13 Best Jewish Delis In NYC, Ranked

New York City wouldn't be New York City without Jewish delis and appetizing stores. The origins of the Jewish deli in New York can be traced back to the millions of Jewish immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, a majority of whom settled on Manhattan's Lower East Side, New York's original Jewish neighborhood. Stores and restaurants sprang up to cater to the growing Jewish diaspora, who arrived in the Big Apple with an appetite for food from the old country. And voila, the Jewish deli was born.

The original Jewish delicatessen only sold pickled and cured meats, while appetizing stores sold fish and dairy products in adherence to the kosher principles of Jewish dietary laws. Although many of the establishments on our list still serve food that respects the principles of kosher eating, the majority of them have a more modern take on Jewish fare, serving mouth-watering menu items like a hot Reuben sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, which is certainly not kosher.

Even though New York still has a sizable Jewish population, the number of traditional Jewish delis is dwindling. That said, some deli owners think traditional Jewish eateries are making a comeback, and we hope they're right. If you're looking for some corned beef, pastrami, smoked salmon, gefilte fish, or a hot bowl of matzo ball soup in New York City, keep reading to see our favorite delis in the Big Apple.

13. Mile End Delicatessen

Ringing in the list at No. 13, Mile End Delicatessen in the heart of downtown Brooklyn is named after the Mile End neighborhood in Montréal, which was that city's Jewish neighborhood until the 1950s. And this deli brings a distinctly Montréal taste to the big apple. When it comes to the rivalry of New York-style bagels vs. Montréal, the latter are sweeter, denser, and chewier than their New York rivals.

And at Mile End, you can get one of these donut-shaped delights topped with classic Jewish spreads like smoked salmon, brisket, or whitefish salad. If you choose to dine in for dinner at one of the handful of tables in the tiny, sleek eatery, you can order some creative dishes that are modern takes on traditional Jewish fare like schnitzel nuggets or the "Jewlius Caesar" salad. Though it's certainly not kosher, Mile End is one of the best places for poutine in America, serving up no less than six types of the cheesy, gravy-covered mound of goodness that is one of Canada's greatest gifts to the world.

12. PJ Bernstein

The dizzyingly long menu at PJ Bernstein on Manhattan's Upper East Side has everything you could ever want from a Jewish deli. Established in 1965, this uptown eatery serves Eastern European staples like pierogies and blintzes alongside traditional Jewish deli fare like homemade gefilte fish and latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. You can peruse the appetizers and order to-go at the long glass counter or take a seat at one of the tables in the simple, cozy dining area if you're looking to dine in.

When you go to PJ Bernstein, be sure to try the matzo brei, which consists of crushed-up matzo (unleavened bread) which is briefly softened in water and then mixed with eggs and milk and either scrambled or fried flat like a pancake. Matzo brei is a Passover staple and if you happen to find yourself on the Upper East Side during the holiday, be sure to stop by PJ Bernstein for a taste of New York Jewish culture.

11. Gottlieb's Restaurant

You certainly won't find any cheese on your roast beef sandwich at Gottlieb's — nor will you find anything else that isn't kosher for that matter. Located in South Williamsburg, an area that has one of the densest populations of Hasidic Jews in New York, Gottlieb's caters to the local orthodox community as well as outsiders looking to taste some delicious, authentic kosher eats. The restaurant is family-owned and has been passed down through the hands of three generations of the Gottlieb family since it was opened in 1962 by Zoltan Gottlieb, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor.

Walking into Gottlieb's feels like walking back in time. Unlike the rest of Williamsburg, which is synonymous with transformative gentrification, at Gottlieb's, not much has changed in the last 50 years. They still serve the same Jewish eats with some Hungarian dishes like beef goulash and cherry soup and, surprisingly, chicken lo-mein. They also have no less than six types of noodle kugel on the menu.

10. Sarge's Delicatessen & Diner

For over 55 years, this Murray Hill staple has been serving up Jewish deli classics like pastrami and hot brisket sandwiches. For fish lovers, the ample menu at Sarge's has a whole section dedicated to imported herring and another one to smoked fish platters. And for the truly brave, for $59.95 you can get "The Monster," a sandwich piled absurdly high with pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, fresh roast turkey, salami, lettuce, and beefsteak tomatoes. All of this, plus the extensive dessert menu, which includes cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts, is what earned Sarge's this spot on our list.

If you're eating there, the dining room looks straight out of 1964, which is when Sarge's first opened its doors to the public. Tiffany lamps hang from the ceiling and tufted booths line the walls, giving this old-school eatery the classic New York diner look that makes Sarge's worthy of any tourist's to-do list.

9. Frankel's Delicatessen

The clientele that lines up to get a taste of the Jewish deli fare on offer at Frankel's in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood is notably young and hip. While it might not have the tenure of some of the other long-standing delis on the list, Frankel's became an instant classic when it opened in 2016. Started by two native New Yorkers, a pair of brothers who grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Frankel's borrowed their design aesthetic from the traditional Jewish delis, with white tiled walls, refrigerated display cases, and frosted glass lamps hanging from the ceiling.

And the food matches the décor: a modern take on the old classics. Though not strictly kosher, Frankel's serves up a bacon egg and cheese on its signature challah bread, a breakfast sandwich that pulls on the heartstrings of any seasoned New Yorker. And if you're looking for a more traditional Jewish deli experience, the "classic smoked fish bagel" with nova lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and capers might be right up your alley.

8. Pastrami Queen

The name says it all. Imagine perfectly thick machine-cut slices of salty, hearty pastrami falling one after another onto a slice of fresh rye bread, and that's pretty much what you'll get at one of New Yorkers' favorite spots for the famous pastrami sandwich. Pastrami Queen moved to its current location, a tiny storefront on Lexington Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in 1998 after operating for 42 years in the Kew Gardens neighborhood in Queens. And New York's insatiable appetite for this savory sandwich generated enough demand that they opened up a second, larger location across the park on the Upper West Side.

And there's more than just pastrami at Pastrami Queen. Other menu highlights include sandwiches with roast beef, tongue tip, hard salami, chopped liver, and a whole variety of knishes. Pastrami Queen is fully kosher, so don't expect to get a cheeseburger or a Reuben sandwich here. For its dedication to the craft of the sandwich, Pastrami Queen's ranking is well-earned.

7. Shelsky's of Brooklyn

If you're looking for smoked fish and fresh bagels in Brooklyn, look no further than Shelsky's of Brooklyn, a delicatessen and appetizing with two locations in its namesake borough. Shelsky's hit the scene in 2011, and though it may not have the long, illustrious history enjoyed by many other delis on the list, it makes up for it with quality ingredients and a faithful devotion to the art of a delicious bagel sandwich, which is why it made it onto our list. Owner Peter Shelsky is a native New Yorker with an impressive history of working in some of the city's finest dining establishments and opened Shelsky's to "revive an old tradition that never really died."

Shelsky's smoked fish selection includes smoked salmon, sable, pickled herring, and lake sturgeon, to name a few. And those are just some of the options that you can get between two halves of Shelsky's chewy, dense, homemade bagels, which are made fresh daily on location in Park Slope. They also offer chopped liver, tongue, pastrami corned beef, and a local favorite, New York's chopped cheese sandwich.

6. David's Brisket House

There's nothing fancy about David's Brisket House in Bedford-Stuyesant, Brooklyn, which is why we love it. The bare-bones menu offers the classics: pastrami, corned beef, turkey, and, of course, the perfect brisket. The menu is also studded with standard diner fare like cheeseburgers, turkey sandwiches, and fries — and specifically, you'd be wise to try the dynamite fries, which are cut thick and topped with brisket gravy and cheddar cheese sauce.

And David's has a complex history: Originally an old-school Jewish deli, it was taken over by Jamaicans and after that by Yemenite Muslims, who operate the restaurant today, which explains why there is harira soup on the menu. Where else but New York can you find a Jewish deli run by Yemenite Muslims making brisket sandwiches in a predominantly African American neighborhood? It's this quintessentially New York story, along with mounds of moist, tender brisket, that have earned David's the No. 6 spot on our list.

5. Ben's Kosher Delicatessen

Ben's Kosher Delicatessen isn't just a deli, it's an operation. With three locations in Long Island, one in Queens, one in midtown Manhattan, and one in Boca Raton, Florida, Ben's has taken the tradition of the New York City Jewish deli far beyond New York City. The deli business runs in the family: Ben's father opened a deli on West 72nd Street in the early 1970s, where he worked until he was able to open his own deli on Long Island, and the business blossomed from there. Eventually, Ben was able to acquire Lou G. Siegel, a Jewish deli and restaurant on West 38th Street in Midtown Manhattan that had been in business since 1917, making the location one of the longest continuously running delis in New York.

