What is it that makes the best delis in the US? In my experience, a great deli is clean, efficient, and capable of producing various delicious sandwiches.
The best delis have some unique options on the menu, but with some time-tested favorites to fit different palates.
Delis are usually casual dining, so I don’t rate them the same way I’ll rate, say, a Michelin-starred dinner restaurant. I’m not expecting luxury seating and two hours of entertainment here. However, I am going to judge the meals themselves more strictly.
For delis, my ratings cover things like the quality of the bread and other ingredients, whether the meal is too dry or too wet, how easy it is to eat, and whether the flavors harmonize.
I also consider whether the amount of food is appropriate for the price, though most delis don’t have enough difference in price for this to matter.
Finally, most delis have a menu beyond sandwiches, but sandwiches are the focus. If they stray too far from that, they’re a restaurant instead of a deli, so the sandwiches are the focal point in my reviews.
If you’re looking for a great sandwich and more, check out these top-rated delis across the US.
808 S Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46225
Shapiro’s is one of the oldest American delis still operating, having opened in 1905.
It’s still a family-owned business, where for all practical purposes they’ve mastered their recipes.
Their prices trend high for a deli, but they also layer each sandwich with a lot of meat. I think that justifies their costs.
The Corned Beef is excellent here, and with good reason: they’ve gotten beef from the same supplier since the 1930s, and that supplier knows what kind of meat Shapiro’s is looking for.
Make sure to give it a try when you’re in the area.
Kenny and Ziggy’s
1743 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
A New York-style deli in Houston, Kenny & Ziggy’s mixes regular deli offerings with more contemporary cuisine.
They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with some exceptionally tall sandwiches that might take you two or three meals to finish.
However, what makes this deli stand out to me is the wide variety of flavors. They have everything from fresh fish (flown in daily from New York) to Mexican-style sandwiches, Greek salads, and more.
If you can’t find something to enjoy, you’re not looking at their menu. Quantity, quality, and variety in one place is a winning formula.
Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen
1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60607
What is it with the Great Lakes area and having good delis?
Manny’s is a reliable spot in Chicago with an excellent selection of hot and cold sandwiches, including beef brisket, sliced turkey, meatloaf, and tuna salad.
They don’t have many unique sandwiches but consider getting the Four Kinder sandwich, which has beef, turkey pastrami, regular pastrami, and brisket.
The rest of the menu is minor extras, including a few soups and salads. The menu isn’t nearly as long or diverse as Kenny and Ziggy’s, but the options here work well enough and are always done right.
I recommend getting a hot sandwich and eating in, as deli food is always best fresh.
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Operating since 1947, Langer’s in Los Angeles advertises itself as the home of the world’s best pastrami.
I’m not sure I agree, but they’re well above average. It’s also the centerpiece of their menu, with most of their hot and combination sandwiches using it.
Langer’s has other kinds of sandwiches, including turkey and corned beef, but there’s something to be said for specializing.
Other options on the menu include soups, salads, and cold fish, but I can’t see those as a reason to visit Langer’s over another restaurant.
No, this is a deli to visit if you’re looking for pastrami. Their sandwiches can be a little moist, so make sure you have some napkins.
422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I don’t think I would have found Zingerman’s if I hadn’t been visiting the University of Michigan, but I’m glad I came across it.
Half deli and half grocery store, their menu includes a wide selection of beef, pork, turkey, chicken, and vegetarian options.
The menu is not as long as others I’ve seen, but I don’t think the area has the population to support more.
If you’re visiting here, I suggest ordering Benno’s Birdie sandwich. It includes chicken breast, pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese on top of grilled bread, and it’s a solid flavor combination in a cooler climate.
205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
New York knows delis, and I’m confident of that because I’ve been to most of them.
Katz’s location, established in 1888, stands out from the crowd with its slow-flavoring method.
Like many delis, they highlight corned beef and pastrami, but their techniques can take up to 30 days compared to the day and a half most delis use.
The result is meat with a deep, juicy flavor that stands out from the crowd and explains its lifespan.
Katz’s place also offers thick cuts of meat on many of their sandwiches, which I enjoy as a break from the thinner cuts I see at many other delis.
If you’re looking for lunch in New York City and you’re near East Houston and Ludlow, Katz’s is a good place to stop.
335 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446
Zaftigs is a smaller deli, not as well-known as some of the other options on this list.
They lean closer to breakfast than many other delis, which often focus on lunch and dinner, but variety is always good in a meal.
They also have more vegetarian-friendly options than most of their competitors. I enjoy meat, but I appreciate delis that also try to appeal to others.
I particularly like the wraps here, which are rare in other areas. The roasted vegetable wrap is nice on colder days, while the grilled chicken caesar wrap has some unusual bagel croutons.
Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
700 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen certainly deserves its name. Operating since 1923, it has a solid menu of options.
