by Michael Williams, 07/27/2009
My love for a city is measured by the restaurants and foods I would miss if I ever moved away. When I'm out on the town in New York at some of my favorite places, I tend to pause to enjoy the surroundings, because you never know when things will disappear, only to be replaced by a chain restaurant. The one place I could never imagine changing in any way (God willing) is a supernarrow luncheonette on Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District called Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop. If Eisenberg's was located in my hometown of Cleveland, I know that my dad would have taken me there, because Eisenberg's is exactly the type of place that my father and I both love.
I often sneak out of my office and head to the curmudgeonly old shop for a peaceful lunch by myself, always with the newspaper and a seat at the counter. I find the solo lunch experience at Eisenberg's to be settling and centering, not to mention delicious. It's like escaping the modern world to have lunch in the '40s. Basically unchanged since 1929, Eisenberg's is the real deal of New York lunch. They start you off with pickles (no matter what) and quickly attend to your order. The service is brisk and slightly brash, but always efficient and friendly (well, friendly for New York; Omaha, NE, this ain't).
So what do you eat at Eisenberg's? Everything! I'll order things like pastrami, tuna salad, a chocolate egg cream, a lime rickey (the classic New York drink), corned beef on rye or a BLT on white toast (Eisenberg's is the only place where I ever eat anything on white bread, because it just feels like the right thing to do) with a root beer. Basically, the menu is the same as it was when the place opened for business back in the '20s, and I envision the decor being the same as well. When my friends come to town and want to see the "real New York," I don't go to the places everybody knows, like Katz's, Carnegie Deli or Lombardi's pizzeria. I take them straight to Eisenberg's so they know what they're missing (and will come back to visit soon).