I’ll have what she’s having…for half the price

eisenbergsI was 12 years old when I made my first trip to Katz’s Deli. The massive pastrami sandwich was my dad’s treat* and I never thought to look at the price tag. Now I’m all grown up, and the $14.95 sandwich that once helped Meg Ryan fake a public orgasm is almost as far out of my range as she is. Isn’t there a place in this city with decades of history behind it where I can get a delicious pastrami sandwich too big to fit in my mouth for under $10?

That may seem like asking a lot, but the answer is yes. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop (174 5th Ave., Manhattan–map) is only 80 years old (compared to Katz’s 120), but that’s still some serious history. It’s a seriously old school deli–a long narrow space dominated by a counter, where you can perch on a swivel seat and watch the cooks pile sandwiches impossibly high with meat.

When your pastrami on rye shows up, it’s a challenge to even get mustard on it before cramming it into your face. Once it finally gets there, the bread seems to melt away into the tender, salty slices of meat. And the cost? Just $8.50. The generous bowl of complimentary pickle spears are a great compliment, as are the fat, crispy onion rings for $3.50 if you’re looking to splurge (or give yourself a heart attack).

*Full disclosure: my recent trip to Eisenberg’s, though less expensive, was also my dad’s treat.

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A sandwich to settle for

Midtown Manhattan is littered with pseudo-gourmet sandwich joints happy to dish out pre-made panini and wraps for $6.95. Finding a really good sandwich for less than that is…well, so far I haven’t done it. But today I found a sandwich that was at least as good for $4.

dscn3522Mike’s Coffee and Deli (44 East 32nd St., Manhattan–map) doesn’t look like much. It’s just a window, opening into one room where all the sandwiches are prepared. What is impressive is that the average price of a cold sandwich is $3, a cheeseburger deluxe platter costs $4.50, and the average hot sandwich goes for $4. That includes roast beef, pastrami, chicken cutlets, sausage, and my choice today: pepper steak.

The steak was a bit over-cooked and tough, but at least it was cooked up fresh and topped with tasty peppers and onions. Wrapped up in a perfectly mediocre baguette, the sandwich was nothing to sing about. But for my money, it sure beat the cold-in-the-middle panini I got for $6.95  at Susie’s Kitchen around the corner. For the cheapest decent-sized sandwich I’ve found in mid-town, Mike’s is the spot.