They do most of their work in-house, including pickling the corned beef, smoking the pastrami, and baking their bread.
That gives them a level of consistent quality control that some other restaurants can’t match.
I love thick sandwiches, so I have to recommend their overstuffed options, which are exactly what they sound like.
You can get most of these in both regular and zaftig versions (which, aside from being the name of another deli on this list, means big).
The portion sizes here are big enough that you might be able to make two or three more meals out of one order.
1019 E Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Running since 1915, Attman’s is a discreetly simple-looking location in Baltimore.
There’s always something good about a deli that’s been around for decades, though, so I make it a point to research them and stop by when I’m in the area.
Attman’s has a good selection of sandwich options, with some options for roast beef, extra-lean brisket, and seafood.
Attman’s is also more affordable than many of the other delis on this list, although that isn’t saying much.
You’d spend more trying to get here than you’d save on the order, but it’s another point in the place’s favor.
They emphasize catering, too, so they’re a good choice for events in the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. areas.
Nate ’n Al; Beverly Hills
414 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
To be honest, I was surprised to find a good deli in the Beverly Hills area, although I should have predicted it.
Most people know it more for all the celebrities who live there, but there are plenty of visitors passing through who need a bite to eat. That’s where Nate ‘n Al’s come in.
The menu is relatively small, emphasizing Russian dressing in the signature sandwiches for a distinctive kick.
However, I preferred their honey maple turkey sandwich, as it’s sweeter than most other deli dishes and a nice change from traditional recipes.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
3150 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Wise Sons is a bit of a fusion restaurant, which isn’t the kind of thing I usually get to say about a deli.
Specifically, it mixes Jewish recipes with some California ingredients for more unique flavors.
The kimchi Reuben is a good choice if you want a spicier meal, while the double-stack pastrami burger has garlic aioli, red onion, and pastrami jam.
I think what I’m trying to say here is that Wise Sons is a deli to visit for an unusual flavor.
You can get standard deli food almost anywhere, so if you’re coming here at all, try something new and different.
1934 Macklind Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
Giola’s is another deli that’s easy to miss if you’re just passing by, and that’s a shame because it has some excellent options.
Make sure you get the garlic cheese bread with whatever sandwich you order, as that significantly elevates the flavor.
However, what makes Giola’s stand out is its focus on customizing sandwiches. While you can order the meat options standard, you get your choice of bread, cheese, garnishes, and condiments.
That variety is important because the overall menu is much smaller than many other delis on this list, so it doesn’t have too many options.
97 Hoyt St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Katz’s place is my favorite in the New York Area, but Mile End is also worth a visit if you’re in Brooklyn.
Their menu takes some inspiration from Montreal, with cooking styles and flavors that stand out from the crowd. Notably, some of their sandwiches have smokier flavors than at other delis.
Mile End does have a few dinner specials, but honestly not many, so stop in for lunch if you want to get the best options.
3106 St Clair Ave NE, Cleveland, OH 44114
Slyman’s is an award-winning deli in Cleveland so, of course, I stopped in.
They emphasize late breakfasts and lunch, but close on Saturday and Sunday and don’t offer take-out past mid-afternoon.
Slyman’s menu is short but has a solid assortment of beef and turkey options.
None of their sandwiches genuinely stand out to me, but they have simple recipes that they do well, and that’s enough to make them a top deli.
Remember: You don’t need to be fancy to be good. Good ingredients, used well, are the mark of a true expert.
Harold’s New York Deli
1173 King Georges Post Rd, Edison, NJ 08837
Harold’s is determined to call itself a New York deli when it’s right next to New York, which is an interestingly ambitious choice.
The prices are almost as high as their sandwiches, as many of their options are loaded and cannot be rationally consumed in one sitting.
They advertise themselves that some options can feed as many as eight people.
In that sense, when the price is between $10 and $20 per person, you’re getting a pretty good deal.
Harold’s also has a solid selection of non-sandwich menu items, helping ensure that there’s always something to get.
Kenny and Zuke’s
1038 SW Harvey Milk St, Portland, OR 97205
Not to be confused with Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston, Kenny and Zuke’s in Portland has a good selection of meats.
They’re not nearly as tall as Harold’s, but you’re going to get your money’s worth here.
Kenny and Zuke’s is another example of a location that has a small menu, but a commitment to quality with the sandwiches they provide.
Don’t expect anything truly unique here, but stop by if you want good food in Portland.
Roasters ‘N Toasters
525 Arthur Godfrey Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33140
Roasters ‘N Toasters is a chain operating in the Miami area, making it comfortably accessible.
I have a hard time rating any chain as a top restaurant, but like Kenny and Zuke’s, Roasters ‘N Toasters does a good job with standard recipes and offers a solid, if short, selection of options.
I didn’t see anything particularly unique on their menu, but their pastrami melt uses a nice grilled onion roll and has a pleasant amount of depth to it. If you’re not sure what to get, start there.