Way back when, in the days before anyone could list their ten favorites sandwiches in Shanghai before running out of options, there was NYC Deli. They’ve been flying the flag for proper American-style sandwiches for, I'm told, more than a decade, and yet until recently I’d never made it down there. A couple of fellow culinary degenerates I know have been recommending them to me for some time. Recently, when I found myself on a dark side of town I rarely venture to (east of People’s Square), I gave in to peer pressure.
Prices are good. Sandwiches come with coleslaw and are helpfully categorized into “Regular” (100g of meat, in the RMB 45 range), “Mega” (160g of meat, mid-RMB 50s), and “Monsta” (220g of meat, in the RMB 60s). They also do a killer combo deal, which includes a regular sandwich along with a drink, a cookie, soup or chili, potato chips and coleslaw for only RMB 68.
If you want to grab a heavy, legit, guilty pleasure-style sandwich for such a friendly price point, it’s difficult to think of anywhere better.
On a couple of recent visits, favorites have been the Philly Cheesesteak and the Turkey Reuben. These things are gut-busters, rightly lacking in any finesse but with just enough attention to detail. The Philly Cheesesteak wouldn’t be half as good if they didn’t drop just the right amount of black pepper in the cheese sauce, for example. They’re bad news and they know it, the kind of sandwiches that make you pause between bites to sigh and admire them with a strange mixture of longing and fear.
I might have physically visited, but delivery is definitely the focus here. That’s reflected in the space – it’s dingy as hell. Old media clippings about the restaurant from expat magazines you’ve never heard of (Shanghai Mojo?) and old Yankees trading cards, discolored with age, are pinned on the walls. There’s virtually no space for seating. Even the deli’s little corner of the city feels forgotten; just off the highway, hidden behind scaffolding, filled with old storefronts that have seen better days.
It’s kind of the perfect environment for eating no-frills sandwiches like these. I dig it, but it’s not for everyone, and it’s hardly an atmosphere that’s worth a special trip. Fortunately, delivery is free within 3km and RMB 15 over that, if you contact them directly, and you can find them on Eleme.
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