Schlotzskys give me a break, McAlisters, don’t even think about it, and Jasons, oh please. It’s not that these places don’t make a decent sandwich it’s just they are chains, and its impossible for them to provide an authentic deli experience. Sadly, these and other so called “delis” have become ubiquitous on the American landscape, and unless you are in a family owned, one of a kind delicatessen you will not have an authentic deli experience.
If its family owned, sells groceries, has a bakery, and makes sandwiches - its a deli. If it uses recipes handed down from the previous generation, its a deli. Fortunately, in and around Austin there are, to name just a few, Jewish, Italian, Mexican, and Thai delis.
Being a sandwich person, it's my opinion that there is no better sandwich then a corned beef on rye from a Jewish deli. Two slices of crusty seeded rye bread, piled high with thinly sliced corned beef is the true deli experience. I prefer my corned beef lean, with yellow mustard, but if you insist you may of course order the fattier meat, and use that fancy brown mustard. However, corned beef on white bread, never ever, and corned beef with mayo, don't even think about it.
Pastrami is another favorite delicatessen meat, just not mine. Interestingly, for many years I assumed that the word “pastrami” was an Italian word, and only relatively recently discovered that pastrami is not Italian at all, but a Yiddish word. Go figure.
There are, at last count, two Jewish delis in Austin. The one downtown where the action is, is Katz’s on 6th Street, and if you happen to go there on Christmas Eve the wait can be hours. The other option is MannyHatten’s on Resource Blvd, in the Gateway shopping center. When I need a fix of almost real deli food these places do the job quite nicely. Their food is good, and at MannyHatten’s they "import" their cheesecake from New York’s Carnegie Deli. How cool is that?
The best deli that I have had the pleasure of eating at lately is the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen in Philadelphia, and the only good that comes from me being in Austin and the 4th Street being in Philly is the weight I haven’t gained.