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Pastrami in San Francisco

Marsha Dec 10, 2006 12:44 AM

Am going shopping and our usual haunts involve Union Square, Chinatown, (recently) the mall on Market, and environs. Any chance of getting a good hot pastrami sandwich thereabouts? I used to enjoy David's Delicatessen, but ever since they gave me a bare sandwich without even a slice of pickle, I've been bitter. Do I have a good alternative? I will admit, David's pastrami was awfully good.

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  1. p
    poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 02:07 AM

    Not really. I would suggest the California Street Deli at the JCC for good pastrami although that is probably not on your path. Only downside here is the portions are fairly small accompanied by a high price - but the pastrami is good.

    8 Replies
    1. re: poulet_roti
      Melanie Wong Dec 10, 2006 04:48 PM

      Can't really recommend the pastrami at JCC based on a recent lunch -

      Prefer Miller's East Coast West -

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 05:37 PM

        Hmmm, that certainly does not sound very appealing. I have never dined at the restaurant although I have twice gotten simple pastrami sandwiches to go and they were fairly satisfying. Funny thing about pickles is that I do not like them with my sandwich as I do not want to smell the pickle when putting the sandwich to my mouth. That said, I do like pickles but the smell of pickle juice on my sandwich is off-putting. Call me particular or peculiar...

        If I were to criticize the JCC, it would be the fact that the prices are inflated and the serving portions are rather skimpy. Also, as indicated, my experience at the JCC has only been for pastrami sandwich and nothing else.

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          Boythefoodtalksto Dec 12, 2006 03:07 AM

          Definitely Miller's, though again not exactly in your line of fire. Miller's portions are generous, price is right, and excellent skinny fries, to boot.

        2. re: poulet_roti
          Civil Bear Dec 10, 2006 08:02 PM

          Oliver’s (?) on the north side of Market btwn Van Ness & 11th has excellent pastrami.

          If you do not mind a unique take, may I suggest Memphis Minnie's on Wednesdays? They serve it with their mustard based bbq sauce, so I recommend asking for it on the side. The key is finding pastrami made from brisket rather than top round, and MM's slow smoked pastrami fits that bill.

          1. re: Civil Bear
            chipman Dec 10, 2006 08:07 PM

            Oliver’s (?) on the north side of Market btwn Van Ness & 11th has excellent pastrami.

            Are yousure your not referring to Quincey's?

            1. re: chipman
              Civil Bear Dec 10, 2006 11:18 PM

              Yes, you are right. It is Quincey's.

              1. re: Civil Bear
                ciaogina Dec 14, 2006 07:49 PM

                I'll endorse Quincy's. A more respectable pastrami sandwich for $5 can't be found.

          2. re: poulet_roti
            Lori SF Dec 10, 2006 11:13 PM

            I agree so far the only place in the area that does it proper

          3. l
            lintygmom Dec 10, 2006 02:41 AM

            House of Bagels (Park Presidio/north side Geary/15th.) Out of the way but good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lintygmom
              Melanie Wong Dec 10, 2006 04:49 PM

              Here's Chow_Fun's post from last month on the pastrami at House of Bagels in SF.

            2. p
              poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 03:17 AM

              I went in there the other day and it appears to be the type of pastrami that doesn't have much if any fat. I think that some amount of fat is critical to good pastrami. Thoughts?

              2 Replies
              1. re: poulet_roti
                larochelle Dec 11, 2006 12:07 AM

                Where is the "there" to which you refer?

                (Your comment seems to be in reply to the OP so at first I thought you meant David's, but its also just below the House of Bagels post so maybe you meant to reply to it?)

                1. re: larochelle
                  poulet_roti Dec 11, 2006 06:04 PM

                  I was referring to House of Bagels that I went into and seemed as if they had non-fatty pastrami.

              2. r
                rdean Dec 10, 2006 03:28 AM

                Try Moishes Pippic on Hayes Street in Hayes Valley. (http://www.fudcourt.com/moishes.html). It's the closest thing to a New York Deli that you will find in San Francisco. Excellent corned beef and pastrami (take it from this new Yorker).

                It's not much to look at from the outside (or inside for that matter) but the meats and sandwiches are outstanding!

                4 Replies
                1. re: rdean
                  JoyM Dec 11, 2006 11:52 PM

                  Moishes Pippic is ok, not great. They use packaged meats. East Coast West is much better, IMO, probably as good as you'll get west of the Hudson River.

                  1. re: rdean
                    Cynsa Dec 12, 2006 07:24 AM


                    The pastrami is warm and sliced to order. The half sours are crunchy good. It's Chicago, not NYC!

                    1. re: Cynsa
                      NoeMan Dec 12, 2006 07:30 PM

                      Interestingly, they have no connection to Chicago. The owner just wanted to position himself as unique and he came up with the Chicago idea and did his research. I'm a native Chicagoan and was asking about sources and trying to get him to add Vienna Italian beef and sausage sandwiches in there and that's when he told me he wasn't from there and never even visited until long after he had his place here. The dogs are pretty authentic.

                      Also, we never ate pastrami or corned beef in Chicago growing up because we had too much other good stuff. Actually Italian, Polish, Swedish, Mexican and German delis were as popular or even more popular than any Jewish delis I can think of. In Skokie (99% Jewish population), you'd have a different story, but in the city .....

                      1. re: Cynsa
                        poulet_roti Dec 12, 2006 09:26 PM

                        picture looks excellent, i am going soon

                    2. p
                      poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 03:29 AM

                      I've been in there and was underwhelmed and walked out. Perhaps I should not judge the book by the cover.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: poulet_roti
                        larochelle Dec 11, 2006 12:07 AM

                        Poulet Roti, once again David's or Moishe's Pippic?

                        1. re: larochelle
                          poulet_roti Dec 11, 2006 06:05 PM

                          I have not eaten at Moishe's Pippic but would advise against David's.

                      2. r
                        rdean Dec 10, 2006 06:06 AM

                        yes -- you have to overcome the 1st impression on this one. Great things don't always come in attractive packages...

                        1. Cynsa Dec 10, 2006 11:08 AM

                          At the Ferry Bldg: Golden Gate Meats has a sumptuous hot pastrami sandwich for take out.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Cynsa
                            Melanie Wong Dec 11, 2006 05:57 PM

                            Despite lack of love here, wichcraft allegedly serves David's Old World pastrami, same as Golden Gate. Reports?

                          2. p
                            poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 03:54 PM

                            Frankly, I've been underwhelmed with most of the product at Golden Gate Meats, save for the lamb sausage. Otherwise, I find their meat counter at the Ferry Building to be solid, but certainly nothing "over the top".

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: poulet_roti
                              ChowFun_derek Dec 10, 2006 04:20 PM

                              Have you had the Pastrami sandwich there? Is this your opinion then? They don't serve it with a pickle...but so far it is the most satisfying one I have had in the City...
                              David's on the other hand has been WAY below even average on every unfortunate visit I have ever made there, of all the bad deli in the Bay Area (and we have an inordinate amount) I would put David on the absolute lowest rung..for me it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever..... what's a Brooklyn Boy to do (go back to visit Katz's or perhaps a jaunt South to Langers..I guess!)

                              1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 04:30 PM

                                No, I have not had a sandwich at Golden Gate Meats. I only made the comment that I have not been overly impressed with their meat counter at the Ferry Building. I have had pastrami sandwiches at the JCC, East Coast West and Saul's in Berkeley - all of which I find pretty good. I prefer the JCC or Saul's due the fact that there is good fat in the meat which I think is essential to a good pastrami sandwich. How would you describe the pastrami at Golden Gate Meats?

                                Davids? I went there about 8 years ago and decided their was no reason to go again.

                                1. re: poulet_roti
                                  ChowFun_derek Dec 10, 2006 04:53 PM

                                  We are definitely on the same page about 'chewing the fat"! I always ask for my deli meat "not lean, nice and fatty"!
                                  At first glance the pastrami did not look promising at Golden Gate meats...it is in/at a hot table and it is all sliced already...however it was VERY juicy with nice pastrami flavor on what could be an Acme (or Acme type) deli roll...very crusty...surprisingly satisfying, but not in a New York deli traditional way...I don't remember a pickle...but it probably wouldn't be good unless it was from a wood barrel right there (In fact..why isn't there a pickle stand with all kinds of pickled vegetables at the Ferry Market? That would be a nice addition...)
                                  I went to try the new kosher sandwich place at the Embarcadero Plaza (within sight of the Ferry Building, but unfortunately it wasn't open...but it is definitely on my 'to do' list!

                            2. t
                              Trippingby Dec 10, 2006 04:26 PM

                              There is a new Kosher deli at the Hyatt at Embarcadero (near Ferry Building). Really Kosher. Basically just a sandwich place, some outside tables otherwise its to go. On a nice day, can enjoy the sun on the square.

                              Excellent corned beef. I haven't tried the pastrami, but it appears to be not too peppery (which I like in pastrami). They make their own knishes (potato or mushroom only) all day long. Closed on Saturday, but should be open on Sunday.

                              Its in the row of fast food places closest to Market, almost on the square.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Trippingby
                                Robert Lauriston Dec 10, 2006 05:51 PM

                                That's SF New York Deli. The knishes are tasty. The pastrami's lean, nothing special. I think the meats come in frozen and presliced so they can't cut you a fatty piece.


                              2. m
                                Marsha Dec 10, 2006 04:42 PM

                                Thanks for all this good information. I do like some fat in the pastrami -- the pickle isn't essential, but it shouldn't be omitted without explanation when it has appeared previously. It looks like I do have a few options to explore.

                                1. y
                                  yehfromthebay Dec 10, 2006 05:20 PM

                                  Though not traditional, Giordano Bros. on Columbus & Broadway serves a great grilled pastrami sandwich with Italian white bread, fresh cut fries and oil & vinegar cole slaw. Sounds strange? It's a take on Primanti Bros.' (Pittsburgh, PA) "all-in-one" sandwich.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: yehfromthebay
                                    david de berkeley Dec 11, 2006 05:06 PM

                                    I went to Giordano's the other day for the first time, and I was not too thrilled about the pastrami sandwich. I should preface this by saying that I much prefer steamed pastrami over grilled pastrami, but I've still been able to find sandwiches made with the latter that I like. That said, the sandwich at Giordano's had a very small amount of very tough pastrami. My dining compatriots enjoyed their steak sandwiches very much, however. In addition, I like places that have a fried egg as a sandwich add-on.

                                  2. The Librarian Dec 10, 2006 11:00 PM

                                    If you like some fat on your pastrami,you can buy (pretty fatty) Carnegie Deli pastrami at Costco (or at least you could about a year ago). I know you were looking for a place that serves sandwiches, but you could get this and some corn rye from House of Bagels and make your own. One of my late picky Hungarian father's many rants was that pastrami in the Bay Area was way too lean. He lived in Berkeley, so Saul's was one of his favorite targets!

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: The Librarian
                                      poulet_roti Dec 10, 2006 11:02 PM

                                      Thats interesting as I have not problem putting together my own sandwich at home. That said, the last time I was at Carnegie Deli was about 10 years ago and I do recall that the pastrami was extremely lean - without any fat. After that, only went to Second Avenue Deli or Katz.

                                      1. re: The Librarian
                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 10, 2006 11:18 PM

                                        I bought some Carnegie pastrami at Costco and it was too lean for my taste.

                                        I sent back an overly lean pastrami sandwich at Brothers in Burlingame and they made me a passably fatty one.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          Porthos Dec 11, 2006 05:22 AM

                                          Carnegie Deli pastrami is not that different from any other type of pastrami you get in a average deli. It's not what anyone from NYC would consider good pastrami. I had no idea they're selling that junk at Costo.

                                          On the otherhand, you CAN order Katz's pastrami online for delivery. Tastes great with acme bread.

                                          1. re: Porthos
                                            JoyM Dec 11, 2006 05:48 PM


                                            1. re: Porthos
                                              Melanie Wong Dec 11, 2006 05:58 PM

                                              Anyone had the Reuben at The Grove (Fillmore or Chestnut locations) lately to confirm that it still uses pastrami from Katz?

                                              1. re: Porthos
                                                P. Punko Jul 10, 2007 05:13 PM

                                                Carnegie deli is completely different that the usual Boar's Head style pastrami you get in a regular deli.

                                                1) It usually is obviously from a brisket.
                                                2) It doesn't taste like corned beef
                                                3) There is usually an obvious rub on the meat, tasting distinctly of coriander.
                                                4) It is not extremely salty but usually saltier than your usual neighborhood deli pastrami.
                                                5) There is fat from the brisket fat cap.

                                                The top four New York Delis for pastrami discussed by most people are Katz', 2nd ave. (now closed), Pastrami Queen (downhill alert for quite awhile now) and Carnegie. I've had pastrami at all of them. Katz's is good, but a different beast because they serve it hand carved, and thickly sliced pastrami tastes different than thin. Carnegie isn't even close to average, because average is essentially not even close to New York-style pastrami.

                                                1. re: P. Punko
                                                  Robert Lauriston Jul 10, 2007 05:26 PM

                                                  By "Carnegie isn't even close to average" you mean it's better than average?

                                                  The Carnegie-label stuff I got at Costco bore no resemblance to what I've eaten at Carnegie in NY.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    P. Punko Jul 10, 2007 07:41 PM

                                                    Robert- see my comment below on the Costco issue-

                                                    What I was addressing with Porthos' comment was what I thought was his referring to actual Carnegie pastrami. As for Costco pastrami, the previous incarnation (I discussed the two below), while a somewhat pale imitation of great New York pastrami, had characteristics that are never found on average deli pastrami- flavors other than black pepper, a ribbon of fat, slices obviously cut from a brisket, a texture different from that of generic deli meat, and flavors beyond the initial corned beef flavor, specifically some coriander and maybe some garlic and mustard seed. Given the spectrum of completely un-pastrami like meat available at deli-counters and sub shops throughout America, I would consider the previous incarnation of Carnegie Deli™ pastrami a lot closer to New York pastrami (in cut, rub and fat), than say Boars Head or Columbus.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                P. Punko Jul 6, 2007 10:53 PM

                                                They recently changed the cut (it says on the package)- I'm not sure when they did this, or even if you can still get Carnegie at Costco, but they switched the direction of the slicing and the package actually said last time I got it "new leaner cut"- previously it had been variably fatty, I would say slightly above average in fattiness but less than the fattiest. Now quite lean. The flavor is slightly compromised because the way it is sliced currently you get less rub, and Carnegie to me usually has a strong coriander flavor from the rub.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  walker Jul 8, 2007 04:08 AM

                                                  I tried Brothers pastrami sandwich the other day for the first (and last) time. It was tough, toasted bread was wet, thousand island dressing was bottled and only 1 kind of mustard available. I do really like the pastrami sandwich and assorted mustards at Max's Opera Cafe on Van Ness.

                                              3. The Librarian Dec 10, 2006 11:24 PM

                                                I guess that pastrami fat is a highly personal preference!

                                                1. h
                                                  healthy_obsession Dec 11, 2006 01:29 PM

                                                  I'll be making some sandwiches (we love Rubens (sp?)), so the chowhounds scored again with the synchronicity thing. Since I will get lost easily, I will try the deli at the Ferry Building. Any good breads at the Ferry Building?

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: healthy_obsession
                                                    Meatball Dec 11, 2006 01:43 PM


                                                    1. re: Meatball
                                                      healthy_obsession Dec 11, 2006 02:47 PM

                                                      Where is Acme? (BTW, that's the brand Wily Coyote used on the Roadrunner).

                                                      1. re: healthy_obsession
                                                        Melanie Wong Dec 11, 2006 02:54 PM

                                                        Acme is in the Ferry Building, which isn't all that large. Here's the map of the building -

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                          healthy_obsession Dec 11, 2006 08:35 PM

                                                          Thanks, Melanie. You and the other chowhounds are remarkable. See you around on the board.

                                                    2. re: healthy_obsession
                                                      OldTimer Dec 11, 2006 04:59 PM

                                                      Smart and Final carries two types of pastrami...each about $9.50 for two pounds. Very lean and very fat. Like Jack Spratt, I like the fat, wife likes the lean. The fat pastrami must be steamed to develop the flavor.

                                                    3. d
                                                      DavidT Dec 12, 2006 01:35 AM

                                                      I recall mention of market/deli (something like L&M) on 16th St.@Market/Church that was reputed to serve a good pastrami sandwich. I went there some time ago, but they were closed for vacation. Are they still in the pastrami business?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: DavidT
                                                        Melanie Wong Dec 12, 2006 01:48 AM

                                                        Here's the Pastrami chowdown (July) report for M&L Market (aka May's) -

                                                        1. re: DavidT
                                                          mrs bacon Dec 13, 2006 10:38 PM

                                                          When I tried it last spring, they seemed very surprised that I didn't want and lettuce, tomatoes, etc. on my pastrami sandwich, which is just not a good sign for me. The bread was really average. I haven't been back.

                                                          I do enjoy the pastrami sandwich at AK subs (on Clement and also South of Market -- Harrison?).

                                                        2. p
                                                          poulet_roti Dec 13, 2006 07:52 PM

                                                          So I just went to Moishe's Pippic for lunch today. Had the pastrami sandwich, with fat, absolute plain and dry on toasted rye bread. Overall, a very satisfying experience. Pastrami was sliced thin to order, piled high, good fat content. Comparatively speaking, I would probably prefer going back here as opposed to the JCC or Millers on account of the simplicity and satisfaction with the sandwich. Now looking forward to going back again for the brisket on Fridays.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: poulet_roti
                                                            ChowFun_derek Dec 14, 2006 12:23 AM

                                                            Thanks for biting the bullet/pastrami for us..I'll look forward to your brisket experience...

                                                            1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                                              poulet_roti Dec 14, 2006 03:10 PM

                                                              Ahh, so let me provide the follow up. As the day went on, I realized that the sandwich was very very salty and filling. Nevertheless, lets face it, pastrami is salty. This was especially challenging as had to go to Joe Dimaggio's Steak House last night for a Christmas dinner as well. Altogether, some good eating these days.

                                                              1. re: poulet_roti
                                                                ChowFun_derek Dec 14, 2006 05:13 PM

                                                                So, the obvious next question.....How was Dimaggio's???

                                                                1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                                                  poulet_roti Dec 14, 2006 09:44 PM

                                                                  I guess you have to like steakhouses. Perhaps I am not a fan of huge steaks with a reduction over the top. I had an excellent porterhouse, cooked well, undoubtably quality meat, but I just don't get the steakhouse vibe. Service at the bar for a drink was very slow, Ceasar Salad had a thick gooey dressing that seemed to be made with mayo which was unnecessary. Appetizer of crab cake was okay, seemed more filler than crab. Additionally, the two TVs in the bar with ESPN broadcasting basketball somewhat diminishes from the entire experience. Overall, I'd say the place is probably pretty good if you like steakhouses. I just prefer a steak frites at a French bistro to the classic steakhouse steak.

                                                                  1. re: poulet_roti
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Dec 14, 2006 09:46 PM

                                                                    The place has a very suburban vibe to me.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                      poulet_roti Dec 14, 2006 09:50 PM

                                                                      Could not agree with you more. Frankly, hard to say that it was bad, but I just don't see myself ever going back. My wife likened it to Houstons - another place with a big time suburban vibe.

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