Dozen Best “Delis”
This list must be taken with a big flake of kosher salt. New Orleans is not and never has been a kosher-style deli town. Only the first five on this list really qualify–and purists would question even some of those. Many sandwich shops that call themselves delis get no closer to the New York deli style than a ham and cheese poor boy gets to lox on a bagel. My criterion for inclusion here is whether one can get something like a corned beef on rye. (That’s one of the few downsides of having the overwhelming local cuisine that we enjoy.) I also include one non-deli place because a) I needed another one to make a dozen and 2) it’s from the Northeast.
1. Stein’s Deli. Uptown: 2207 Magazine . 504-527-0771. The unique combination of Jewish and Italian meats, and cheeses too–so it’s not strictly kosher. It is, however, strictly delicious. No other deli offers and much variety or goodness.
2. Martin Wine Cellar Deli. Metairie: 714 Elmeer. 504-896-7350. It started as a stand-up sandwich operation at the Uptown location. Over the years the kitchen has become much more ambitious, cooking as much and as well as a gourmet bistro. But it still has the classic deli sandwiches, made with top-quality meats, breads, and cheeses.
3. Kosher Cajun Deli. Metairie: 3519 Severn. 504-888-2010. It really is kosher, even though it’s hardly Cajun. Joel Brown is the city’s prime marketer of kosher meats, and his entire menu is well made.
4. Gott Gourmet Cafe. Uptown: 3100 Magazine. 504-373-6579 . The sandwich list here is the most eclectic around, calling to mind not only New York but Chicago. All the ingredients are first-class, and the generosity of the sandwiches makes them splittable.
5. Between the Bread. CBD: 625 St Charles Ave . 504-324-5304 . A well-hidden but very good maker of sandwiches outside the orbit of poor boys and hamburgers, in an Americanized deli style. Very good meats and breads.
6. Welty’s Deli. CBD: 336 Camp. 504-592-0223. Welty’s theme seems to be as little like New Orleans as possible. But there’s a market for that downtown, and they serve it well with generous sandwiches and salads.
7. Cafe Nino. Riverbend: 1519 S Carrollton Ave. 504-865-9200. This is really an Italian and pizza specialist, but it makes the list by dint of the only really good Philly cheese steak sandwich in town.
8. Empire State Delicatessen. CBD: 701 Poydras (One Shell Square). 504-412-8326. A New York-style deli in One Shell Square. Not brilliant, but if you have the urge downtown it will satisfy.
9. Camellia Grill. Riverbend: 626 S Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679 . The famous Uptown vendor of hamburgers and omelettes has always had a deli aspect to its sandwiches. They’re oversized and well-made. I wish they’d revive the old “Pink Perfection” sandwich, made with beef tongue.
10. Fat Hen Grocery. Uptown: 7457 St Charles Ave. 504-266-2921. The sandwich department here leans in a deli direction, notably for its Reuben, made with corned beef cured on the premises.
11. American Sector. Warehouse District: 945 Magazine St. 504-528-1940. This is a 1040s-style restaurant in the World War II Museum. It has a full menu, but among its sandwiches and open-face platters are some deli classics like beef tongue, corned beef, and the like.
12. Cafe Maspero. French Quarter: 601 Decatur. 504-523-6250. A stretch, I’ll grant that. But the pastrami and corned beef here have always been good, even though they’re served on French buns.