Carl’s Deli

2836 Observatory Ave # A,
Cincinnati, OH 45208
websiteCarl's Deli (Cincinnati, OH)5 stars

Cincinnati’s near east side hides a huge number of great little independent restaurants, whether they’re local bars, bakeries or pizza shops. But nothing is more under-the-radar that the quiet little delis that populate the eastern hills. Carl’s Deli near Hyde Park is the epitome of the under-appreciated art of the Cincinnati sandwich. Cold cuts, salads, soups and seafood can all be found here. A good local sandwich shop is so hard to find, but when you discover one like this, you want to hold on to it dearly. It’s got to be one of the best places for a cold sandwich in the city.

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The menu has a few dozen base sandwiches plus a number of other specials. You walk in to the tiny deli, order at the counter, and find a seat or take a walk in the scenic neighborhood to enjoy it. Some of my favorites:

  • Albacore tuna on rye: A good tuna salad sandwich, but the saltiness of the rye bread offsets the milder tuna flavor. This is a good one to grab a healthy side and take on the go.
  • “Joanie’s” Hot Crab & Artichoke Salad: Probably one of the favorites here. You know tuna salad and chicken salad — so how would crab salad taste? With artichokes, it tastes about perfect.
  • Jo-Mama wrap: This was a special that appeared over the summer that I really get a hankering for now and again. It’s a roasted turkey wrap that is topped with a herbed cream cheese and veggies. Light ingredients but filling nonetheless.
  • Cole slaw: For good measure, this side is my favorite of the options, many of which also come inside some of the sandwiches. Cool and creamy. Not filling but still packs flavor.

The sandwich shop is a bit crowded, I will say that upfront — the quality of the food speaks for itself. I would not expect to be able to come in during the lunch rush and get a table easily. Instead, this is really a place where it is better to grab a sandwich and go somewhere with it. But the service is exceptional.

This spot has been a mainstay in Cincinnati since 1938, but let me tell you, this spot is addicting. It’s the kind of quiet little shop that you remember and just can’t quit. You won’t want to miss a chance to come back.


  • Don’t plan to come in and sit down, especially during rush of lunch. The spot is small. Instead, might be good to take food to go.
  • There are a lot of bottles and beers to be tried in the back of the shop (don’t walk and drink a beer though, please.)
  • Absolutely grab some of those special sides to go along with the dishes. Many are made in house.

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