Sarge's Deli

An old-school Jewish deli featuring monster matzo balls and melt-in-your-mouth meats

By Erik Mathes

The world is made up of two types of people: Those who delight in the intricacies of classic, New York–style Jewish deli, and those who’ve simply never tried it. Because to experience Jewish deli is to love it, at least when it’s done as well as it is at this Murray Hill matzo ball hall, which has been slinging sandwiches stuffed with absurd amounts of smoked and cured meats since 1964. If you belong to the former group, you’re in luck, as this is one of the last remaining spots that braises a brisket better than anyone’s grandma. If you’re in the latter group, well, there’s no better time than now to get initiated into a whole new kind of comfort cuisine.

Whether you stop in for a nosh or for nostalgia, you’re going to fall hard for Sarge’s. Don’t bother trying to decide between the pastrami and the corned beef; order a sandwich with both, and as soon as it arrives, take your fork and scrape down at the pepper-crusted pastrami slices and pink corned beef sticking out of the sides of rye bread just to marvel at how easy they both fall apart. Talk about tender meats. If you’re looking for a classic drink pairing for these delicacies, look no further than Dr. Brown’s root beer, black cherry, or cream soda.

And then there’s the soup. Even on a muggy June night, a bowl of piping hot chicken broth with a plump, pillowy matzo ball, a boiled beef dumpling (aka kreplach), and a heap of slender egg noodles can make any pain you’re feeling melt away.

The sampler is great for groups, especially if you’re unfamiliar with traditional Jewish appetizers. The fried kreplach is a crispy take on the same beef dumplings you find boiled in the “Souper soup,” and it’s just as satisfying, especially with a dip of spicy brown mustard and a slice of the bright green, half-sour pickle that comes complimentary along with full-sour pickles and a large bowl of coleslaw. There’s also a thick potato pancake, fried to golden and served with sweet applesauce and cool sour cream. The show-stealer is the stuffed derma, a beef intestine stuffed with a savory mix of matzo meal, schmaltz and spices that’s served with fried onions and gravy.

It’ll be challenge not to fill up here too fast, but you should strive to save enough spirit for sweets at the end, since Sarge’s cheesecake is something of legend. It’s rich, creamy, and not too sweet with a thin, crumbly crust. When topped with fresh strawberries it goes from outstanding to out-of-control. Do yourself a favor and take an extra slice home so you don’t wind up regretting it hours later when the craving returns.


24 hours daily, 365 days a year

price range

$18 (knockwurst with sauerkraut) to $42 (the Monster: “New York’s Biggest Sandwich”)