Swanky restaurants continue to crop up in NYC, so there’s less demand for those old-school dishes that have defined the city’s culinary culture. Even As New York’s restaurant scene continues to evolve, however, a smattering of nostalgic spots serving delicacies like pastrami on rye, pickled herring, and matzo ball soup still endures.
Long known as a hub for Jewish culture and traditional eats, the Upper West Side still prides itself on a handful of delicatessens serving classic, comfort food in its purest form. For some of the best delis in NYC, head to this Uptown neighborhood.
The corner of 80th and Broadway has been the home of this legendary family-owned market and eatery for more than eight decades. Neighborhood locals queue at counters while feasting their eyes and appetites on potato latkes, grilled meats, smoked salmon, and other house-made dishes. Find coffee, cheese, fresh pasta, breads, olives, among other delectables in the grocery section. Sit at the counter in the adjacent deli and nosh on a bagel and cream cheese as you observe passersby, or grab your favorite foodstuffs to go.
Fine and Schapiro
Talk about a throwback –– this Kosher spot has managed to stay afloat since 1927, still serving up delicious deli fare in its outdated interior, but at updated prices. Top menu choices include the Kreplach soup, stuffed cabbage, and Hungarian goulash, all of which are authentically prepared and exceptionally flavorful. Seafood fans won’t want to miss the whitefish salad, and meat lovers rave about the perfectly cooked corned beef. Service can be spotty, but complimentary coleslaw and pickles are ideal for nibbling while you wait.
138 W 72nd St
Murray’s Sturgeon Shop
This under-the-radar mainstay in the heart of the neighborhood sells much more than seafood. Find Kosher delicacies like pickled tongue and borscht, as well as New York’s very own Waldorf salad. The store is highly known for its caviar selection; you’ll find French Osetra, a Siberian variety recognized for its smooth, velvety texture. But the real showstopper is the delicious smoked fish–– think sable, salmon, whitefish, and sturgeon –– rumor has it that Murray’s offers some of the best in New York City. Prices are a little steep, but that doesn’t stop West Side residents from ordering by the pound. The shoebox-size shop continues to hang tough in spite of an ever-changing neighborhood.
Uptowners stay loyal to this bagelry and neighborhood deli where a crusty whole wheat everything with veggie cream cheese practically guarantees a productive morning. Tal produces a variety of fresh New York bagels but also purveys typical deli dishes like chopped liver, egg salad, and coleslaw, as well as baked goods, coffee, house-made soups, and deli meat sandwiches. Plenty of seating is available in the uber-casual digs, but most regulars patiently wait for takeout as placing an order can take 20 minutes or more on weekends.
Labeled “The Sturgeon King,” this restaurant meets delicatessen prepares comfort food favorites like gefilte fish, gravlax, and chopped liver. A Manhattan staple since 1908, Barney Greengrass has maintained its charm, readily seen in the wall murals and furnishings, which have not changed in decades. Weekend brunches are the most popular meal, attracting a diverse clientele including a celebrity following, but a bagel with a schmear makes for a satisfying snack at any time of day.
541 Amsterdam Ave