[Retro Roadmap] Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop in NYC: The Flatiron District’s Lunch Tradition Since 1929

Posted on: October 17th, 2013 by Beth Lennon 6 Comments

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop -- Continuing Fine Quality Since 1929. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
"Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop -- Continuing Fine Quality Since 1929."

In the hustle and bustle of New York City, it’s easy to rush past the unassuming facade of Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop just across the street from the iconic Flatiron Building. And in a city that changes its profile with each rising skyscraper, it’s hard to believe that this classic lunch counter has escaped the developer’s hand and continues to serve up homestyle meals as it has since 1929.

Step up to the counter and step back in time at Eisenberg’s. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
Step up to the counter and step back in time at Eisenberg’s.

Step in from the frantic pace of the sidewalk into the entrance of Eisenberg's and slip through a time-traveler's portal into Old New York City. A Glenn Miller tune wafts through the air accompanied by the clatter of restaurant china hitting the marble counter. The red vinyl stools stretching back as far as the eye can see beckon you to sit a spell and prolong that back-in-time feeling while ordering from the menu of comfort food staples.

Eisenberg's soup menu includes Matzo Ball, Cold Borscht, and -- on Friday only -- Manhattan Clam Chowder. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
Eisenberg's soup menu includes Matzo Ball, Cold Borscht, and -- on Friday only -- Manhattan Clam Chowder.

"There used to be a place like this every few blocks or so -- every neighborhood had one,” says Eisenberg’s owner Josh Konecky. “Now we’re the only one left."

Owner Josh Konecky says of Eisenberg’s, “You either get it or you don’t.” Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
Owner Josh Konecky says of Eisenberg’s, "You either get it or you don’t."

Konecky, who grew up just streets away from Eisenberg’s, has witnessed firsthand the rapidly changing face of the city. As a loyal regular of the lunch counter for many years and self-proclaimed preservationist, he knew he had to do something to save Eisenberg’s when it was rumored that the lunch counter may close. He is now only the fourth owner since the Eisenberg family opened the doors nearly 85 years ago.

When paying your bill at the register, you may spy this still-operating vintage phone. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
When paying your bill at the register, you may spy this still-operating vintage phone.

Sandwiched between a smoothie stand and a high-end jeanery, Eisenberg’s is anything but trendy, which was a conscious decision on the part of Konecky.

"You can go anywhere and get wraps and paninis," he says. But there are only a few places in the city where you can go and get a traditional egg-cream, pastrami, or classic tuna salad sandwich on white toast.

Eisenberg’s classic tuna salad sandwich -- just like Mom used to make. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
Eisenberg’s classic tuna salad sandwich -- just like Mom used to make.

While counter space is at a premium during the lunch rush of local workers out for their midday meal, better yet is to visit during the less frenetic hours between mealtimes. Then you can swivel on your counter stool while waiting for your bowl of borscht, pretending that you’ve slipped back into a previous era, when the Flatiron Building was still the tallest building in the neighborhood, and there was a lunch counter in every neighborhood.

Time stands still at Eisenberg’s counter. Credit: Beth Lennon, RetroRoadmap.org
Time stands still at Eisenberg’s counter.

Visit Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop
174 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010
212-675-5096

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Beth Lennon

Beth Lennon is the creator of the website RetroRoadmap.com. As "Mod Betty," she delights as the retro travel "hostess with the mostess," scouting out cool vintage places and sharing them with the world.

Pop Culture, Travel

6 Responses

  1. Suzanne McGillicuddy

    October 17, 2013

    I love escaping into spots like this one – especially since I live in the Bronx and work in Manhattan where so many big corporations and cookie-cutter chains are taking over every block.

    Thanks to Josh Konecky for keeping the tradition alive and to Beth Lennon for documenting great places like this on the RetroRoadmap. I’m happy to say that I’ve had lunch at that very counter with ModBetty myself :)

  2. Bedhead

    October 18, 2013

    An absolutely delightful series of articles. Thanks so much for helping to conserve these magnificent little niches of Americana, one blog post at a time!

  3. Lizzie

    October 18, 2013

    It’s like eating in a time capsule. Thanks for yet another great lunch spot.

  4. Michael @ Changes in Longitude

    October 18, 2013

    I love these stories about the lunch counters. Keep them coming!

  5. Paul Gurcules

    October 24, 2013

    Eisenberg’s is like a piece of living history. High praises to Josh Konecky for keeping going.

    Kudo’s to Mod Betty for sharing. Hope she is a regular poster!

  6. Richard Jarvis

    October 25, 2013

    I like these articles about lunch counters.

    Mod Betty – Please consider Happ’s Grill in Salisbury, NC Its in an old building that filled in a narrow alley downtown. They serve hamburgers, hot dogs bagged chips and bottled drinks. Nothing remotely fancy but a local institution.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/haps-grill-salisbury