Friday, August 23, 2013

Big City Chaos on the Menu at the Carnegie Deli


Carnegie Deli
854 7th Ave.
New York, NY

Chaos. I’m not really a fan.

I deal with enough chaos in my life thanks to the collective criminal incompetence of America’s commercial aviation system.

I don’t particularly crave chaos for lunch.

But that’s what’s on the menu at Manhattan’s world famous Carnegie Deli.

The Carnegie is the perfect reflection of the city it calls home.

Intersections gridlocked with traffic.

Kamikaze turban-wearing cab drivers violently weaving through the city streets.

Sidewalks teaming with pedestrians.

A cacophony of every language known to man -- except English.

A nanny-state dictator for mayor telling us how much Coke we can drink.

A politician named Wiener who likes to email pictures of his wiener to college coeds -- and thinks this should qualify him to be mayor of America’s largest city.


It would be nice to step out of this big city chaos into an oasis of serenity -- if only for a brief lunch break.

If that’s what you are looking for, you might as well pass the Carnegie Deli by.

Chaos ensued as soon as I opened the front door.

In a narrow three foot wide entrance, dozens of customers are variously trying to get in, trying to get out, trying to pay their tab at the cash register, trying to order deli meat at the counter.

All I was trying to do was get a hostess to seat me.

“This way”, she barked to me and a family of seven in front of me.

Then she was gone. Weaving through the masses like a hot knife through tender pastrami.

“Am I supposed to follow her?”

The dining room was jam packed with tourists seated shoulder to shoulder on tiny little rickety chairs way too small for the supersized 21st Century diners who come to eat big at the Carnegie Deli.

Butt to butt, shoulder to shoulder, knee cap to knee cap with complete strangers all gorging themselves on massive quantities of deli meat.

When I finally caught up with the hostess, maneuvering so as not to whack anyone in the head with my brief case, she ordered me to sit at the table with the family of seven, in between a couple screaming kids.

“I don’t think so.”

Sometimes in the midst of chaos, you have to put your foot down.

“I’ll go back to the front and get back in line.”

Fortunately, that move scored me a slightly less chaotic seat crammed at a table with adult tourists and fellow business travelers.

No nonsense waiters take your order and almost instantaneously bring out plates of food piled ridiculously high as the tourist all “ooh” and “ahh”.

I couldn’t decide between corned beef or pastrami.

So I got both.

That would be the Woody Allen. Plus I asked for Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on the side -- two absolutely essential additions to any Jewish deli sandwich, in my humble opinion.

When my waiter plopped my Woody Allen in front of me, the oohs and ahhs turns to gasps of horror.

Two piles of meat each half a foot high teetered precariously, impaled with long sticks to hold it all together.

A couple slices of rye bread topped the mountain of beef, as irrelevant as a turn signal on a New York City cab.

The Woody Allen is a $25 culinary monstrosity, more than two pounds of corned beef and pastrami.

The tiny slices of bread make this a sandwich only in the sense that Suit757 is a marathon runner -- because I own a pair of sneakers.

It would be absurd to even consider picking it up and eating it like a sandwich.

But I can be stubborn about these things.

So I conducted a bit of sandwich surgery, attempting to gently remove about four of the six inches of sliced meat in the hopes that I might be able to eat what was left with my two hands and bread -- just like God intended.

The result was culinary chaos.

The tender meat just shredded into tiny pieces at the very touch of my fork.

The bread disintegrated under the onslaught of grease.

My ladling on of Russian dressing only contributed to the mess.

My waiter, looking disgusted, condescendingly threw me a few extra napkins to keep the chaos from spreading to my suit.

My table mate strangers just glanced in horror out of the corner of their eyes.

Eventually, I gave up on being stubborn and just attacked the pile of meat, cheese, dressing and bread remainders with my knife and fork like a civilized diner.

I have to say, while the Carnegie Deli may be known for the quantity of its food, the quality is outstanding too.

The corned beef was fatty and beyond tender. The pastrami peppery and hearty.

The top notch thick cut Swiss cheese broke up the meat monotony while the Russian dressing added a touch of spicy sweetness.

I surprised myself with how much of my Woody Allen I was able to consume. The meat is so light and tender, you can eat a lot more than you’d think.

In the end I ate almost the whole thing singlehandedly.

Now granted, I felt like I needed to go outside and lie down on the 7th Avenue sidewalk next to the bums and take a digestion nap.

The chaos of Manhattan was now replicating itself inside my stomach.

Meanwhile I was still facing a chaotic afternoon of two more meetings, a cab ride, three subway connections, a TSA fondling, a nine hour delay at JFK Airport and a flight home that touched down at 4:32am.

You know what?

The sliced meat at the Carnegie Deli may be fantastic, but Anthony Wiener can have the chaos of New York City.

Sometimes I'd rather just stay home.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Carnegie Deli on Urbanspoon

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