These Jewish sandwiches define NYC, according to the New York Times


Bagels spread with a schmear of cream cheese and topped with paper-thin slices of lox. Or two slices of hearty rye bread spread with just a touch of mustard, with fat-marbled pastrami piled high between them. If these aren’t examples of a platonic ideal of a sandwich, what is?

Legend has it that sandwiches were invented in 1762 by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. While the legitimacy of Britain’s claim to fame is debatable, it’s pretty safe to say that, when it comes to the art of sandwich-making, New York Jews have perfected it.

The New York Times’ latest interactive food feature, “57 Sandwiches That Define New York City,” features no less than 11 Jewish sandwiches, from the aforementioned bagels and lox, to an entire section devoted to pastrami, to an upscale shawarma sandwich created by an Israeli-born chef and his French business partner.

Notably, another recent high-profile Times food listicle, April’s “The 100 Best Restaurants in New York City,” featured only three Jewish spots: Falafel Tanami, S&P Lunch and Barney Greengrass. By contrast, on the sandwich roundup — perhaps taking a page from our sage Hillel the Elder, inventor of the Passover seder treat known as the Hillel sandwich — Jewish bites account for some 19% of the list.

“You can tell a lot about a city by the sandwiches it keeps,” writes Nikita Richardson in the introduction to the Times piece. “Not just its tastes or its vices — cured meats — but also its fascination with myriad cultures, its appreciation for stellar ingredients and its desire for delicious convenience.”

Keep scrolling for a look at the 11 Jewish sandwiches on the list.

1. A fresh take on lox

The first Jew-ish sandwich on the Times’ list is the smoked salmon sandwich from Greenpoint’s Radio Bakery, in which the sliced fish is served “with a schmear of whipped cream cheese seasoned with pickled red onions and dill, all sandwiched between airy, crispy, everything-seasoned focaccia.”

2. Egg sandwich with an Ashkenazi twist

Edith Heller’s Edith’s Sandwich Counter in Williamsburg celebrates Jewish food from all throughout the diaspora. As we previously reported, their most popular bagel sandwich is their BEC&L (that’s bacon, egg, cheese and latke), with good reason: Every aspect of the sandwich, from the omelet cooked in an individually-sized tamagoyaki pan to the innovative, rectangular-shaped fried latke, is made to order. 

3. Spectacular smoked fish

Poor, poor bialys and sablefish, which are “so often overshadowed by their powerhouse cousins, bagels and lox,” according to the Times. At Shelsky’s in Brooklyn, however, The Newhouse is a delicious, “if-you-know-you-know” combination of toasted bialys, wild Alaskan smoked sable, scallion cream cheese for plushness and sliced tomato.

4. I’ll have what she’s having

No roundup of New York City sandwiches is complete without Katz’s Delicatessen’s uber-classic pastrami on rye. “Bits of what in theater is called ‘business’ are more than half the pleasure: the ticket, the turnstile, the wait at the counter, the pepper-crusted preview slice offered for your approval, the cash tips you stuff into a plastic quart takeout tub,” writes Pete Wells. “Pastrami ordered and eaten at Katz’s is both a meal and a ceremony, one that can turn tourists into New Yorkers and New Yorkers into tourists.”

5. Salty switcheroo

Back when Frankel’s Delicatessen & Appetizing first opened in 2016, our colleagues at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency called the Greenpoint spot “the coolest restaurant in New York.” This isn’t just about vibes — Frankel’s is seriously tasty, too, and their pastrami, egg and cheese sando earned a spot on the Times’ list, where “each mouthful yields just the right combination of silky egg; smoky, gently spiced meat; and melty pulls of American cheese.”

6. Fun fusion

South Williamsburg’s Jewish-Japanese spot Shalom Japan may be famous for its matzah ball ramen, but those in the know know that the restaurant’s melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu pastrami sando is the pro move here. The Times calls this sandwich more than the sum of its parts — house-cured pastrami, and piled between pillowy slices of shokupan, Japanese milk bread, that’s lightly dressed with Gulden’s mustard — while in the New York Jewish Week’s 25 Jewish Dishes to Eat in NYC Right Now, The Nosher’s Isabella Armus said it was “the softest thing I’ve ever eaten.”

7. Northern exposure

Liebman’s Delicatessen is famously the last Jewish deli in the Bronx and, as such, its No. 7 sandwich — thinly sliced layers of pastrami and corned beef, topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing — earned a spot on the Times’ list. “In some cases, being the last one standing doesn’t mean you were the best,” Israel-born owner Yuval Dekel told our colleagues at The Nosher. “But I happen to think that we deserve it.”

8. A bagel & lox classic 

“There may be better purveyors of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon in New York,” writes Julia Moskin, “but there’s nowhere better to sit down to eat them than Russ & Daughters Café.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, though we are also partial to the cafe’s Schmaltz & a Shot, featuring extra-fatty herring, raw onion and boiled potato, served with a shot of vodka.  

9. Tuna tune-up

Chef Jeremy Salamon opened his Hungarian Jewish eatery Agi’s Counter in late 2021 and it quickly became an essential Brooklyn dining destination. Last year the restaurant garnered a Michelin “Bib Gourmand” award, as well as a spot on Bon Appetit’s Best Restaurants of 2022 list, where, they said, you’ll “feel like you’re being cared for by your very culinarily talented Jewish grandmother.” We’ve previously raved about Agi’s Counter’s schmaltz potatoes, but the Times hones in on their confit tuna melt, which features “oily, slow-cooked tuna, alpine Cheddar, pickled peppers, celery, dill and Kewpie mayo” on “pillowy” Pullman bread.

10. Basic is best

S&P Lunch billed itself as a a new place for a very old lunch counter,” when the team behind Court Street Grocers opened their “Jewish luncheonette” across from the Flatiron Building in the former home of Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in 2022. Owners Eric Finkelstein and Matt Ross serve up old-school luncheonette standards including their very popular tuna sandwich, which Pete Wells describes as a “smooth, soft, mild, reassuring, ungentrified type of tuna salad.”

11. Street meat meets fine dining

At their East Village ode to Middle Eastern street food, Spice Brothers’ co-owners Lior Lev Sercarz, who is Israeli, and David Malbequi, who is French, use upscale ingredients (meats from Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, fluffy pita from New Jersey’s Angel Bakery) and draw upon their backgrounds working in Michelin-starred restaurants. The result is an elevated take on late-night classics like shawarma; the St. Marks Place spot’s Shawarma East is a beef-and-lamb shawarma topped with amba (a Baghdadi pickled mango condiment that’s popular in Israel), tahini and a herbed labneh (yogurt cheese) sauce.