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.
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.