The appellation “deli” means something very different in New York than in smaller towns. Whereas most delis in the world are establishments that specialize in selling sandwiches and cold cuts, the typical New York deli is a place on the corner where you can pick up toilet paper, a bag of chips, and a 6-pack. If it sells sandwiches, they’re usually not something you want to sink your teeth into.
Williamsburg’s Big Apple Deli (671 Grand St., Brooklyn–map) is an exception to the rule. While it superficially resembles your typical corner store, a trip to the deli counter is a pleasant surprise, especially when you’re craving a cheesesteak. Once you choose between six different cheeses, the man behind the counter pulls out not a tub of precooked steak, but a whole slab of fresh meat and raw sliced onion and peppers. He cooks up your steak fresh, slicing it as he goes, then melts the cheese in with the meat and sauteed veggies so it pervades your whole sandwich and your every bite.
After about 5 minutes, you get your meat piled on a soft, fresh roll for just $4 for a round roll, $5 for a hero. There’s no seating, so take your spoils to one of many nearby bars and enjoy it with a cold one. Big Apple is open at least as late as any bar you know, so if you’re having late night hunger pangs, consider it your promised land.