Important Shit: Corned Beef Sandwiches

Slyman's in Cleveland, Ohio.

The corned beef sandwich is a very important part of a man’s diet. The practice of eating such delectable meats dates back to Ireland in the 12th century, where the salted beef was first referenced in the poem Aislinge Meic Con Glinne. The poem tells the tale of King Cathal mac Finguine and and his desire to purge himself of his obsession with food and the “demon of gluttony.”

During his battle with gluttony King Cathal mac Finguine had a vision of a land made entirely of food (from Wikipedia):

The fort we reached was beautiful,
With works of custards thick,
Beyond the loch.
New butter was the bridge in front,
The rubble dyke was wheaten white,
Bacon the palisade.

Stately, pleasantly it sat,
A compact house and strong.
Then I went in:
The door of it was dry meat,
The threshold was bare bread,
cheese-curds the sides.

Smooth pillars of old cheese,
And sappy bacon props
Alternate ranged;
Fine beams of mellow cream,
White rafters – real curds,
Kept up the house.

Can’t say I haven’t been there myself, King.

Katz's is home to one of the most famous and most expensive corned beef sandwiches out there.

Over the past 20 or so years I have been enjoying corned beef sandwiches at places all over the country. In my mind I liken the sandwich to the southern chicken sandwich (speaking strictly in design, not taste). What I mean is, a corned beef sandwich is a very simple thing consisting only of meat and bread (and sometimes mustard or cheese), but this simplicity makes it very difficult to execute in terms of making it complex enough to taste good with just those few ingredients. It also means that when a corned beef sandwich is done well, it is the most delicious thing on the planet. My favorite corned beef sandwiches are below. In the interest of the freedom-of-cured-meat-information, join in with a comment on where you enjoy your favorite corned beef sandwich.

My top five favorite places to dine on corned beef sandwich goodness:

1. Slyman’s in Cleveland, Ohio (My favorite. No one makes them bigger.)
2. Greenblatt’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, Calif. (Soft, delicious and very very tasty. )
3. Katz’s Deli in New York, New York (Tasty but touristy. Also very expensive. Slightly overrated.)
4. Eisenberg’s in New York, New York (You either get it or you don’t.)
5. Ben’s Kosher in New York, New York (A staple of the NYC garment center.)

Ben's Kosher in New York's Garment Center c. today.
Slyman’s sandwich photo via

Comments on “Important Shit: Corned Beef Sandwiches

    Blues by Five on December 22, 2010 7:03 PM:

    Know of any joints in VA that offer a mean corned beef sandwich?

    Ben on December 22, 2010 7:18 PM:

    Wow! Slyman’s. I use to live at 38th and Lakeside. Love those guys. Haven’t been able to get there in years. They still have all the 3 stooges stuff?

    Ben on December 22, 2010 7:20 PM:


    Paul on December 22, 2010 7:52 PM:

    The closest thing we have to this in central Florida is Toojay’s in Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, and The Villages. They have great potato pancakes too!

    Marc on December 22, 2010 8:08 PM:

    Up here in Montreal we have “smoked meat” sandwiches that definitely give Katz’s a run for its money. Schwartz’s and The Main on St-Laurent, and Lester’s on Bernard are all worth a look if you’re ever in town..

    Matthew on December 22, 2010 8:25 PM:

    I think the corned beef at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, MI, might knock everyone on your list down a spot. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by the deli or Zingerman’s Roadhouse for some world-class everything. :)

    Michael on December 22, 2010 8:42 PM:

    Point No. 1; Corned Beef: I have to give you crazy props for Eisenberg’s. Place feels like Popeye Doyle’s gonna kick in the door and rough you up. The best.

    Point No. 2; Beef I got with that 1st pic: Is that a cherry Coke? Get a Cel-Ray, dummy.

    DS on December 22, 2010 8:47 PM:

    I’ll back the cherry coke. Cel-ray is kind of gnarly.

    iamamoody1 on December 22, 2010 9:04 PM:

    Carl’s Deli – St Louis Mo. Corned beef and a Fitz’s rootbeer.

    Luke on December 22, 2010 9:09 PM:

    Manny’s Deli in Chicago.

    Jonas on December 22, 2010 9:29 PM:

    Market Corned Beef in Seattle. Unreal sandwich. It will hurt if you eat it all.

