Like many a fresser I’ve always thought of the newly reopened Sarge’s as something of a third-string player in the delicatessen game. I’m glad to see an old school Jewish deli reopening instead of closing for good, but I’m not as excited about Sarge’s as some like my pal Noah Arenstein who has been kind enough to share his thought about this underdog of delis in this guest post. Take it away Noah . . .
Sarge’s in Murray Hill has long been overlooked in favor of more famous deli standards like Katz’s, Carnegie and even the Second Avenue Deli, but for me, it’s as deep a New York deli experience as I’ve ever experienced. Of course, at first glance, 24/7 delivery anywhere in Manhattan impressed me as much as anything, but soon the food won me over as well.
When I moved to the City, I lived in Midtown East (I didn’t know any better then) and Sarge’s delivery soon became a weekly staple. I took it for granted. Eventually I moved to Brooklyn and away from the promise of all-hours delivery, but Sarge’s still remained in my heart. I was distressed (my priorities are clearly in order) when news broke of a devastating fire in late 2012. You never really miss something until its gone, and despite fears that the owners would simply give up—Sarge’s has risen like a triumphant, Jewish phoenix.
From a brief return trip, the food is still excellent. The “Souper Soup,” now $9.95, is still the single best, most comforting chicken soup in town. I don’t make these bold pronouncements lightly. Rich chicken broth needs no salt (but maybe a touch of pepper) and holds a thick, beefy kreplach redolent of caramelized onions and perhaps a bit of liver. Careful opening the dumpling—I prefer to save it for a treat at the end—lest its powerful flavor stain the broth too much. A perfectly dense matzoh ball slices easily with a spoon, as it should, while a handful of egg noodles rounds out the rest of the soup.
Sandwiches here are uniformly good—for some reason I like to get triple deckers at Sarge’s—especially the pastrami and turkey combo with Swiss, Russian dressing and cole slaw. It might cost $18.95, but it’s enough to feed two (or even three). Though the rye bread collapses under the weight of perilously stacked deli meats, you can avoid this conundrum by making three sandwiches. The pastrami, thinly (machine) sliced, may not stack up to Katz’s, but it still holds its own against most contenders—the Frazier to Katz’s Ali.
The draw of Sarge’s Deli has always been far more than just the pastrami—with a menu that’s as broad as it is deep (try their burger or the famed “Deli Wellington”). I’m ecstatic that Sarge’s is back. The fire showed me to never simply assume that the ones I love will be there forever. Cherish your pastrami folks.
Sarge’s Deli, 548 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016, 212-679-0442
About the author: Noah Arenstein is a practicing lawyer, freelance writer, and co-founder and managing editor of Real Cheap Eats, a site dedicated to finding the best dishes under $10 throughout NYC. He can also be found making “Global Jewish Sandwiches” for Scharf & Zoyer and running Crow Hill Supper Club. Follow him on Twitter @ChiefHDB.