Shamas Deli Boasts Best Sandwiches in NYC
I first became aware of Shamas Deli (on 38th btw. Broadway+7th) when I noticed their many signs boldly proclaiming that they had the best sandwiches in NYC. It was laughable to me that this tiny little deli could event claim to have the best sandwiches in all of the 5 boroughs. For one thing, the sheer variety and number of sandwiches available in NYC makes any such blanket distinction pretty much arbitrary. And even if we did agree that a winner could be crowned, I’d bet just about anything it wouldn’t be this place. But I kind of liked their hubris, and tourist-baiting (although I absolutely do not approve of bodegas that claim to have the best coffee in NYC; that’s just stupid). So, I decided to give Shamas Deli a chance, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Shamas Deli is located right next to a parking garage, and it seems pretty obvious that it actually occupies the old office for the parking garage attendant before SkyNet made such things obsolete. The guys work elbow to elbow in an uncomfortably tiny prep area (bonus for paranoid customers: your food is always in your sight). There’s no place for you to eat. There’s not even any place for you to order, really. When a line forms (which is actually pretty often), it spills onto the street without even trying. People shouting orders from the sidewalk is not uncommon. Regardless of how the food is, ordering from such a literal hole in the wall is undeniably cool (not as cool as eating in a freight elevator hallway, but cool nonetheless).
And what of the food? It’s fine! And yes, that deserves an exclamation point because I mean that in the best possible way. The sandwiches are constructed more carefully than at many generic delis. Everything tastes fresh, including the tomatoes, which are usually a disaster at NYC sandwich places. And it’s a pretty decent value; they use 10 inch heroes and a standard one runs about $7 after tax, fancier stuff usually goes for $8-9 (they also have rolls for a buck or two less).
I’ve tried a couple of sandwiches at Shamas and I haven’t been disappointed yet. My favorite is what I’m always tempted to get at a place like this – the Italian hero. Ham, pepperoni, salami and provolone topped with red onions, lettuce, tomato, pickled hot peppers (I couldn’t figure out what kind of pepper; they’re not very hot but they add a nice touch of crunch, spice and vinegar) and finished off with mayo, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. The bread, which they’ll happily toast for you, has a nice crust and a chewy inside. It’s just what you want from a hero. All in all, it’s nothing better than you’d expect to get from a sandwich place, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.
I also tried their chicken salad (with bacon added on). They proudly advertise that their salads are made fresh daily, including the chicken. This certainly didn’t taste like it had been sitting around for days. Don’t expect anything too special though, it’s very simple chicken salad, basically just chicken and mayo. Still, with the bacon and standard sandwich fixings (including hot peppers, I will pretty much put hot peppers on anything if the opportunity presents itself), it’s a plenty satisfying sandwich.
Does Shamas Deli have the best sandwiches in NYC? Of course not! Not even close. But I think that most Midtown sandwiches are a) gourmet dealies that are overpriced and too small b) carelessly made deli jobs that are overpriced or c) premade, overpriced office drone bait. With Shamas, you are almost certainly getting more food OR a better sandwich for roughly the same amount of money as other places. And the service is a bit brusque, but always accommodating. Hell, all things considered, maybe they do make the best deli sandwiches in Midtown. And even if the food isn’t worth traveling for, frequenting this sort of odd, unassuming place is what Midtown Lunch’ing is all about. Consider it a gateway to adventure lunching for some of your less fearless coworkers.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Good sandwiches at a decent price, including all the deli favorites
- It’s a weird little place – this is what makes Midtown awesome!
- The guys are eager to please, even if they’re not eager to chat
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- It’s the same kind of sandwiches anyone can get anywhere in the country
- Their prices should be lower than other places. How much can their rent possibly be?!
- I already have my Midtown deli of choice and have no interest in straying, even if this place is run out of a parking garage attendant office
Shamas Deli, 150 W. 38th St. (btw. Broadway+7th), 212-302-2296