Famed N.Y. deli takes bite out of prices to mark 50 years

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

new york (jta) | Over the years, the scenery outside the 2nd Avenue Deli has changed: Neighbors have left and the surrounding buildings have grown taller.

The deli itself has expanded, and its prices have gone steadily up over the years.

But time seemed to have been turned back on Monday, March 15, when the New York City institution, celebrating 50 years of business, served lunch at its 1950s prices as a hungry crowd lined up down the block and around the corner.

It was a throwback to another era: Sandwiches cost 50 cents, potato knishes went for a dime and a bowl of matzah ball soup cost all of 40 cents.

At one table, the bill for four strangers who met in line added up to $4. That included Stu Richel’s “splurge” for a soda, which cost 5 cents.

But it wasn’t just the prices that had patrons lining up in the East Village: Since it opened in March 1954, the 2nd Avenue Deli has attracted both tourists and locals for whom the traditional Jewish menu has become a favorite.

“Nothing has changed,” beaming owner Jack Lebewohl said, presiding over teeming crowds jostling to get inside and waiters hurriedly delivering steaming soups and sandwiches.

Steve Gluck, 51, a deli patron for about 20 years, said the food only has gotten better with time.

“I don’t eat here often because it’s too fatty, it’s loaded with cholesterol,” he said. But he showed up Monday, he said, because he likes the “flavor” of the place.

Inside, the tiled floors and photos of celebrity patrons give the restaurant a heimishe feel.

But it was the food that caused some to wax poetic.

“The pastrami was divine; the matzah balls were heavenly,” said Rachel, an actor who lives nearby.

“We’re not a nouveau restaurant,” said Steve Cohen, who has been the deli’s general manager for 22 years. “We’re a place where you come in and people are glad to see you.”