Stage Deli

I work in Midtown, and count a number of under-$10 lunch spots among my favorites. But special occasions call for special plans. My birthday and my work anniversary coincide, and I’ve made it a bit of a ritual to enjoy Stage Deli once a year to provide a money-is-no-object celebratory lunch.

Stage is definitely a tourist destination. Lunchtime crowds pack into the classic Jewish deli for their wide, wide assortment of kosher sandwiches, soups, and other tasty treats. It ranks with Carnegie Deli as one of the most-visited eateries in Midtown.

I’m pretty sure I don’t count as a tourist, yet I go in once a year for my pastrami on rye, with brown mustard. I’m not alone — Stage is popular with celebrities, and the colorful takeout bags are abundantly visible in that part of Midtown at lunchtime.

I learned a long time ago not to ask for toasted rye. They, like most delis, don’t like waiting for the toast. Just enjoy the mounds of pastrami, piled into the classic seeded rye bread, mustard on the side.

As pastrami a la carte is $25 per pound here, I can live with the half-pound or so stuffed between two woefully-inadequate slices of rye bread. It may not be clear in this picture, but the bottom slice is soaked through with fatty juices from the pastrami. It’s unbelievably good.

I honestly enjoy the pastrami at Stage as much as any other deli in the city. Katz’s may just barely edge out Stage, but when I take that first bite of this sandwich, the juicy meatiness, and slight spice character, of the Stage pastrami really tastes unbeatable. It’s just that good — greasy, messy, complemented by the mustard but just as good without. The sandwich isn’t comically unwieldy, and it’s a good size for me for lunch. Overall, Stage just makes me wish I had that kind of cash, and the metabolism, to enjoy this pastrami weekly or more often.

To add insult to injury, the pickles are nearly as addictive. Not half-sours, these pickles are the simply-brined bright-green ones you see alongside the much more sour pickles at any respectable deli. There’s a satisfying snap to each bite, and they work well with the pastrami.

Yes, overall, I recommend this sandwich without question. It’s a $16 (plus tax) pastrami on rye, which is on par with the classic pastrami delis — Katz’s, Carnegie, 2nd Avenue — but the juiciness of the standard sandwich is unmatched. I’m a big fan of the meat here, and I’ve had pastrami at close to a dozen delis around the city. I don’t know that any pastrami sandwich is worth $16, but Stage comes pretty darn close to making it worth my while. Add in that it’s a special occasion, and it’s a no-brainer purchase. Definitely enjoy Stage Deli as a rare splurge, and don’t think about the calorie or cholesterol count.

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  1. says

    Actually, I think that’s a little cheaper than Katz’s and Carnegie, which I believe both charge $19.95/sandwich… though most people will say that the sandwiches at those places are easily split into two sandwiches.

    Happy birthday, old fart!

  2. Steve R says

    Good to know I have an alternative. Last time I was in Carnegie the combination of poor HVAC, loud tourists, poor service, and dry pastrami made it unbearable.

  3. T.C. says

    Nice fatty birthday sammy, Boor. Hope you enjoyed your day.

    Wish you chowed down on a corned beef sammy too! And potato salad! ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. says

    Pastrami is one of those things I’ll pay a premium for because I will never make it at home.

    I just went to Katz’s to satiate my cravings. But now you’ve brought it up again. Oh dear!

    • says

      Yup. I’ve found some pretty good “platter” type takeout/delivery deals for pastrami from the local Jewish delis that give me my fix if I don’t need them to make my sandwich for me. I don’t aspire to excel in the area of pastrami creation.

  5. says

    I love Stage Deli… it’s one of my favorite spots in NYC for amazing turkey and roast beef…I also like Carnegie Deli right down the street from it, as well! Good to know that my fellow NYC gals love a good deli, too.
    Great meeting you today at the Editor Luncheon.
    Have a great night and hope to see you again soon.

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