June 11, 2010

Eisbenberg’s is one of the oldest eateries in New York City, having served sandwiches and other delicacies to New Yorkers, both native and foreign, since 1929. They offer a variety of sandwiches, from simple PB&Js to ham & cheese; from classic combos to grilled sandwiches; from hot sandwiches to cold. You’ll find no wraps or Panini’s here. Unlike other sandwich shops, Eisenberg’s doesn’t bog their sandwiches down with fancy, useless names. These sandwiches are more easily identified by what is actually on the sandwich, making the ordering experience a lot easier.

On my first visit, I went with the roast beef, turkey, and cole slaw combo. I quickly learned that cole slaw should not be on a sandwich, or at least not on a sandwich that already has two different meats on it. The sandwich became slippery due to the cole slaw and the sandwich’s mayo. This slipperiness made the entire sandwich lose its structural integrity, causing there to be more sandwich on my plate then on my bread. Halfway through the sandwich I ditched the cole slaw so I could finish the meat portion and then ate the cole slaw with a fork. The roast beef was a little tough, I hit a rough patch of fat, but I forced my way through it and the sandwich was tastier without the cole slaw. Overall the sandwich wasn’t what I expected, but it also wasn’t something I was willing to try again.

Having read up on Eisenberg’s, ie, watched the episode of “No Reservations” it was in, I opted for their signature sandwich on my second visit: The Grilled Tuna Melt on Rye. I’ve been getting it ever since. I grew up on Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee, and this tuna tasted comparable to that. The sandwich has just the right mayo/tuna ratio and is topped with one slice of cheese. One slice of cheese means the sandwich isn’t overly cheesy. It also wasn’t heavy on the mayo, which means you’re able to taste the tuna and not the accessories. I think this sandwich reminds me of my youth and weekend lunches my mother would make. The sandwich doesn’t fall about, so you’re not picking up bits of your sandwich during and after eating it. Which is nice.

Could I make this at home? Probably. But it’s so much easier to have someone else make it for me.

Although I’ve never had it, I know that the corned beef sandwich is immense. They give you so much meat you could probably make a second sandwich. If you like affordable corned beef sandwiches with lots of meat, Eisenberg’s is the place to get it from.

I was disappointed in the Philly cheese steak. Not enough cheese, not enough onions or peppers, and not enough meat for to my liking. The meat was thinly sliced and neatly placed on the bread rather than heaped on. There wasn’t enough cheese to even call it a cheese steak. And I think I lost all of my onions and peppers to my plate (there weren’t too many of them to fall out to begin with). Also, the sandwich was tiny. I expect my cheese steaks to be on the ginormous size, with heaping piles of hot steak with cheese and onions all over the place. Not so here.

Finally, there’s the breakfast menu. I love egg sandwiches. And one day I will go to Eisenberg’s before 11 AM, sit at the counter with the New York Times, and I will relax with a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich. Until then, I can only fantasize about it.

For pure greasiness, the French fries/onion rings combination is one of the best sides on the menu. These steak fries are as thick as fingers and the onion rings even thicker. This fried goodness usually remains crispy even after a 10-minute trek home, but every once in awhile you get home with a mushy batch. It happens.

The staff is super friendly. A lot of their customers are regulars, people you’ve seen in newspapers and TV shows, and they do get their fair share of celebrities (as their web site can attest to). The cashier always greets every customer, regular or newcomer, with a smile and makes small talk, if she can, while you wait for your order.

It might not seem like it, but, overall, I like Eisenberg’s, I like the staff. I like the atmosphere. I like the variety. I found the one item I can order over and over again and not get tired of it.

Whether you’re a celebrity, an everyday New Yorker, or a tourist looking for a quick bite, they make you feel right at home as you sit and wait for your food. Like they say, “You either get it or you don’t”

Eisenberg’s is located at 174 5th Ave (www.eisenbergsnyc.com)