    Will on December 22, 2010 9:59 PM:

    I have to say that Montreal smoked meat (Schwartz’s) beats any corned beef. Add a side poutine for the full french Canadian treatment!

    TMH on December 22, 2010 11:33 PM:

    Lipitor is def in our future

    William on December 22, 2010 11:58 PM:

    Montreal smoked meat. Hands down.

    Dave on December 23, 2010 12:45 AM:

    I’ve only been to Katz’s, but it was out of this world delicious and it’s my gold standard for deli sandwiches. It’s been hard to find a place near Boston, but Kelly’s is alright. I’m sure there are places near Boston I don’t know about, any tips?

    Robin Masters on December 23, 2010 2:05 AM:

    Hey, excuse my neophyte question but what’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami?

    evencleveland on December 23, 2010 2:23 AM:

    I used to work at a law firm on Public Square and we’d get Slyman’s corned beef on the first Wednesday of the month. Glory days.

    t.SC on December 23, 2010 5:31 AM:

    Thanks for the heads up. I can’t wait to check some of these out on my next visit from the UK.

    Paul C. on December 23, 2010 6:58 AM:


    Pastrami is smoked corned beef.

    Brendan on December 23, 2010 7:55 AM:

    In Boston: Sam LaGrassa’s.

    Jim on December 23, 2010 8:40 AM:

    Famous 4th Street Deli in Philly gets it done right, gotta say.

    aaron on December 23, 2010 9:35 AM:

    carnegie deli is better than katz’s

    deusdiabolus on December 23, 2010 10:39 AM:

    BluesByFive: There was a really great deli in the Carytown section of Richmond, VA. I believe it was New York Deli ( There’s also Coppola’s Deli ( I think I ate at both, but I believe I went to New York Deli a little more often.

    Brian on December 23, 2010 10:57 AM:

    I second LaGrassa’s in Downtown Crossing. Place is a revelation for corned beef, pastrami, and their Cuban is remarkable. If you are ever in Worcester, check out Maury’s on Main Street. They make evrrything on site. Get the Rueben with sauerkraut or the Alexander with cole slaw.

    Steve on December 23, 2010 11:04 AM:

    I second Manny’s in Chicago.

    Conquistahore on December 23, 2010 11:06 AM:

    The Dubliner in DC whips up a pretty nice hot corned beef sandwich.

    ML on December 23, 2010 11:38 AM:

    Carnegie and Famous 4th Street for sure.

    Thom on December 23, 2010 11:49 AM:

    No love for Montreal?

    Gina Americana on December 23, 2010 12:13 PM:

    Nice photos! Makes me hungry as I face the Christmas table in Sweden, which consists mostly of pork & sea life.

    JonIndiaâ„¢ on December 23, 2010 12:34 PM:


    kevin on December 23, 2010 12:38 PM:

    Rein’s Deli in Vernon CT and Springfield MA, same types of sandwiches and delish!!!

    cam on December 23, 2010 1:03 PM:

    you must hit langer’s in LA for pastrami.

    best in the country, according to the new yorker

    MR on December 23, 2010 2:16 PM:

    a montreal jewish delicatessen in brooklyn

    arthur on December 23, 2010 2:41 PM:

    Cheese and Corned Beef? Its like only fastening the bottom button on a 3 button jacket…you can but it’s just wrong.

    Michael Williams on December 23, 2010 2:42 PM:

    Arthur — I agree with you. And as you will notice, I didn’t take the top photo, nor did I eat that sandy.

    Andy F. on December 23, 2010 3:05 PM:

    Agree with Marc and Will–Having grown up in Montreal, there was was nothing better than hitting up Schwartz’s right after a Canadiens hockey game. I will be there over the holidays and will be ordering a lean platter, cherry coke, and fries.
    See trailer of film by Garry Beitel about one of Montreal’s greatest institutions-
    If you can’t make it up North, Mile End in Bklyn is outstanding.

    Jason on December 23, 2010 3:13 PM:

    Who the fuck goes to Katz’s and DOESN’T get pastrami? You wear your non-native non-Jewish New York badge proudly Mr. Williams.

    bmackintosh on December 23, 2010 3:21 PM:

    I have only been to Katz’s as well and cannot imagine a better hot pastrami. Also I love their matzo ball soup. The place seemed mostly filled with locals.

