Has there ever been a neighborhood more excited about a new restaurant than the Upper East Side, and the 2nd Ave Deli? Given the big lines, packed houses (and this during what is traditionally the slowest time of the NYC restaurant year, the dogs days of August) and the exclamations of delight we heard from tables all over the diner-ish space, the answer has to be: not that we can remember, there hasn't been. Because make no mistake, given its off-the-beaten tourist/foodie path location of 75th Street and 1st Avenue, these are almost all locals crowding into the 2nd Avenue Deli. And as it turns out, with very good reason.
We popped into the new 2nd Ave Deli on the Upper East Side last night to see how the legendary Jewish deli's kosher food survived the trip uptown, and we must say it was as good, or even better, than we remember… and that includes plenty of late night meals at the 2nd Avenue Deli of yore, when it was actually on 2nd Avenue, in the East Village. The 2nd Avenue Deli menu here on the Upper East Side is as sprawling and gut-busting as ever (you want something light and salady? go somewhere else), with its core of meat sandwiches (pastrami, tongue, corned beef, brisket, etc.), traditional Jewish sides (kugels, knishes, borscht, chopped liver) and appetizing selections (nova, sable, whitefish salad).
We opted for the classics: the 2nd Ave Deli Hot Pastrami on rye and a bowl of Matzoh Ball soup, and were extremely happy wolfing it all down. The 2nd Ave Deli pastrami was especially good, juicy and fatty and packed with smoky, meaty, peppery flavor. Slather a little mustard on this beauty from the crock on your table, and enjoy a hall-of-fame New York City treat. The 2nd Avenue Deli's Matzoh Ball soup was satisfying as well, the surprisingly un-greasy chicken broth poured at tableside so the bready dumpling remained firm throughout. The Matzoh Ball soup needed a little salt, maybe, and a little pepper, but that's why they put them out, right?
The 2nd Ave Deli on the Upper East Side is staffed up to deal with crowds, and it seems that, so far, the kitchen can handle the volume. There are plenty of nice added touches to your 2nd Ave Deli meal, too. For example, even though cole slaw is listed as a optional "topping" to your sandwich, don't bother ordering it (and paying the extra dollar): you'll receive a nice little bowl of the vinegary carrots-and-cabbage mixture anyway, as well as a pair of crunchy, garlicky pickles. The nicest surprise, though, came with our check: a shot glass of egg cream, the chocolatey, seltzery drink the perfect end the meal. Expect this place to be packed all through the winter.
The Upper East Side 2nd Ave Deli Details
The new Upper East Side 2nd Ave Deli is located on the southeast corner of 1st Avenue and 75th Street, and is open every day from 6:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight. For more information and a look at the complete by-the-way kosher 2nd Ave Deli's menus (both dine-in and catering), please see their website, here.