Carnegie Deli Corned Beef

Image courtesy of Carnegie Deli

Iconic Carnegie Deli to
Close at the End of Year

| published October 4, 2016 |

By Thursday Review staff writers

Its waiters and waitresses were as over-the-top unfriendly as the enormous sandwiches were laughably large, unhealthy and expensive. Nevertheless, that little deli was a popular hotspot and a tourist draw for longer than most Americans have been alive.

Now that famous New York City restaurant will close after nearly 80 years of business.

Marian Harper Levine, the current sole owner of the Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue in New York City, says she plans to shutter the delicatessen for good on December 31, 2016. Levine says that some business operations related to the deli and its brand will remain active, including meat processing plants, bakeries and store front operations in other states. But that iconic Manhattan location, only two blocks from Carnegie Hall, must retire.

The restaurant, which over time became a Manhattan institution and a part of NYC legend, first opened its doors in early 1937. It has been operated by various members of the Parker and Levine families since it was purchased from the original owners in 1976.

On social media and on the deli’s website, Mrs. Levine says that restaurant has simply become too much work as she advances into her late 80s, and it is now time to retire. She described the decision to shutter the deli as “probably one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make.”

The deli is known for its outstandingly delicious sandwiches piled absurdly high with meat, cheese and other products and named for famous people. The “Woody Allen,” for example, is a pastrami and corned beef sandwich stacked preposterously tall between slices of freshly baked rye. Some New Yorkers—and those who advocate for the supremacy of anything that comes from the Carnegie Deli—maintain that the phrase “to die for” originates with such staples of the restaurant’s menu.

The menu tends to trigger sticker shock for the uninitiated and the unfamiliar, including tourists who flock into the deli The Lil’ Abner, for example, which is a hot brisket of beef with homemade gravy and a choice of potato, costs $24.99, hardly chump change for the tourist from Akron, Ohio accustomed to paying $8.99 for the all-you-can-eat at the Golden Corral. But hardcore fans of the Carnegie Deli say that such entrees and dinners are well worth the steep price.

When word of the closure first hit the news last week, foot traffic increased threefold as people flocked to the deli to commiserate about the loss of an eatery of nearly mythic fame. Thousands took to Twitter and Facebook to bemoan the closing, with many of those urging Mrs. Levin to reconsider. Still, Mrs. Levine says she has resolved that the time is right to retire and take with her the memories of the iconic Manhattan restaurant.

In the meantime, the restaurant expects to remain busy though the end of the year, especially as New Yorkers flock to the deli for one last look at the famous menu and one more taste of pastrami, corned beef, egg salad, or thinly-sliced turkey.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Like it Raw: Chipotle Meets the New Sushi; Caressa Losier; Thursday Review; September 22, 2016.

How to Find a Healthier Burger; Maggie Nichols; Thursday Review; December 2, 2016.