The novel-length menu at Ben's has just about every Jewish delicacy that has ever existed, but there are certain tried and true items you shouldn't miss when you're ordering. Ben's is famous for its gefilte fish, the Jewish delicacy with medieval origins, and hot tongue, dishes that have earned Ben's the No. 5 spot on our list.

4. 2nd Ave Deli

Second Avenue, the namesake thoroughfare where this New York eatery is located, used to be known as "The Jewish Broadway" because of the concentration of Yiddish theaters and cultural institutions there. And 2nd Ave Deli is no less than a cultural institution, which is why it's reached this spot on our list. When he arrived in New York, immigrant founder Abe Lebewohl didn't even speak English. After working in a series of Jewish delis around New York, Abe eventually opened the first iteration of 2nd Ave Deli, which thrived on a hearty menu of traditional, delicious Jewish fare.

Abe's nephews opened the current restaurant on East 33rd Street after the original location shut down in 2006, but they've made sure to retain the old-world charm that made 2nd Ave Deli one of the finest Jewish delis in New York City. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try the ptcha (jellied calves feet with garlic and egg) or the derma (intestinal casing stuffed with matzoh meal, schmaltz, and beef). Or stick to classics like matzoh ball soup or a stuffed pastrami sandwich.

3. Barney Greengrass

The Upper West Side of Manhattan is known for its gorgeous views of the Hudson River, its proximity to Central Park, and its Jewish heritage. German Jews began to move to the neighborhood at the beginning of the 20th century, and Barney Greengrass, which opened in 1908 and moved to its current location in 1929, has been catering to uptown residents and tourists alike ever since. In his show "A Cook's Tour," the late Anthony Bourdain said that Barney Greengrass serves "the best breakfast in the universe." And he wasn't wrong, which is why this time-tested Manhattan deli cracks the top three.

The eponymous founder of the legendary eatery, Barney Greengrass himself, was known to locals as "the sturgeon king" in reference to the high-quality sturgeon sold at the deli, and the nickname stuck. Although the sturgeon is delicious, there are plenty of other smoked fish options on offer like gravlax, sable, Nova Scotia salmon, whitefish, and chopped herring. For those of us looking for a meatier option, all the Jewish favorites are on the table: pastrami, corned beef, tongue, and chicken liver, to name a few. And if you're there for breakfast, don't miss the smoked salmon and egg sandwich.

2. Russ and Daughters

What would New York even be without Russ & Daughters? We don't want to know. Manhattan's Lower East Side was the hub of Jewish life in New York City around the turn of the 20th century when Joel Russ opened his now-famous appetizing shop in the neighborhood. While it was common for family-run establishments to add "& sons" at the end of their names, Joel Russ had only daughters, and Russ & Daughters made history by being the first U.S. business to add "& daughters" to its name. But the reason it made the No. 2 spot on our list isn't because of its name.

Though popularity isn't always indicative of quality, the line you'll find outside Russ & Daughters most mornings is a testament to the dedication that four generations of the family have put into running one of the best appetizing shops in New York. To-go bagel sandwiches, smoked fish, and other Jewish appetizers have been impressing hungry New Yorkers for decades, and the Russ & Daughters Cafe that opened in 2014 just a few blocks away serves sit-down meals to diners looking to enjoy a more formal experience of the Jewish culinary heritage that is part of the fabric of New York City.

1. Katz's Deli

Don't expect to be treated like a princess at Katz's Deli. The famously curt staff serves up mountains of meat every day, and while the Reuben sandwich will set you back a whopping $26.95, it's worth every penny, because nobody does pastrami like Katz's. On a given afternoon, the corner of Houston and Ludlow — the intersection that Kat'z has called home since 1917 — is thronged with people looking to get a taste of some of the best meat the Big Apple has to offer.

Katz's corned beef and pastrami are cured for up to a month before they're served to customers. This long process ensures that the meat retains the maximum possible flavor, which is evident the moment you take a bite of a sandwich at Katz's. For their dedication to the fine art of curing meat and their presence as a cornerstone of Jewish culture in New York City, Katz's has taken the top on our list.