    DM on December 23, 2010 4:19 PM:

    Gotta go with the hot pastrami from Canter’s in L.A.

    Michael Williams on December 23, 2010 4:24 PM:

    Jason — have you ever seen me? How do you know I don’t get both? Lord knows I look like I ate two sandwiches. And as far as being a native New Yorker, now that is something I don’t ever hope to be. I’m glad its not starting to show.

    P.S. Try not to be such an asshole.

    Max on December 23, 2010 5:57 PM:

    Michael’s Deli in Boston (technically Brookline)
    Best food period.

    OhioHead on December 23, 2010 6:16 PM:

    Love Slyman’s (cash only sucks though)!

    Have you ever tried Izzy’s in Cincinnati? They have great potato pancakes….

    Laurence on December 23, 2010 6:33 PM:

    Cheese on corned beef? Oy vey!

    Billy on December 23, 2010 7:03 PM:

    Ok guys, here’s some Montreal smoked meat love.

    mark on December 23, 2010 8:24 PM:

    second ave deli ( not on 2nd ave anymore) but @ 33rd and lex or somethng gives katz a run for the money. sliced thinner and no mishugas with tickets and jockeying for a table.

    Michael u should try.

    JDG on December 23, 2010 9:42 PM:

    Another shout out for Zingermann’s inn Ann Arbor.

    Eric S. Raymond on December 23, 2010 9:55 PM:

    Koch’s Deli at 43rd and Locust in Philadelphia, just west of the UPenn campus. According to my Jewish friends in college it’s the best anywhere outside of Brooklyn, and their corned-beef special is astonishingly good (wash it down with ginger beer). Have since eaten at fine delis all over the U.S. and not found better, though a handful of top-flight places in New York are as good.

    Jacob B on December 24, 2010 1:57 AM:

    Slyman’s is king. Thank you to Botnick for introducing me to this fine establishment last summer.

    lxbkr on December 24, 2010 2:16 AM:

    Primanti Bros. Strip District Pittsburgh. A few more ingredients on this one, corned beef, stacked high with cole slaw and fresh cut fries, way better than just the greasy slab you get at Katz’s.

    Robin Masters on December 24, 2010 2:59 AM:

    Deli’s are pretty rare this side of the Atlantic Ocean… what are the good spots in Europe?

    vmg2 on December 24, 2010 9:51 AM:

    you need to include some Chicago joints in this list: perry’s and manny’s.

    Ian on December 24, 2010 10:14 AM:
    xcubbies on December 24, 2010 12:31 PM:

    Disagree. Katz’s fits meets its reputation. The handcut sandwiches are in their own category.

    brad on December 24, 2010 1:11 PM:

    The New York Deli in Seattle (close to University District?) is fantastic..

    I even let the disgusting sour pickles go – bc their sandwhiches are terrific. Anyone have top-of-mind insight on where it is the sour pickles orginated? versus dill? And did anyone think they were about to get food poisoning after trying one (when, like me, they didnt realize there was such a thing as sour pickle )

    Jason on December 24, 2010 4:04 PM:

    I went to Schwartz’s during my bachelor up in MTL a few months ago and while the food was really good by regular standards, it just felt like a bad Xerox of a Katz’s meal (smoked meat < Katz' pastrami, fries = meh, wack ass fake black cherry soda doesn't hold a candle to Dr Browns).

    Kevin on December 24, 2010 5:59 PM:

    Shapiros in Indianapolis. Been here since before the Great War (thats ww1 for you younger folks). Looks like the other great sandwiches you have pictured. I like the combo myself. 1/2 corned beef, half pastrami. Also, their reuben is to die for.

    Eli on December 24, 2010 11:11 PM:

    Ha, who knew one of the most commented posts would be on a sandwich? I love it!

    Kenyan on December 25, 2010 11:21 AM:

    Sadly I’m a pulled pork type of guy….

    Wesley Verhoeve on December 26, 2010 11:51 AM:

    I will second Mile End in Brooklyn, which in my humble opinion destroys Katz, especially if you take into account the pricing and original flavors.

    Hallock on December 26, 2010 3:38 PM:

    Another shout for ZIngerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor.

