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$20 Dinner

$20 Dinner: Sacred Sandwich Space Eisenberg’s Reborn as S&P

Lunch Edition! A Flatiron favorite since 1928 emerges from its pandemic shuttering thanks to the Court Street Grocers guys

Glorious energy at the long front counter of S&P. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

First off, before we start lolling around in sandwich heaven, it's important to note that S&P, which the Court Street Grocers guys Matt Ross and Eric Finkelstein opened a few weeks ago in the long-time Eisenberg's space across from the Flatiron, is absolutely NOT some kind of evil hipster beardo Brooklyn takeover or whatever.     

Yes, the beloved lunch counter has been around for nearly a century, but there's been like seven different owners during that time, the last of whom, hotel heir Warren Chiu, trademarked the name Eisenberg's, closed it down in 2021 after just three years of service (and a failed attempt at turning it into a chain), and skipped town. And when the place first opened back in 1928? The name on the sign outside said S&P. Full circle, baby!        

The legendary tuna melt is as perfect as ever, $12 (Scott Lynch/ Hell Gate)

Still though, Ross and Finkelstein know how precious few spots there are like Eisenberg's left in this or any other part of town—inexpensive restaurants where you can wolf a good, quick meal at the counter or linger with a buddy at a table in the back. So despite a few welcome upgrades (the comfy banquette), there are even more details about the new S&P (the still-battered stools at the counter, the old-school sassy servers in the dining room), that ensure it feels like the last time you ate here, three, seven, or twenty years ago. 

Most important, there's the S&P menu which, even in its current "limited" state, is packed with a glorious array of all-time diner greats. There's a turkey club, a reuben, a BLT with mayo on white, an egg salad sandwich, a cream cheese and olive sandwich, corned beef hash, a stack of pancakes, latkes, chopped liver, a bowl of mushroom barley soup, salami and eggs... in its final form, there'll be nearly 100 different dishes from which to choose. 

The back room has a new banquette. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
The back room has a new banquette. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

I stuffed myself silly here late one afternoon last week (technically a “$20 lunch,” I guess, but I definitely didn't need dinner that night) starting with my forever Eisenberg go-to, the tuna melt. It was as perfect as ever, just a thick, rich, creamy masterpiece of four ingredients: canned tuna, mayo, American cheese, griddled rye. Fat pickle on the side makes five. Dip it in ketchup or mustard for six. 

Another pro sandwich order at S&P is the peanut butter (which gets all melty) and bacon (crisp and abundant), also served on rye. This is not a gimmick! Get it with some soup or, heck, with a chocolate egg cream or vanilla milkshake, and you have a meal suited for the gods.     

The regular cheeseburger costs eight bucks. It's nothing fancy, but it is delicious, an impressively juicy patty covered in American cheese, pickle chips, a squirt of mustard, and raw white onion for some bite. Big spenders can throw down four dollars more for the dinkelburger, which arrives gooey with muenster and a slab of pastrami. 

Cherry lime rickey, $5. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
Cherry lime rickey, $5. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Either way you'll want a side dish, like the circular cottage fries, or the macaroni salad, or the baked beans, or, the correct choice, S&P's potato knish, which is fried to a marvelous crackle and still fluffy inside. When I ordered this I asked for a crock of mustard and my server Ann was like, "yeah honey we know, that's how it comes."      

So basically, Ross and Finkelstein nailed it. S&P is a pleasant, energizing, extremely satisfying place to sit and eat, with so many appealing items on the menu that there's no way we're getting bored here any time soon. A woman who works next door to the restaurant, who preferred not to give her name, told us she'd eaten at Eisenberg's for 47 years, and has already been to S&P three times in its opening weeks.     

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"It feels really great," Ross told Hell Gate about revitalizing the space. "It's been truly rewarding. It's been a rough couple of weeks [dealing with the big crowds] but I think we've generally made most people happy. We just want to keep the place true to itself, be true to ourselves, be true to what people want, and that's the best we can do. It doesn't need to be a destination. It's not a theme park. This is a place that people can eat at."

Hell Gate total for two, including tax and a tart-n-sweet cherry lime rickey, but not including tip: $39.20 

S&P is located at 174 Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, and is currently open on weekdays from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and on weekends from 10:00 to 5:00. Ross said that early dinner hours, probably until 8:00 p.m., will be coming at some point. (212-691-TUNA) 

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