The Carnegie Deli was an iconic small delicatessen chain based in New York City. Its main branch, opened in 1937 adjacent to Carnegie Hall, was located at 854 7th Avenue (between 54th and 55th Streets) in Midtown Manhattan. There are subsidiaries in Las Vegas, Nevada; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Six Flags Great Adventure; and Foxwoods Resort Casino. The deli, even though its main branch has closed, still operates a wholesale distribution service.
The Parker family's delicatessen was in its third generation of owners. Among the United States' most renowned delis, it was operated by a second-generation owner, Marian Harper Levine.
The restaurant offered pastrami, corned beef, and other sandwiches containing at least 1 pound (0.45 kg) of meat, as well as traditional Jewish fare such as matzoh ball soup, latkes, chopped chicken livers, and lox. The restaurant also offered other, non-Jewish (or at least non-kosher) food such as ham, sausage, and bacon. Available for order were cheesecake portions of over a pound per serving. The restaurant's motto was: "If you can finish your meal, we've done something wrong". In addition to the large servings, the restaurant was also known for its surly waiters, who allegedly tried to impart some of the stereotypical gruffness of New York to visitors.
The main branch on Seventh Avenue closed on December 31, 2016. The other three branches and the distribution service remain open.
Leo Steiner (c. 1939 – December 31, 1987) was a Jewish American restaurateur who was co-owner of the first Carnegie Deli, located at 55th Street and Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan near Carnegie Hall. While his partner, Milton Parker, mostly worked behind the scenes, Steiner worked the crowd with his Jewish humor in the restaurant, which became a destination for both celebrities and tourists in the theater district. Steiner was born in Newark, New Jersey. He worked in his parents' grocery store in nearby Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he grew up. The one-time owner of Pastrami & Things, a delicatessen located at Third Avenue and 23rd Street, he joined Milton Parker and Fred Klein in 1976, purchasing the Carnegie Deli from the trio of Bernie Gross, Max Hudas and Thomas North. Klein, who had not been actively involved in running the business, dropped out shortly thereafter.
Under the management of Parker and Steiner, the deli became known nationwide, attracting celebrities such as Woody Allen, Jackie Mason and Henny Youngman, and opened branch locations in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Secaucus, New Jersey; and Tysons Corner, Virginia. Steiner became the public face of Jewish food, appearing in a television commercial for rye bread. He created a 60-pound Statue of Liverty carved from chopped liver, complete with a torch fashioned from a turkey wing, for the United States Bicentennial and was asked to prepare corned beef and pastrami for visiting heads of state attending the G7 economic summit meeting held in 1983 in Williamsburg, Virginia. Portions of Woody Allen's 1984 movie Broadway Danny Rose were filmed in the restaurant.
Milton Parker, who died in 2009, had written a book (with Allyn Freeman) called How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli, providing the history of the family's ownership.
On April 24, 2015, the main, Midtown Manhattan branch of Carnegie Deli was closed temporarily due to the discovery of an illegal gas line in the restaurant. Con Edison was investigating the restaurant, later fining the eatery $40,050. On July 28, 2015, Carnegie Deli was subsequently closed for upgrades to its energy lines after the discovery of improperly siphoning off natural gas for the previous six years. The deli reopened on February 9, 2016.
On September 30, 2016, it was announced that the Midtown Manhattan branch of the deli would close by the end of the year. The owner, Marian Harper Levine, stated that she needed a more permanent break from operating the restaurant, saying, "At this stage of my life, the early morning to late night days have taken a toll, along with my sleepless nights and grueling hours that come with operating a restaurant business in Manhattan." Two branches in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, will remain open, as well as its wholesale distribution service.
At midnight on December 31, 2016, Carnegie Deli on Seventh Avenue closed after almost eighty years of service.
The deli's corned beef and pastrami, celebrated by smoked meat connoisseurs nationwide, were cured in the store's cellar using Steiner's own recipe in a two-week-long curing process. The Carnegie Deli used a half-ton of brisket to prepare a week's supply of corned beef by the time of his death. Steiner admitted, "You could eat it after seven days, but if you wait until the 13th you're in heaven." The Carnegie Deli was the favorite hangout of comedian Henny Youngman, and Adam Sandler included a reference to the deli in "The Chanukah Song" in 1996. Steiner was eulogized by comedian Henny Youngman as "the deli lama".
The walls of the deli are nearly completely covered with autographed pictures of celebrities who have eaten there. Menu items have been named after famous patrons, including a corned beef and pastrami sandwich named after Woody Allen after the deli served as a filming location for Broadway Danny Rose. A number of items on the menu feature Broadway themes and Yiddish vocabulary, including dishes like "nosh, nosh, Nanette" (after the musical, "No, No, Nanette") and "the egg and oy" ("The Egg and I"). There are also some humorous items in the menu, like the famous liver sandwich named "50 Ways to Love Your Liver" after the Paul Simon song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." It is a place many reporters in the city frequent, including staffers from Black Rock (aka the CBS Building) like Bob Simon.
In March 2012, the deli introduced a sandwich dedicated to newly arrived New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. The sandwich, named the "Jetbow", is priced at $22.22, weighs in at 3.5 lbs and consists of corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, American cheese, lettuce and tomato on white bread.
The deli opened several branch locations in the 1980s, including two New Jersey branches in Secaucus and Atlantic City and one in the Washington, D.C. suburbs in Tysons Corner. However, most of these branches have since closed and are no longer in operation. One, in Beverly Hills, California, was financed by oil billionaire Marvin Davis and designed by restaurant designer Pat Kuleto at a cost of $4 million to be the "best deli in the world", in response to Davis' complaint that the delis in California were not as good as those in New York.
The deli operates a second location on the Las Vegas Strip, which opened at The Mirage in 2005. A third location opened in 2006 at the Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey and serves as the "healthy choice" restaurant at the park; however, the menu is smaller and only has the restaurant's most popular items. A fourth deli, limited to corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, is at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The fifth location is at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and opened November 22, 2009.
In addition to the retail operation, the restaurant sells cheesecakes and merchandise such as T-shirts and baseball caps online.
In 2013, Zagat gave it a food rating of 23, and rated it the 8th-best deli in New York City.
USA Today has called the restaurant the "most famous" deli in the United States.