A midtown Manhattan institution is entering its last few months, with crowds of people figuring to jam Carnegie Deli every day before it closes for good at the end of 2016. Even though there are two licensed versions of the restaurant that will remain open, the original that first opened in 1937 will shut its doors for reasons that really have nothing to do with the quality of the food served.
Marian Harper Levine, the 65-year-old owner, is claiming fatigue when asked why she was closing the restaurant. Since she owns the building and has no interest in selling it to many interested buyers, there are really no options for someone to simply take over daily operations.
One of the criticisms of the Deli is that it’s been surviving on its reputation for the past few decades, with plenty of visiting tourists to pick up the slack on any local dropoff. The problem locally is that awareness among the growing millennial population appears to have dropped off considerably. That type of demographic component may have been seen as a litmus test for success down the road. Finally, increased prices have also been cited by some, yet the overall quality of the food remains.
People in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas, the two locations that remain open, will still be able to sample some of those classic foods. These include one-pound sandwiches made up of either corned beef, pastrami or a variety of other meats. A number of Jewish foods have helped ingrain the restaurant in the American psyche, including potato pancakes, lox, chopped chicken livers and matzoh ball soup.
One of the restaurant’s marketing lines is that they’ve made a mistake if a customer can finish such sandwiches. The cheesecake pieces would also fit into the mammoth category, tipping the scales at a full pound.
Meanwhile, one other marketing gimmick tends to be more performance art that connected to culinary aspects. The restaurant’s waiters that are dressed up as if going to a wedding deliberately offer an abrasive approach to all those tourists, who fully expect it.