75 Years Ago on Seventh Avenue

Open-Faced Reuben.   Photo by: bryce_edwards "No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salade." -- The Stage Deli

Open-Faced Reuben. Photo by: bryce_edwards “No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salad.” — The Stage Deli

In 1937 a Russian immigrant opened the Stage Deli on Seventh Avenue just two blocks from Carnegie Hall.   Over the years Broadway celebrities and theater-attending tourists patronized the premises, consuming mounds of hot pastrami and chopped liver, buckets of Matzah ball soup, and plates of kreplach and knishes.  When I was a girl, my family drove from Cleveland to Brooklyn on school breaks to visit my grandparents, making the Stage Deli our first stop in Manhattan.

The restaurant was always crowded; the waiters, middle-aged bald guys, always brusque.  Studying the menu intensely, but ordering the corned beef on rye, I’d wonder about the well known and renown who were honored with sandwiches named after them.  I knew who some of them were, entertainers like Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, probably from television, but not much else about them.  Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris were venerated, too.

As times changed, new names were added to the selection. The Alex Rodriguez Triple Decker was made of turkey, chopped liver, lettuce, tomato and onions, while the Derek Jeter came with roast beef, turkey, and muenster cheese

Instead of an Ed Koch, the Rudy Giuliani Hero consisted of corned beef and pastrami and topped with muenster, swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing.

But even with Sid’s Caesar Salad going for $15.95 (add chicken or steak for another three bucks) or a Conan O’Brien priced at $22.95, it wasn’t enough to keep the Stage’s doors open.  Citing a downturn in business and rising rent, the current owner closed the restaurant at the end of November.

Five years ago the restaurant put out a poster saying, “ We are all so happy about our 70th anniversary, a waiter almost smiled.”  No one is smiling today.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


  1. Pat Narcisi says:

    excellent. I want to have a reuben for lunch but try to get a good one.

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