Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
It’s nice to have a buddy. Someone you really trust, feel comfortable with no matter the circumstance, has a great sense of humor and still surprises you with delight from time to time. No acrimonious conflict ever. Okay, maybe that one time they accidentally packed the take-out bag with chocolate cake instead of the cheesecake. But that didn’t turn out too badly. :0)
I go way back with Eisenberg’s. It opened in 1929 and though it was decades later until I had my first legendary tuna sandwich and chocolate egg cream, I feel like we’ve been best pals for eternity. There have only been four incarnations of proprietors (family to family, then 25 years of a new owner) but now it seems as if Josh and Bonnie have been there always. They took over in 2005 but Josh had been dining there for at least 15 years prior. They greet you at the door, calling out your name when your order is down, along with the ever charming staff members Kim and Kelly. It’s deli-diner Cheers.
They’re famous for food and ambience but more specifically for the whipped tuna (on Pechter’s rye bread delivered in wax paper sleeves), egg salad, matzoh ball soup, (some vegetarian soups too!), pastrami sandwiches that rival Katz’s, sour pickles, fountain sodas including the egg creams and…a perfect lime rickey. Plus let’s not forget mac n’ cheese fridays, albeit crustless but old fashioned creamy comfort. Stellar? Perhaps not everything but it’s food infused with old school tradition and a big hug. And you can’t tell me that the side of cole slaw isn’t worth jockeying for a stool.
I always forget to photograph the food! I think oh, this time I will, as soon as it comes. Then I look down and find it’s all been inhaled rather quickly. Sigh. Next time. Mostly I stick with old favorites but lately there’s been a move in a slightly modern direction, Josh introduced burgers (the Eisen-burger!), wraps may not have caught on but the off-menu (on the mirror) empanadas are pretty popular, especially the pastrami version. Maybe it’s the influence of the longtime counterman Victor, chief maker of the egg creams.
The thing about egg creams, as any true New Yorker knows, is ice cold milk, seltzer and only, only, only Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. Tricks of the trade are thankfully followed by Victor. He mixes the syrup with the milk using the high intensity stream of soda water by pushing the handle back, not so available in modern fountains. The coup de grace is running the final low intensity stream down the back of a spoon. Simple strokes that equal perfection.
A back dining room was added several years ago bringing the overall seating to 62. And you sure can’t avoid that close knit family feeling at the 24 stools packed in along the original marble counter. It’s fun. Instant camaraderie. Complete insanity. There’s your major CEO having matzoh brei rubbing elbows (literally) with meatloaf loving neighborhood regulars. My favorite spot is the area marked by a small sign that pays homage to Hawaiian counter man Phil. He was there for 33 years, being your best cranky tough guy with a heart of gold.
Eisenberg’s is there for you. Reliable, loyal, through thick and thin. Holidays and every day. It’s been well represented in videos, newspapers, blogs and sometimes in movies. (keep an eye out for it in the next Spiderman movie!) but I still had to have my say.
It goes beyond the food here, and the people and the celebrity photos. It’s nothing you can quite put your finger on. Or your lips. The flavor is in the walls.
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
174 Fifth Avenue at 22nd Street
Monday-Friday 6:30am-8pm, Saturday 8am-6pm, Sunday 8am-4pm