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Photograph by Stacy Newgent
There’s a good chance you’ve driven by Carl’s Deli and didn’t even know it. But a few things could alert you to its presence: the tables and chairs outside, the chalkboard advertising the day’s specials, or perhaps the easy-going feeling you get when you pass the place. Inside you’ll find a mountain of possibilities: 32 sandwiches displayed on the chalkboard behind the counter, not to mention the crab artichoke and ranch pasta salads. Maybe you know the famous corned beef and chicken liver pâté sandwich—a powerful, flavor-packed escape from the reality of diets and heart medication. For those who prefer the familiar, there are options galore: the No. 28 “Poor Boy Special” (bologna and American on white); the No. 20 (Italian turkey on a baguette with pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, and oil and vinegar); the No. 24 King George (above). Or maybe you make your own, choosing from nine meats, eight cheeses, seven types of bread, and nine veggies. While the sandwiches are a positive delight, it’s the setting that makes Carl’s so inviting. The shop feels almost European, it’s so small and tidy. The lunch crowd sits at closely placed tables, sipping on soup of the day, as Hyde Parkers drop in to pick up provisions: Beer and wine on shelves in the back, Pringles and cookies, soft drinks. They even sell packs of cigarettes behind the counter. But if you’re here to eat, leave time for one of the homemade desserts, like the chocolate ganache cheesecake. Just be sure to put a little extra room between you and the table, and save space on the plate for a side of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. There’s no rush.You’re here to escape, remember?
2836 Observatory Ave.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue.