A Sandwich Richmond Can Call Its Own

October 19, 2010

By Danielle Davidson
VCU Insight

RICHMOND, Va. — For decades now people in the Richmond community have found culinary nirvana at the New York Deli in Carytown, thanks in part to a sandwich.

It’s called the sailor sandwich and it goes back to some of Richmond’s involvement in WWII.

Made up of hot pastrami, knockwurst sausage and Swiss cheese, the sailor sandwich got its name thanks to a Navy V-12 program that was hosted by the University of Richmond in the 1940s.


The program trained young men for becoming Navy officers. According to current deli owner Demetrios Tsiptsis, many of
the sailors would often come into the deli to eat.

“The sailors
would get their money on the first and fifteenth of every month,”
Tsiptsis said.

“Some would go up to New York, some to Norfolk and some
would stay here. The ones that would stay in town would always come here
to eat.” 

The New York Deli dates to 1929. According to Tsiptsis, no one knows
whether the original owners named the sandwich after the sailors or if
the sailors named it themselves.

But one thing’s for sure. The sailor is just as popular today as it was 70 years ago.

The sailor sandwich is the New York Deli’s most popular sandwich. Tsiptsis said everyone
should know that the sailor is a true Richmond native.

“I think
that as people identify lots of cities with different sandwiches;
Pittsburgh has the Primanti Brothers sub, New Haven Connecticut is the
birthplace of the hamburger,” Tsiptsis said.

“Each city has its own
sandwich that it’s recognized for; I think people should understand that
the sailor sandwich is the sandwich of Richmond.”