Farewell to Carnegie Deli, a New York Icon

Beth Kaiserman




Even if you’ve never been to New York City, you’ve probably heard of the Carnegie Deli. Despite issues in recent years, including a 10-month shutdown in 2015, it’s survived as a supreme New York City icon. The announcement that it will close its doors Dec. 31 came as a shock. The New York institution has been open since 1937 and always has lines out the door, due to its fame and proximity to Times Square, Carnegie Hall and Central Park.


Once you’re in the dining room, surrounded by faces of famous celebrities on the walls, you’re crammed into small tables, often side by side with strangers, and asked to order within a couple minutes. The sandwiches are about 4 inches high - difficult to bite into at first glance. But customers figure it out, even those who choose the Woody Allen, which has a pound each of pastrami and corned beef. It’s $29.99. If you share a sandwich, there’s a $3 charge. Each person must meet a $12.50 minimum for dining in. There are no substitutions. While I really love a good pastrami sandwich, I never need the amount of meat that even half of a sandwich has here. It’s extremely large for no reason other than shock value - and an excuse to price a sandwich at $20-$30.


The rules here make it a New York experience many deli-goers won’t miss. If it was worth it for the food, that’d be another story. While it’s sad to see a New York icon go, the experience here is mostly for tourists, and frankly I disagree with their policies of charging such insane prices and tacking on extra fees. In my opinion, the food at Katz’s Deli is better, and even with a line, you can be in and out pretty quickly. (Just hold onto your ticket.)



In a formal statement from her publicist, Carnegie Deli owner Marian Harper said the following:


“At this stage in my life, the early morning to late night days have taken a toll, along with my sleepless nights and grueling hours.”


The restaurant business is extremely competitive and difficult, both mentally and physically. Running such a high-volume operation has undoubtedly been as challenging as she says. At 65 years old, she plans to focus on licensing the Carnegie Deli brand with a line of wholesale products. An outpost at Madison Square Garden will remain, along with one at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas and one at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa. But it’s almost time to say goodbye to the 7th Avenue staple in Manhattan.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my family, it’s that everyone has an opinion when it comes to delis. With only a couple more weeks of service at Carnegie Deli and an influx of holiday tourists, the lines will remain enormous for one last huge stack of meat. Just don’t freeze off any important parts waiting in line for a taste of nostalgia -- Katz’s serves up all the nostalgia you need.


Author Bio:


Beth Kaiserman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief food critic.


For Highbrow Magazine

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