Flatiron’s cherished 1920s era sandwich destination Eisenberg’s — best known for offering office lunch staples like chicken salad sandwich and tuna melt — has reopened for business two months after it closed due to the state-mandated shutdown on dining in.
Located right across the street from the emblematic Flatiron Building, at the corner of West 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue, Eisenberg’s is the kind of lunch counter that Gotham was filled with in the 1920s, when this neighborhood stood at the heart of the mercantile city. All the fixtures at the sandwich shop remain intact, most especially a long counter closely flanked by twirling stools. Until recently, it bustled at lunchtime, when every seat would be taken by diners hurriedly munching classic sandwiches and slurping bowls of soup, before heading back to the office.
Then it all came to a halt around March 15, when I first noticed it had closed with the usual new coronavirus explanation posted in the window. Current owner Warren Chiu did not respond to multiple requests for more info. But now the famous 1929 sandwich shop is back, offering takeout and delivery, so I decided to revisit it as an old friend soon thereafter, by ordering a favorite sandwich online and picking it up.
As I parked my bike and went inside, my brown bag was ready for me on the counter. I was shocked to see the place entirely empty save for one masked employee; it was like a photo in a history book, the globe lights still glowing but the customers removed by some unseen hand. My choice was the tuna melt, a sandwich probably invented in the 1950s in some Greek diner, contingent on the earlier invention of the tuna salad sandwich and the patty melt, and functioning as a union of the two ideas.
I took my prize to nearby Madison Square Park and unwrapped it. The sandwich had been toasted in a sandwich press, so was evenly browned on the outside, making the white bread seem like brioche in a miraculous way. The cheese had melted and both slices of bread were still warm, while the generous layer of tuna salad remained cool. The entire sandwich was rich enough that I almost couldn’t finish it.
The menu at Eisenberg’s remains intact. Other things I’ve eaten there that I enjoyed over the last decades included matzoh ball soup, the plain pastrami sandwich, the celebrated egg salad with bacon, and even the peanut butter and jelly. Eisenberg’s offers delivery on Seamless, Delivery.com and UberEats.