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Deli Don’ts

October 8, 2009

On Monday I mentioned that these are Deli Days at the FLB.  We jumped right into corned beef and pastrami, and how the deli is perfectly designed to provide its customers with a delicious-juicy-meltingly-tender fat eating experience.  And on the subject of fat, the next day was all about chicken fat, and included the tastiest morsel in Jewish cooking.

All of these things are what is great about the deli.  And it’s not as if there is a flip side.  There will be no post about what is terrible about the deli.  We will conveniently neglect to mention the nutrition facts of the menu.  We will forget for the next few days there are even things called sodium and cholesterol.

There are however people who go into a deli who just don’t get it.

Sure, people have different tastes.  Some people like open-faced sandwiches.  Others will fight to the death arguing that an open-faced sandwich isn’t a sandwich at all.  So what follows isn’t a condemnation of anyone’s personal desires and tastes.  Rather consider it a warning that should you engage in this kind of behavior at a deli, you may be subjected to snickering, pointing and other indignities.

Rule One
This should go without saying: a corned beef sandwich does not come on white bread with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Rule Two
Get what you came for.

I was once at the Carnegie Deli with three very non-Jewish women.  It was a business trip, and I was there with clients and a colleague.  I ordered a corned beef sandwich on rye, fatty.  The women all ordered turkey breast sandwiches.  Some on white bread, others on wheat, with all kinds of vegetable matter.

I was a little surprised that nobody went out on a limb to actually try what made the place famous.  But they were from LA.  And I suppose for some people diet comes first.

When the sandwiches came, I reached for the pot of deli mustard.  And the women looked in the pot and did not like what they saw.  There was nothing wrong with it, they were just hoping for some other condiment choices.  So they flag down the waitress, and ask her for some mayonnaise.

The waitress, who up until this point had been very patient, flashes me a look across the table as if to say, “Why on Earth did you bring these people here.”

And she was right.  They went to the Carnegie Deli, but they didn’t experience it.

Rule Three
The basics are ridiculous enough.  Avoid the phantasmagorical.

Nobody needs a triple-decker sky-high sandwich with a cute name and a variety of meats.  Especially if you are at a serious deli where the meat is the reason you came.  As NY Deli Man says, they are “just a show for tourists and TV.”

If you want something a little more decadent than a generous pile of fatty beef, a Reuben or a Rachel is an unimpeachable option.  Unless of course, you are at a kosher deli.  Then it is much more than impeachable.

Rule Four
If you order soup, unless it says it has chicken in it, it doesn’t.

It’s generally consommé.  I was sitting in a deli, and some woman who appeared to be a tourist, was complaining to her waiter about the chicken soup.

Her: “I am very disappointed with this chicken soup.”
Him: “What’s wrong with it?”
Her: “There is no chicken in it.”
Him: “For $6 you expected chicken?”

In that last case, I have to admit I was guilty of a little bit of snickering.

Surely there are rules and guidelines I am forgetting.  But that’s why we have comments.  And perhaps Professor Merwin will have something to say on the matter when he gives a free lecture at SUNY Albany on Thursday, October 15.  I’ll be at the Standish Room in the Science Library at 7:00 pm waiting for you with bells on.

If you are so inclined, RSVP to the Facebook invitation here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Raf permalink
    October 8, 2009 1:41 pm

    Heh. The first time I ordered corned beef in SF they wanted to put it on foccaccia with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and… sprouts. I should note that I ordered that sandwich in a place that claims to be a jewish deli, not some random sandwich shop.

    BTW, jewish chicken soup isn’t a consommé. Consommé is clarified. It’s just broth. It’ll come with balls or noodles.

  2. Raf permalink
    October 8, 2009 1:51 pm

    Oh, I missed the bait you left for me. It’s not a sandwich unless you can pick it up.

    If you cover a piece of bread with a crapload of meat and sauce (be it gravy or russian dressing) so that you can’t get at the bread and even if you could it would be soggy – it’s not a sandwich. Maybe a platter, but not a sandwich.

    You can make your platter into a sandwich if you get some extra bread on the side.

    Also, bagels can’t be sandwiches. If you can eat it like a sandwich, it’s not a real bagel. If it’s a real bagel, it has to be eaten open faced.

    Goddamit, you had to get me started.

    • NY Deli Man permalink
      October 8, 2009 2:43 pm

      Before I discovered the joy of smoked or pickled meat at about age 16 when I got my first job busing tables, my deli sandwich of choice was an open Roast Beef w/steak fries and brown gravy….. and pickles… lots of pickles.

  3. NY Deli Man permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:39 pm

    Don’t be a “SCHNORRER”

    For Example:

    When you go into a NY Deli and have a Hot Dog, don’t demand the bowl of cole slaw and/or pickles be put on the table for free. Those are for customers who actually order a sandwich or dinner.

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