Sandwiches are my favorite food group. They have everything I need in life - carbs, meat, cheese, & veggies in a lovely little package. You could technically incorporate falafels, baos, tortas, bahn mi & burgers onto this list. Let's say for the purpose of this article, we will just stick to deli sandwiches. The deli is synonymous with the culinary scene in this city. We have endless choices of the Jewish & Italian variety. Many of these places have been in existence for decades. Here are the ones that should be at the top of your bucket list, because I said so:
Faicco's Italian Specialties - This is the best sandwich shop in NYC. Don't attempt to argue with me or anyone else on this matter; you'll lose. They have been open since 1900, making them one of New York's oldest continuously-operating businesses. This is an old school deli mecca complete with all the Italian specialties you could ever want in their glass cases and lining the walls. The star here is the chicken cutlet sandwich with thick cut, fresh mozzarella and a hefty slathering of pesto that seeps into the bread. They also slice up one of the best Italian combo sandwiches you can find.
Alidoro - This is easily the second best sandwich in NYC, next to Faicco’s. Everything here is done perfectly. The bread is freshly made in house. The Italian meats are fresh and mildly salty. They top their sandwiches with the perfect combo of roasted peppers, artichokes, and olive tapenade. I get the Pinocchio comprised of prosciutto, sopressata, fresh mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers and olive paste. This tiny little outpost in the West Village recently expanded to a much larger space in midtown.
Mile End Deli - They tout themselves as non-kosher Jewish French-Canadian comfort food. Whatever that is. They provide housemade Montreal smoked meat and a huge menu of other delicious offerings. Their smoked brisket is aggressively seasoned, hand-sliced and stacked onto Orwasher’s rye. Their Salami, made on-premises from brisket and short rib, is pressed inside a sharp onion roll.
Katz's Delicatessen - Is it touristy and over priced? You bet you ass it is. But this institution didn't earn 2 block long lines by being mediocre. It is the NYC classic to end all other classics. They have been serving the finest pastrami in the city since 1888. They also have a full menu of delicious Jewish staples like chicken liver and matzoh ball soup.
Harry & Ida's Meat & Supply Co - I swoon over the goodies Will Horowitz puts between bread at his Harry & Idas sandwich shop. Everything is made in house and no detail is too small. It's the only place serving pastrami that I dare say is better than Katz's. They also began offering breakfasts sandwiches on the weekend with some insane combos of eggs and meaty goodness.
Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop - Ok, so this isn't exactly a deli sandwich shop. This Lower East Side place makes my list because it’s a delicious, unpretentious, and inventive sandwich shop. They have tons of creative options for meat lovers or vegetarians. A favorite is the Spicy Rizzak made with sliced turkey, crispy bacon, melted cheddar, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo on a toasted sesame semolina hero
La Panineria - This place is a bit of a newcomer to the scene. They have two outposts, doing similar sandwiches to Alidoro. There isn't a lot of fuss here. They offer a menu of your standard Italian meats which are all perfectly shaved. The bread is fresh, and the sandwiches are dressed with a simple topping of sharp arugula, thick cut mozzarella, and olive oil.
Court Street Grocers - This beloved Carroll Gardens sandwich shop serves a mix of eclectic sandwiches and hard to find grocery ingredients. They serve up classics like a Reuben and also a pressed Cuban sandwich, as well as tons of vegetarian options. They offer a huge menu of interesting combos as well. Their mother-in-law sandwich is made with house braised beef short rib, mother in law kimchi, roast broccoli, mayo on garlic bread. It's delicious and so sloppy you may need to hose off after.
The Meat Hook - The folks behind this also own a butcher shop in Williamsburg of the same name. With that type of resource, you know it's gonna be stellar. They have a killer combo of roast beef, fried onions, white cheddar, and horseradish mayo that really hits the spot. they also have daily specials and make a great Italian como.
Defonte's - This place is the definition of old school. This deli has been operating on a nondescript corner in in Red Hook, Brooklyn since 1922. They have every combo of Italian favorites you could want, stacked high on a hero. They will make you anything here, but the Nicky Special is the star. It is a combo of ham, capocollo, salami, fried eggplant,provolone, hot salad, marinated mushrooms, lettuce,tomato, oil and vinegar.
Lenny's - Say what you will about Lenny's. It's a chain and they aren't breaking the barriers of creativity here. It is not interesting or old school in any way & I might lose street cred for saying this. However, I have been coming here for 8 years and they never do me wrong. They make a mean deli sandwich, any combo you want, piled to the ceiling, and it's ready in under 5 minutes. That makes me list any day