Carl's Deli Takeaway. My go-to in St. Louis when I have a pastrami hankering. Overloaded sandwich with at least half a pound of meat. 9.3 / 10 pastrami sandwich. 9.6 oz of meat is a behemoth. Not quite NYC quality, but close. Solid rye, mustard, and pickle. $11.95 for a sandwich pre-tax. Service is slow, so expect 2-3 minutes per person in line. Bagels for $1, but not fresh. Parking is a three-minute walk for free or closer with change. Tip: Bring cash to save 3%.
Update: Went back today, and it was as delicious as ever. The weight varies per sandwich maker, but it should be at least half a pound. Super friendly service.
Carl's Deli Experience Summary
Carl's Deli is the location of my first dad date in St. Louis, where my buddy and I grabbed a sandwich after the pandemic ended.
It's my favorite pastrami in St. Louis, but not my favorite sandwich overall; that belongs to the hot Italian beef from Blue's City Deli. I enjoyed the pastrami, my favorite deli meat, more than Protzel's in Clayton and Kohn's in Olivette.
The pastrami at Carl's doesn't quite reach the quality of my favorite pastrami from Katz's Deli in New York City, but it's definitely one of the top five I've had.
Both times at Carl's, I had pastrami on rye with mustard, the only proper way to eat a pastrami sandwich. My buddy had the corned beef but said it was dry this time. If I go back soon, I'd try the Reuben.
Service is pretty slow because they don't use an assembly line like Subway, so expect 3 to 5 minutes per person in line. Get ready to answer the follow-up questions on bread type and toppings to speed it up a bit.
Parking is easy. Right next to the deli if you want to use a meter, about a three-minute walk if you want to park for free.
To rank all the sandwiches I've had so far in St. Louis, The Hot Italian at Blue's City Deli is still my favorite. Carl's pastrami would be second, and the Italian at Vivola would be a distant third. The Hot Salami at Giola's would then be fourth.
None of those sandwiches are bad, and you will have a good time eating all of them; just depends on what part of town you're in.
Overall, Carl's in my sandwich rotation and where I go when I get a hankering for pastrami
The Food At Carl's Deli
Carl's has fantastic pastrami, which is my favorite pure deli meat. The meat is thinly sliced, marbled throughout, and fatty, so each piece melts in your mouth. The pastrami is kept hot, which is key.
While the flavor is excellent, the pieces are smaller than Katz's, so the mouth feel differs from my past experiences.
Carl's serves an overstuffed sandwich like they do at Katz's. I'm counting calories as part of a diet, so I had to estimate the size of this beast. I put it at 8oz of meat, which is roughly four servings. Myfitnesspal has Katz's pastrami in it, which clocked in at about 580 for the entire sandwich.
Update: Went back for an official measurement, and this sandwich is ginormous. 14.3 oz all in, it's 9.6 oz of meat, which puts Nomads and Protzels to shame.
Speaking of the entire sandwich, I get it on rye with mustard. The rye is thin and flavorful, and the mustard reports in at deli standard. Same with the pickle on the side.
However, part of the experience of eating this sandwich is getting messy. I might have a small mouth, but it seems physically impossible to fit the whole bite in your mouth the first time. So you're going to bite into half of the thing with some of the pastrami shooting out the side.
If you're not going to use two or three napkins, you're not enjoying the sandwich appropriately.
That means Carl's isn't the best for a job interview or if your tie needs to be clean for the office.
In addition to the pastrami, I got a plain bagel because I thought I read on the internet they were good. When I ordered it, every person behind the counter was confused about why I didn't want it toasted with cream cheese.
Turns out they are only $1 because they aren't fresh.
But besides being cold with an odd consistency, it was actually pretty tasty. Better than Thomas's at the store. 6/10.
Carl's Deli Atmosphere And Miscellaneous
The deli itself is small, and they're not fast, so even if it's a four or five-person line, it's gonna take 15 and 20 minutes for them to get to you in line. There are two people at the register, but they do everything by hand, and it's not an assembly line, so it's not optimized for speed.
You stand in line by all the meats and cheeses to get you hungry. There's also a fridge with drinks. They make the sandwiches one at a time with whoever took your order and they don't measure the meat, so every sandwich is a bit different. They told me they do up to 150 sandwiches a day, which seems standard for St. Louis.
Carl's Deli has maybe six tables inside and three tables outside with awnings. We try to sit outside when it's warm, which makes it a good place for a post-pandemic date.
A small tip is to bring cash unless you get 3% back from your credit card, as they offer a 3% cash discount.
Parking At Carl's Deli
Parking is straightforward You just have to park like a two-minute walk away up on a side street in the neighborhood. It's one-hour parking, so time your dad-lunch dates accordingly. And I've actually seen the Clayton parking meter people out checking on cars, so be careful.
If you want to park right next to the deli, there's always parking there, too, but it's metered on the weekdays. It will cost you 50 cents or a buck for an hour, and I don't carry change, so it's always the walk for me.
Carl's Deli Receipt
Sandwich Size Comparisons