Old-School Downtown Deli Reminds Me What Good Sandwiches Taste Like
Just when I thought I was at least aware of most of the delicious food finds in the FiDi and Tribeca, I found another one thanks to a couple of downtown lunch’ers. That place is Downtown Deli on Church St. (at Park Pl.), which from the outside basically looks like any other so-called “deli”, selling cigarettes and crappy Boar’s Head sandwiches. But when you step inside, you notice the difference because there’s a sea of people, and two counters: one for cold sandwiches and one for hot, and really nothing else but a rack with bags of chips. Oh yeah, now we’re talking! Thankfully, both of the sandwich suggestions I got were on the hot side because the cold sandwich line was insane. Lunch’er Paul suggested I should check out the pastrami Reuben there, and lunch’er dkriese likes the beef brisket on a roll with gravy. Clearly, with two endorsements for this deli, it was worth checking out.
When I got there around 1 p.m., the place had a line but wasn’t too full. After I’d figured out which counter had the hot sandwiches (it’s the one in front of you as you walk in) and ordered, the place was packed and had a line out the door. Granted, it’s not that large, but the crowd was definitely a good sign.
When I ordered I was told they were out of pastrami already, dashing my hopes of that Reuben. So instead I went with plan B and got the brisket on a roll with gravy ($6.75). I saw the guy slice the over-sized roll, ladle some gravy on the top bun, and then came the magical part where he took the hunk of brisket to the slicer and went to town for my sandwich. I was impressed that in the midst of an insane lunch rush, they don’t preslice the meat. It says on the menu that they make everything in-house, and I actually believe that.
By the time I found a bench to sit down and eat my sandwich, half of the gravy had pooled in the paper at the bottom, so if you don’t want that to happen, you might want to rearrange the sandwich in the container before you journey back to wherever you’re eating. They didn’t put the gravy on with a heavy hand, thankfully, so you could taste it, but it didn’t destroy the bun.
The brisket was good, and I could actually see the red smoke rings on it. It was lean and would have been kind of dry without the gravy, so I would highly recommend some sort of moistening agent if you’re not into what normally goes on mashed potatoes. The roll was also good, and wasn’t just a generic hamburger bun.
They have all of the menu options listed in a colorful neon checkerboard on the wall, and the homemade meatloaf sounded good. I will be back to check out that Reuben, and this time I’ll get there early so I can get it with the pastrami.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s what an actual deli should be, meaning they serve sandwiches with pickles, and not a whole lot else.
- They make everything in-house and the Boar’s Head label is nowhere to be seen.
- Even when they’re busy, they do things like slice the meat for your sandwich right before it’s made.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I like having more options than sandwiches and a couple of salads for lunch. Where’s the by-the-pound buffet?
- There’s nowhere to sit inside, which presents and issue in the winter.
- The lines are too long for me to wait in, and I can’t wait to eat until 2 p.m. when they die down.
- I want to be able to buy a pack of smokes and get a sandwich in one convenient location.
Downtown Deli, 107 Church St. (at Park Pl.), (212) 233-2911 or 2971