With all this global climate chaos, it almost seemed weird that summer arrived perfectly on schedule this year. The first truly hot, sticky, muggy days of the year came over Memorial Day weekend the way the lord intended when He created barbeques, day games, and ice cream trucks. And while summer means boiling apartments and gushing fire hydrants in the more densely populated parts of New York, it means sun tan lotion, body surfing, and the 101 Deli in the best corner of Queens.
Rockaway Beach is known to the thousands of cops and firefighters who live on that sandy peninsula as the Irish Riviera. But for the next few months, more than just Irishmen will be splayed out on the sand or strolling down the boardwalk. Rockaway Beach is where the A train ends. It is where Flatbush Avenue takes you if you care to follow it to its termination. It is where New Yorkers go to the beach when they’re sick of the crowds and the trash in Coney Island. And Rockaway Beach is where you find the 101 Deli.
The 101 Deli makes a number of things very well, including toasted ravioli and buffalo wings. They also sell their Boar’s Head pickles out of barrels so you can choose your own, a concept that is near and dear to my heart as a former Guss pickle man. But a trip to the 101 Deli without picking up at least one hero is like going to Rockaway without putting your feet in the sand.
There are deli sandwiches in New York, and then there are deli sandwiches. The 101 Deli is one of the few delis in the city that bakes its own bread, so that alone means they are at least as good as Subway. The 101 makes a mean egg salad or turkey breast hero, but their best sandwiches can always be found on the specials board. If you luck out, you’ll go on a day when they’re serving their filet of sole hero, a sandwich filled with such delicate and expertly fried fish it seems more like a dish from Pearl Oyster Bar than a corner deli. You might get the chicken cutlet with roasted peppers smothered in gobs of melted mozzarella or the roast beef doused in gravy on garlic bread. Whatever the special is the day you go, take my advice as The Hungry Cabbie and order it. While you eat as much of your massive sandwich as you can on the boardwalk or on the beach, take a moment to appreciate summer in Rockaway, because if this global climate chaos gets out of hand, Rockaway will be the first to wash away.
10016 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Far Rockaway, NY 11694-2840, (718) 634-1121