Father Mark Schultz, the charismatic priest at the San Antonio De Padua church in Penasco, jokes that the reason Catholics are required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays is not because there’s a shortage of cows. That’s certainly true. There is more beef on the hoof in America than there are tax-paying citizens.
That’s why it’s always puzzled me that sandwich restaurants in New Mexico are so chintzy with their meat portions. You’d think there really was a beef shortage (and an excess of bread and lettuce) considering the the typical Albuquerque restaurant sandwich is comprised of thin shards of beef buried under half a head of lettuce and enough bread to choke a mule.
In the American megalopolises of Chicago and New York, sandwiches are piled skyscraper high with beef and it’s not a figment of your imagination when you actually experience the flavor of bovine amidst the constituent parts of a sandwich. You’d think Chicago and New York were closer to cattle ranches than New Mexico is, but I digress. This is a review on a Las Vegas deli from which restaurants in my beloved Land of Enchantment could learn much.
In recent years, Las Vegas has graduated from a city renown for buffets serving profligate portions of mediocre and inexpensive food to a city in which restaurant impresarios and some of the best chefs in the world launch outposts of their famous restaurants. Many of those restaurants approximate or even exceed the caliber of quality of the originals on which they were based.
One of the most popular restaurant concepts in Las Vegas has been the New York style deli. Caesar’s Palace has the Stage Deli of New York; the Hilton has Las Vegas Subs, an off-shoot of Atlantic City’s White House Subs and now the Mirage hotel has the Carnegie Deli, a 7th Avenue institution in New York City.
The ambience at the Carnegie Deli is very much like its sibling in New York–right down to the hall of fame portraits of 62 New York celebrities on the wall. Attitudinally, it’s very much like the quintessential New York deli, too. The atmosphere is boisterous and busy, but with a sense of fun. It’s as close to New York City as you’ll find west of the Hudson. All the meat used in the deli is even shipped in from Carnegie Deli’s plant in New York.
The sandwiches are gargantuan, most topping the scales at one and a half pounds–and they don’t look like a salad burying a measly piece of meat. These sandwiches are meaty in every sense of the word. During my inaugural visit, I had a pastrami sandwich that dwarfed my favorite pastrami sandwich in the world, the artfully crafted masterpiece found only at Siegleman’s Deli in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. That bulging behemoth weighs a paltry 8.5 ounces and is considered “farshtopt,” a Yiddish word which means “stuffed.” Carnegie Deli’s version is easily three times as large.
Alas, size isn’t everything. Siegleman’s pastrami was much better with the perfect amount of marbling for flavor and a far superior rye bread foundation. I couldn’t wrap my mouth around the pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli and had to eat about half the pastrami sans rye bread. Worse, despite sitting under a heat lamp until the hurried server could bring it to my table, the sandwich was lukewarm when I got it. It wasn’t a bad sandwich; it just wasn’t as wonderful as I’ve had in Chicago (or even Boston for that matter).
Like the delis in Chicago and new York, Carnegie Deli brings a complementary plate of homemade pickles to your table. The menu reads like a Jewish wish list with Kosher items you don’t find in many restaurants. I had a potato knish that I swear was as big as a small loaf of bread. It was also delicious.
The hearty portions might prevent you from trying dessert which is too bad because no one in the universe makes cheesecake like it’s made in New York. Carnegie Deli offers several sinfully rich cheesecakes, humongous slabs of creamy perfection. The strawberry cheesecake is absolutely decadent, among the best I’ve had.
3400 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, Nevada
LATEST VISIT: 27 March 2006
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Strawberry Cheesecake, Potato Knish, Pickles