64-year-old favorite Pastrami Queen opening second location on the Upper West Side

September 30, 2020

Photo of the Upper East Side storefront by Tjeerd Wiersma via Flickr cc

“If I’m away from New York long enough, I need a correct pastrami sandwich from either Pastrami Queen or Katz’s. And you’re not getting that anywhere else, as far as I’m concerned,” said Anthony Bourdain in 2016. And New Yorkers will now have two locations from which to enjoy a Pastrami Queen sandwich, as West Side Rag reports that the 64-year-old business will open a second location (the first is on Lexington Avenue and 78th Street) tomorrow on the Upper West Side at the former Fine & Schapiro space at 138 West 72nd Street.

The business opened in 1956 as the Pastrami King in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and then moved to Kew Gardens, Queens in 1961. This location was across the street from the Family and Civil courthouse, so it became a go-to breakfast or lunch spot for lawyers and politicians, including Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who even had them cater his second inaugural party at the Queens Museum, according to the New York Times. Once the courts moved to the courthouse in Jamaica, Pastrami Queen saw its business fall by 30 to 40 percent, which is why they relocated to the Upper East Side in 1998, also when the business changed its name to Pastrami Queen. The name was changed to honor then-manager Gary Zinger’s mother-in-law who had begun running the business.

In a roundup of New York City’s best Jewish delis, Eater critic Robert Sietsema said of Pastrami Queen: “The pastrami is sliced thick and crumbly by machine — though it seems hand sliced — and the sandwiches on rye are of the overstuffed variety. Other recommendations: garlic fries and the epic potato pancake, but skip the matzah ball soup.” The sandwiches are served on rye bread from fellow UES institution Orwsasher’s.

As for the late Anthony Bourdain’s affinity, he also told Variety in 2017:

The first thing I get when I’m back in New York is a pastrami sandwich. Pastrami Queen (1125 Lexington Ave.) is a really good pastrami sandwich — if not the best, among the very best. Just a good, nice mix of fat and lean. It’s the real deal, served warm on fresh, soft rye bread with the right kind of mustard. Good pickles. And they deliver — very happy with that. I get a cream soda. It’s a quintessential New York meal for me.

In July of 2019, Pastrami Queen opened a Times Square location inside the Pearl Hotel on West 49th Street, but it closed after just three months. The new Upper West Side location will replace another Jewish Deli, Fine & Schapiro, which closed in early March after 93 years (some accounts say it was the oldest Kosher restaurant in the city). It’s set to open tomorrow, October 1.


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