    Shane on December 26, 2010 9:14 PM:

    please do not put greenblatt’s in top 5 Michael! Have you been to Langer’s? If not hold out on next years list until you have.

    barry on December 27, 2010 11:39 AM:

    I eat at greenblatt’s once a week. It is damn good. I think it is the combo of the meat and their double baked rye that makes it awesome

    Bill on December 27, 2010 12:14 PM:

    Langer’s is a sad excuse for a deli. West coast people have no idea about this kind of stuff.

    Slyman’s, however, destroys. This is the one thing that NYC doesn’t have on CLE.

    Stanley on December 28, 2010 2:18 PM:

    I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life and have never been to Perry’s. Very excited about going now. Manny’s is solid. I still think it is second to Katz. Just for kicks, gotta throw two Italian delis out there. Bari on Grand Ave and Fontano’s on Taylor. Sub style but are great places to get sandwiches. Both are old school Italian style grocers with delis in back and old men hanging out.

    cam on December 29, 2010 9:22 PM:

    if the new yorker prints langer’s as the best sandwich in the country, i’m pretty sure they’re doing something right.

    i grew up on manny’s and langer’s is the dividing line between my mother and i.

    sure, save the deli’s is all up on their jock but with good reason. LA is a pastrami town my friend. canter’s, not so much but if okie dog sells it with hotdogs and cheese in a tortilla, LA is pastrami king.

    andrew on December 30, 2010 10:44 AM:

    I live in Chicago, have tried the pastrami sandwiches here and in NYC, but I dream about Montreal smoked meat. The best.

    Omdroparebop on December 31, 2010 12:39 AM:

    Well, Slyman’s of course. And don’t hold up the line.
    You belly up to the counter and say “one SMURF please.” Then keep moving.
    And never, ever go there on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s for amateurs.

    Grant Gorton on January 3, 2011 10:32 AM:

    If you’re in Pittsburgh, this is the place to go:

    léo on January 4, 2011 6:44 AM:

    putain c’est crade.

    paanta on January 4, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Zingerman’s’ absence from your list is a damn shame.

    Zings is overrated, of course. It’s not the greatest restaurant in the world. It is, however, the greatest *deli* in the world. :)

    jj on January 4, 2011 4:36 PM:

    That shit looks good. I wish I had some money and a way down town.

    MichiganMike on January 10, 2011 9:04 PM:

    Living in lower Michigan, and dating a girl from the Big City of Detroit in 1970, I stumbled across a GREAT corned beef sandwich at a small deli in the ‘burbs and would occasionally look it up every few years. Someone said to try Zingermans in AnnArbor….It’s half as far away, and the day I walked in, I was looking at the HUGE hand written menu on the wall,looking slightly confused. They asked what I was looking for ..I said, Corned Beef on Rye, coleslaw and thousand Island dressing????? Oh, he said, that’s the “Mike’s Special”
    WOW. that’s MY name ! It was great, just as good as the other place.
    Now that I’m thinking of it, I’ve gotta make the drive over there.

    david himel on January 17, 2011 3:13 AM:

    Probably a bit late to weigh in on this conversation but a few points: To be a deli …technically kosher…therefore no milk with meat…i.e. at a deli there is no cheese. That would be a dairy (blintz latke etc..) ok that point aside. I have travelled the world in search of deli’s because since the 1970s they have been in decline. The first test you have to ask is: do they make their own meat. Many delis are just sad remnants of the original owners and are goyish mass meat sellers of commercial grocery store product. So if they make the meat then they can be rated. Second…you really cant compare corned beef, pastrami and smoked meat…each is its own…third…you have to throw in pickled tongue if you are a good jew. Forth…the rye bread and mustard are a huge difference…few cities have a good rye bread bakery left…So that being said…Carnagies is big..Katz is good, Canters is cool, langers is better…Schwartz’ is the canadian dream of smoked meat (fat of course) as for cleveland I have never been but I am sure they make more then old warehouses there…toronto has Panzers..(the only old one left) and caplansky (new one he makes smoked meat…went to high school with him). A real deli should be very plain..smallish menu…I would say Scwartz’s is extreme because they really only care to serve smoked meat…Canters is over the top…and once you put milk products in your deli you aint a deli.

    david himel on January 17, 2011 3:14 AM:

    oops slip of the brain…pancers…lol not panzers

    J David Petruno on January 17, 2011 2:59 PM:

    Everyone knows the best sandwiches are at DEFONTE’S in Red Hook (Brooklyn). I heard they opened at store in Manhattan, but I’d only go the original

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