In my new position with Ring of Honor, I have made somewhat of aFaustian bargain--four times a year, I get to see and be a part of the greatest live professional wrestlingevent presented in the United States today, the quarterly ROH extravaganzas at the Manhattan Center in New York City. With the part of Mephistopheles being played by Cary Silkin, I am the learned Dr. Faustus of German legend who has opted for the chance to participate in these spectaculars, but in return must make the pilgrimage to the one place in the country that sends all of my various phobias and fears into overdrive--the Big Apple.
THE CARNEGIE DELI- New York, New York
To be fair, there are a lot of great things and places in New York City--Little Italy's shops and restaurants (Angelo's is the epitome of Italy), Midtown Comics, Heartland Burger, great old record stores and book shops, and more--but a little NYC goes a long way for a Southern boy. The insanely-laid-out interstates converging on poorly maintained bridges into always-congested city streets with constant chaos and crazy drivers make it seem like an open-air video game, so much so that I Xanax myself 50 miles from the city on each trip in. Once in the city, we park our Ford Expedition (Black Beauty) in the hotel garage ($55 per night!) and are at the mercy of cabdrivers or on foot for the rest of the stay, violating my rule of never going anywhere without a vehicle that I can drive home at any time I wish. On our last trip we got a sociopathic cab driver who had me so petrified we walked the 28 blocks on our return trip (I am uncomfortable riding in a car with ANYONE else driving, even friends and family).
The air pollution you can smell and the 6 foot high piles of garbage you can see sets my sinuses and allergies off. The millions of people, the buildings that block out the sun and the teeny tiny $400 a night hotel rooms keep my claustrophobia on red level throughout the stay. The surly attitude and rudeness of most of the denizens of the city (quite understandable given the stress level they endure every second of their lives) crashes onto the shores of my complete lack of patience for same surliness and rudeness. It is never quiet, never even close, even at 4AM, making me long for the sounds of birds and leaves rustling and feeling like the Grinch on Christmas morning (the noise, NOISE, NOISE!!). Don't even get me started on the recent bedbug infestation, which necessitated stripping and turning over the mattress and inspecting it with a flashlight as soon as we entered the room.
The packed house of rowdy fans and great matches at the Manhattan Center, and the feeling of being a part of the best in-ring pro wrestling promotion in the sport today does ameliorate the above-mentioned stress factors, but to really achieve some calm and inner peace in NYC, a stop that has become an aftershow tradition for us is needed--a trip to the Carnegie Deli.
The Original Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant is world-famous for, as the menu proudly proclaims, "dispensing delectable deli daily from dawn (6:30AM) to distraction (4:00AM). This place is simply amazing, from the menu that unfolds like an old-fashioned road map, featuring literally hundreds of items, to the walls of the place lined floor to ceiling with autographed 8x10's of all the celebrities, major to minor, that have graced it's environs over the years. From Woody Allen to Muhammed Ali, George Steinbrenner to the Rock and Steve Austin, they're on the wall somewhere.
This isn't a deli like you'll find at the Love's Country Store in Tallequah, Oklahoma, where you can get a ham & cheese sandwich with your chioce of two kinds of cheese. This is a bigtime NYC deli, with every imaginable kind of sandwich, dinner plate, side order, salad, and an entire breakfast menu with dozens of omelette selections alone. The menu, which measures 18 X 24" when unfolded and covers both sides of the paper, even features food I wouldn't be able to pick out of a lineup, like Polish specialties, food I used to hear Jewish comedians talk about on the Tonight Show, even Borscht, whatever that may be.
The specialty sandwiches are so large they have their own zip codes, as the Carnegie's motto is "If you eat it all, we made it wrong!" The "Ah, There's the Reuben" is served open-faced with approximately two and a half pounds of corned beef or pastrami, with melted swiss cheese covering the whole thing until it looks like a white football. At $22.95, it's not cheap, but you can literally eat it for dinner, lunch the next day and a snack later. Others include the "50 ways to Love your Liver", the "Bacon Whoopee", "Tongue's For the Memory", "Carnegie Haul", and "The Egg and OY!", which has to be the world's largest chicken salad sandwich. Stacey's favorite is the "Woody Allen", with about 3 pounds of pastrami and corned beef between two slices of overmatched bread.
Hot sandwiches include Beefamania (roast beef), Li'l Abner (brisket), Hamalot (guess), and Nosh Nosh Nanette (turkey), all openfaced with gravy & french fries (and at $22.95 each three meals for the average person). The sides, of which there are many, are the size of some meals you get elsewhere, so order carefully.
If it's breakfast you want, the omelettes are also football-sized, although they claim it's a 3 egg omelette, in which case I suspect they use ostrich eggs. You can get eggs with bacon, sausage, onions, several cheeses, bologna, salami, mushrooms, ham, sturgeon, Nova Scotia salmon, whitefish, chicken livers, and many more. There is also a huge variety of pastries, cookies, cakes, and of course New York style cheesecake.
Now, I know what you're thinking--with the plethora of pastrami, the mountains of meats, the oodles of eggs available, even ol' Cheeseburger Cornette wouldn't go for a burger here! You are wrong, Cattle Breath, for the Carnegie build-your-own burger plan supplies the best burger in Gotham City. While I have sampled other things and love the Ah, There's the Reuben, to really calm my frazzled nerves, I gots ta have the burger. I order the Carnegie Hamburger, which for $10.95 features the burger and the bun--that's it. But what a burger, by my estimation about a pound and a quarter of meat ground on the premises on a specially baked oversized bun. For $2.00 extra, you get cheese, so I double that and get approximately 6 slices of American Cheese (hard to count when they're melted). For another dollar, I get lettuce, tomato and onion, and finally, for an extra $4.50 they add bacon. I mean they really add bacon, what looks like the better part of a pound of crispy bacon smothering the burger and falling off the edges. For about $20.00 and change, you get a burger that would feed the average family of 3, and yes, I finish every delicious, artery-clogging bite.
The Carnegie bakes everything fresh daily, they cure, pickles, smoke and grind their meats fresh in their owncommissary, they do catering, they even deliver free within a 5 block radius, with a "nominal" charge elsewhere. They have a toll-free delivery hotline to ship their food anywhere in the continental US, 1-800-334-5606, or for cheesecake only 1-877-898-DELI. Gift certificates are available (hint, hint) but beware, when you go in person, they don't take credit cards, it's cash only with a $12.50 per person minimum!
The best part is, on Saturday night/Sunday morning about 1-2 AM, they're not busy! We have never waited for a table, and generally get to sit in the back with one or two occupied tables in a 15 foot radius, so it's possible for the first time that day to avoid human contact in the City. To have a moment of peace in a peaceless place, I recommend putting yourself into a food coma at the Carnegie Deli. You may even see a celebrity like Willard Scott or Rip Taylor!
854 Seventh Avenue at 55th Street
New York, New York