The story below is excerpted from our Sept./Oct. 2014 issue. For the full story download our FREE iOS app or view our FREE web-based digital edition today!
As we visit a restaurant or two as old as the magazine, we’re pleased to find the New Yorker clicking along as efficiently and deliciously as it has since 1957.
Given that the average lifespan of a restaurant is somewhere in the one- to five-year range, it was surprising to discover how many Roanoke restaurants are nearing or have passed the 30 or 40-year mark (with one, Parker’s Seafood, creeping up on 100 years). Deciding which old timers should be featured in this issue is difficult, but after conducting a quick poll of my friends, a frontrunner for favorite stand-by restaurant was, by far, the New Yorker Delicatessen.
Opened in 1957 and still going strong on every day of the week except Monday, the New Yorker offers up an array of traditional deli sandwiches along with down-home sides, impressively inexpensive cocktails and surprisingly delicious desserts. The interior doesn’t look as if it has changed since opening, but the playful mid-century New York decor – booths housed under a faux porch roof with arches separating each table, paintings of Times Square lining the walls – is inviting and sets the tone for what the Deli does best: family-friendly, quick service for an epic amount of food.
To start, I found it an imperative to test the New Yorker’s cocktails given that the road-fronting sign on Williamson so boldly proclaims them as a selling point. I wasn’t expecting much – a Margarita or Tequila Sunrise for less than $4 should only be so good – but was pleasantly surprised to find a rather stiff margarita at my table in less than five minutes. Not only was it made incredibly fast, but it was well-balanced, better than many I’ve had at full-on bars in Roanoke.
For beer and wine, the menu is limited but includes most Budweiser-type classic American brews, as well as Sutter Home wines for well under $3 a glass.
The sandwiches are a straight-forward affair: meat, meat and more meat. In fact, I found them to be a little over-stuffed, but I’m aware of how unpopular an opinion that is. Regardless, I hold nothing but love for the seemingly half-foot tall Reuben, a towering sandwich of corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing served on toasted rye bread. It isn’t unusual or unique; in fact it’s like every other Reuben on the market, but between the (at least) half-pound of sliced corned beef and the tangy rye the Deli uses, it’s by far the best Reuben I’ve eaten in the region.
If you’re more in the mood for a submarine sandwich, the New Yorker has you covered with no plate space to spare. Order a classic Italian or Rare Roast Beef Sub and you’ll find your plate impossible to find under the hulk of bread and meat and toppings. I like that instead of simply cold deli meats and cheese, each sub is lightly broiled before serving, allowing the cheese to melt into the entire sandwich, an effect which serves not only as a delicious touch but also as a bit of mortar to hold the whole thing together. I’m partial to the Italian’s spicy kick of pepperoncini peppers paired with Genoa salami, ham and provolone, but the Rare Roast Beef with Swiss comes into a close second – though you’ll only need one (and that one will likely carry with you into lunch the next day as leftovers).
There are sides to order, as well as salads, and if you’re in the mood for a touch more food (each sandwich also comes with a bread and butter pickle), I recommend the Baked Beans with Knockwurst. These tangy, Boston-style baked beans are topped with a healthy portion of sliced salty knockwurst with toasted rye on the side. As a side dish, it easily can serve a table of four with plenty to spare and is a great alternative to a bag of chips. Other sides, including the German Potato Salad, are a little more on the miss side of the equation. Although I generally love German potato salads, this particular version was overly doused in mustard and vinegar and was somehow soupy, not a particularly winning or appetizing combination.
Although it is nearly impossible to save room for dessert, ordering a slice of New York Style Cheesecake or carrot cake is an absolute must. The cheesecake is creamy with just the right amount of tang and, depending on the season, you can order it topped with blueberries, cherries or strawberries.
As for the carrot cake, it’s the best I’ve tasted in Roanoke – moist, slightly nutty and with a good slathering of cream cheese frosting on top. When I think “deli,” I don’t necessarily think of desserts, but now, thanks to the New Yorker, they’re at the front of my mind whenever I decide which sandwich to order.
The New Yorker Delicatessen is a gem in Roanoke. Not only does it offer a blast to the past with its traditional sandwiches and old-school ambiance, but is also home to fast, friendly service and a quality unlike any other in the valley. From cheese sandwiches and a bowl of vegetable soup to a German-style Sauerkraut Platter with sausages to their infamous monster-size Submarine, a self-titled “meal in itself,” the New Yorker has something to offer for everyone. Just be sure to bring cash, you won’t get out the door with any food without it.
2802 Williamson Rd NW, Roanoke