Restaurants

New York City's famed Carnegie Deli closing Friday at midnight

Iconic NYC deli closes its doors

 

Would you wait three hours in the cold for a $20 pastrami sandwich?

For fans of New York City's historic Carnegie Deli, any wait is well worth it to feast on one of the restaurants legendary sky-high sandwiches.

After 79 years of serving up heaps of cured meat to tourists, theater patrons and busy New Yorkers, the Carnegie Delicatessen will serve its last ridiculously oversized sandwich on Dec. 30.

On Friday, the restaurant officially opens its doors at 8 a.m. but hungry sandwich lovers began lining up outside the restaurant in the pre-dawn hours.

"I came here yesterday, the line was around the corner, I said 'wow, gotta try it again,'" one Astoria, Queens resident told Fox & Friends of his first attempt to get inside. "Came today, happy we're 10th on line. Pastrami, awesome!"

Reuben fans have been lining up all week to enjoy their last bites at the restaurant, which got a star turn in Woody Allen's 1984 film "Broadway Danny Rose" and remained a stop until the end for out-of-towners seeking a classic Manhattan deli experience.

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Craig DeGregorio from Long Island, said he waited for nearly 90 minutes to chow down on its signature dish, a mountainous, $20 pastrami sandwich.

"I figured this was the last chance I was going to get to come here," he said, adding that the visit was also his first. "I really didn't mind waiting at all. The sandwich was huge. It took two bites to even make a dent."

The Carnegie, its walls now lined with photos of celebrities who have eaten there, opened in 1937, drawing its name from Carnegie Hall just a block up 7th Avenue.

Aside from the long lines out on the sidewalk (and unusually high prices), the place screams old New York, from its vintage neon sign, to the items on the menu: slices of cheesecake, knishes, tongue and chopped liver, and a $30 reuben.

Another patron dining in the final days, Donna Nevens, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, said she wanted to be able to tell her friends she ate at the "world famous Carnegie deli" at least once.

"It's a New York institution," she said, adding that she would likely be ordering an overstuffed sandwich of half pastrami and half corned beef.

The deli later named the sandwich after the director after he filmed key scenes for "Broadway Danny Rose" there. The deli has also been featured on several television shows, including "Law & Order" and "Dr. Phil."

Although the Carnegie has remained popular with tourists, New Yorkers these days are more likely to go looking for authenticity elsewhere-- at lower prices. And it's been a rough few years for its owners.

The restaurant reopened last February after being closed for nearly a year amid an investigation into a possible illegal natural gas hookup, discovered after a utility crew found a diverted line while they were investigating a leak.

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After battling a messy divorce and Carnegie server wage disputes, owner Marian Harper and her husband Sandy Harper insisted the closure has nothing to do with any of the family's personal issues. 

“I’m very sad to close the Carnegie Deli but I’ve reached the time of my life when I need to take a step back,"Harper said in September when the closure was first announced. 

“At this stage of my life, the early mornings to late nights have taken a toll, along with my sleepless nights and grueling hours that come with operating a restaurant business.”

The restaurant is scheduled to close at midnight Friday after one last day of service. 

Carnegie Deli-- and its mountainous, meaty sandwiches-- will live on at branded eatery outposts in Las Vegas, Bethlehem, Penn., Madison Square Garden and at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens, New York.

UPDATE: On Friday, New York City restaurateur Sammy Musovic, who owns Mexican eatery Selena Rosa, offered the Harpers $10 million to buy Carnegie Deli and stop it from closing. Musovic, a former Carnegie dishwasher, offered the owners $5 million in October. Marian Harper affirmed her decision to shutter the original deli issuing a statement to the New York Daily News , "Although this has been an incredibly difficult decision to officially close Carnegie Deli New York tonight at midnight."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.