Detroit doesn’t get very much praise for its delis. But maybe it should considering that The Original Gonella’s has been pleasing customers with their delicious Italian subs for over 75 years.
Here you’ll find a variety of tasty Italian meats like hard salami, capicola, mortadella, salami cotto and smoked ham. And if you love customization, you’ve come to the right place because you can construct your sub just how you like it.
The best part is that everything at The Original Gonella’s is very reasonably priced. In fact, most menu items are under $10.
Nate ‘n Al Delicatessen – 1945
Located in Beverly Hills, this LA institution that has been wowing taste buds for just under 75 years. Throughout this time, Nate ‘n Al Delicatessen has been family operated and still continues its time honored commitment to quality.
LA Street Food author Farley Elliott explains in Eater Los Angeles that the deli’s been nominated for protected landmark status. He references former Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch who says, “There isn’t a lot in Beverly Hills which is more iconic than Nate ‘n Al’s.”
Some of their best-selling signature sandwiches include “The Nate ‘n Al” with hot pastrami, lettuce tomato and Russian dressing, “The Studio” with tongue, coleslaw and Russian dressing and “The Brentwood” with brisket of beef, coleslaw and Russian dressing.
Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen – 1942
Manny’s is one of the premier delis in Chicago and has an impressive history in its own right. Inside you’ll find dining room walls plastered with news clippings and memorabilia that show just how much this place means to the city of Chicago.
One of their favorites is the Reuben, which comes with corned beef, pastrami, turkey pastrami or roasted turkey and is grilled with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. It’s truly a masterpiece. Or you can opt for “The Chazzer,” which comes with corned beef and pastrami on rye with coleslaw, Muenster cheese and a side of Thousand Island dressing. Regardless of your choice, you can bet that it will be piled high and delicious.
Liebman’s Kosher Deli – 1958
This place in the Bronx is all about classic Jewish fare and is a must if you’re a fan of overstuffed sandwiches on rye. Some of the most popular sandwiches at Liebman’s include the turkey, tongue and corned beef with coleslaw and Russian dressing as well as the brisket and roast beef with horseradish mayonnaise.
Or you can make your own combination with one of their tantalizing triple-deckers that are served with coleslaw, Russian dressing and pickles.
Corti Brothers – 1947
Here’s a spot in Sacramento that offers a robust menu of scrumptious sandwiches that are very reasonably priced. You can find the usual suspects like prosciutto, salami, pastrami and liverwurst.
Or you can grab one of Corti Brothers signatures like “The Tuscany” with Italian style fennel salami, sun dried tomato-garlic pesto, gruyere, fresh spinach leaves and red onion on a sourdough roll and “The Portofino Club” with roasted turkey breast, bacon, pepper jack cheese, leaf lettuce, tomato, mayo and Dijon mustard, also on a sourdough roll.
Langer’s Delicatessen – 1947
This is another one of LA’s top delis and one with an impressive resume. Langer’s pastrami is one of the city’s biggest stars, Chris Erskine at the LA Times writes, and No. 19 is “the Marilyn Monroe” of pastrami sandwiches.
But there’s so much more than just their mind-blowing pastrami. You can also find some seriously delicious corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut as well as the turkey, tongue and roast beef triple-decker with tomato and Russian dressing.
On top of that, Langer’s offers three different French dip sandwiches — pastrami, roast beef and brisket or beef — complete with au jus sauce.
Hobby’s Deli – 1963
The slogan says it all: “A Newark tradition since before you were born.”
Hobby’s Deli is one of New Jersey’s most famous delis and a bonafide landmark. Here you’ll find all of the great cuts you know and love. There’s tender pastrami, house cured tongue, boiled ham and hard salami. If you’re really hungry, go with one of their overstuffed sandwich combinations like “Hobby’s Triple-Decker Special” with turkey, tongue, pastrami, coleslaw and Russian dressing.
Besides the great food, they’ve also been commended for their excellent customer service. The UMix team used Hobby’s as a example of how to incorporate three business principles: authenticity, engaged staff, and product quality.
Kaufman’s Deli – 1960
The thing that distinguishes Kaufman’s from most other delis is the fact that they have their own in-house bakery where you’ll find some of the best ryes and pumpernickels in Chicago. Combine that with their epic sandwich menu, and you simply can’t go wrong. Of course you’ve the staples like pastrami, corned beef, chopped liver and brisket.
You can have your fill of one of their many specialty sandwiches such as “Zeide’s Favorite Heartburn” with a triple crown of pastrami, pepper beef and salami on a crisp onion roll and “The Uncle Lenny” with heaps of homemade roasted turkey, thin sliced soft salami, lettuce, tomato and mayo on rye.
Kevin Pang of The Takeout explains the appeal of Kaufman’s in a Chicago Tribune article, saying that the deli permeates with an old world aura and is one of the greatest sandwich shops in Chicagoland.
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