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Best Pastrami Sandwich Joint in SF?

6 mo. ago I moved back to SF after a 5 yr stint in West LA. While PPQ, Burma Superstar and my other assorted faves have made my tummy happy...I just now was overcome by a wave of hunger for a big ass pastrami sandwich that would bring me to the brink of cardiac arrest while a grad student in LA. I'm talking 6 inches tall, greasy, yummy authentic jewish pastrami sandwich on rye. I wouldnt mind some chopped liver and gribenes on the side to go with it. Where do I have to go!?

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  1. Unfortunately you'd probably need to go to L.A. for that. Here's a discussion of various wannabes etc.


    1. If your standard is Langer's, you've been spoiled. My favorite local pastrami is at Golden Gate Meat Co. in the downtown Ferry Building. Their pastrami is cut thinner and is fattier and juicier than Langer's: it's a totally different style though also very good.

      Living in SF, there are four things on my cravings list whenever I go to LA : E. Hollywood Thai, K-town Korean, ramen, and Langer's pastrami, not necessarily in that order.

      1. While not a classic Jewish diner presentation, I have found AK's subs to be a good deal for the money...they have a location at 25th and Clement (decent meat counter there also) and one on Eighth Street (SOMA), that closes earlier...

        1. Oddly, you might try Lee's Deli with branches all over downtown. Will it be as good as Cantor's...no but it will be cheaper and they will toss on a couple of fist fulls of pastrami for like $4 bucks. If it's not enough meat, ask for more..another buck. Ask for it hot and it will be dripping with all that artery clogging goodness. Bread is okay. Might try Saul's in Berkeley. BTW, I thought Langer's p-sandwich was dry...too dry.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ML8000

            You probally didn't order the hand Cut, FATTY pastrami....

          2. I think Miller's East Coast West on Polk is pretty darn good for pastrami (flown in).

            7 Replies
            1. re: Deeg67

              I believe the rye is flown in (half baked), but the pastrami is prepared in-house.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                Nope, according to the owner they get the pastrami from the East Coast. They do source the corned beef (never tried it) from a local family that's been making it since the 20's.

                1. re: Deeg67

                  Ah, I stand corrected. I remebering hearing something about the corned beef on "Check Please." I'm guessing they get it from Robert's Corned Meats on Bryant.

                  1. re: Deeg67

                    I tried East West yesterday, and the pastrami looked, and tasted identical to Boar's Head.

                    It also happened to be sitting in a case full of Boar's Head product, with a stack of other perfectly uniform pastramis (the corned beefs were the only naturally irregular meat there). I had asked before ordering, and they said the stuff wasn't the mass produced junk, but the flavor with what they served was unmistakable.

                    Maybe they did at one time import their meat, or maybe they use the Boars Head as a back up for when they run out each month, who knows....maybe they just mean it comes from a Boars head plant on the East Coast, since it originated in NYC?

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      That is a sad report, indeed, as I recall Miller's used to fly their pastrami in from NY.

                      I'm from the Detroit area (a secret excellent Jewish deli destination, and I'm familiar with the coastal gold standards of Katz's and Langer's. Finding good authentic pastrami here in the Bay Area is a bit futile, I'm afraid. I had some hopes for the sandwich at Golden Gate Meats in the Ferry Building after reading positive reports here, but it fell far short.

                      That said, I'm never unhappy with my pastrami at AK Sub. It's my go-to place when I get a craving.

                      1. re: mrs bacon

                        Luckily this is a great all around sandwich town even if they do fall short on a stripped down classic Pastrami on Rye, where there's nothing masking the meat, or even just Jewish style deli.

                        I've never tried AK Sub, but I was raised on Submarine Center. Who knows what kind of meat they use, because it doesn't even matter once they get done with it!

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          The meat the the refuge is kind of "different", it's melt in the mouth but doesn't have that pastrami spice & fat. When I get the craving, I actually go to Togo's.

              2. David's Delicatessen
                474 Geary St
                San Francisco, CA 94102-1223

                I forget how fatty the pastrami is here, but the sandwiches were piled high. They also have chopped liver, which my husband says is quite good. He thought David's is reminiscent of an East Coast deli.

                1 Reply
                1. re: nerdigrrl

                  David's is intended to be reminiscent of an East Coast deli, but Miller's East Coast West puts more effort into getting the food halfway right.

                2. Not like the LA standards of a few places but Marina Deli on Chestnut makes a pretty good one.

                  1. Morty's deli is excellent. Granted I had bites of a corned beef reuben but I suspect the pastrami is good as well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: margieco

                      I'm not sure that's a safe assumption. For example, Saul's corned beef is much better than their pastrami.

                    2. Wood Tavern's pastrami sandwich, while not traditional, is worth the trip to Oakland.


                      Wood Tavern
                      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                      1. Not being Jewish, I think the best Pastrami in S.F. is at Tommy's Joint. Van Ness @ Geary...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Fog City Kid

                          I just tried the Pastrami @ Tommy's the other night. I really liked the flavor but the meat was pretty tough and chewy. I got the end of the brisket so it seemed like maybe the piece was just a little dried out. Is it usually a little more tender? I would definitely recommend if it's not usually this dry/tough. I will try again soon and report back.

                          1. re: virtualguthrie

                            I occasionally get the hot pastrami sandwich for $5.50 and can never remember it being dry or tough. But perhaps I always get it at lunchtime when there is a higher turnover rate as compared to dinner time.

                          2. re: Fog City Kid

                            I too like the Pastrami sandwich at Tommy's Joint. I like the thicker cut and just the simplicity of the sandwich. The bread is what I find to be too chewy and hard on my jaw. Overall tho having had Langers, Katz, Millers and Saul's - Tommy's is not bad.

                          3. I grew up in a family of sit-down comics (it was hard to get through dinner if all my uncles were there without choking or falling off the chair laughing at the corny one-liners): One oft-repeated motto: Good (fill in the blank) is good, but bad (ditto) isn't bad either.

                            I don't believe that holds true for pastrami (or, I suspect, other cherished ethnic favorites). Plus, it's too damn full of salt, fat, and other awful-for-you things to bother with unless it's wonderful and on great, preferably corn, rye. Mustard is up to personal taste (I like untraditional Russian Sweet-Hot). I also want great half sours (half-cured dill pickles--made in salt brine withou any vinegar--to the uninitiated), and fresh cole slaw and potato salad along side.

                            I like LA's Canter's a lot but still miss SF's Solomon's.

                            1. Yes you're better off going to L.A. Miller's East Coast and Moishe's were dry dry dry. There was a place in Burlingame that was decent before they got awful and thankfully closed down. Tommy's Joynt isn't bad but there's something missing. Saul's in Berkeley uses Niman Ranch beef, has decent marbling and is actually pretty good. Otherwise, Max's is reliable although pricey. With any of these places you need to make sure it's not too lean.

                              Tommy's Joynt
                              1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: SF Bill

                                You are a little behind on the pastrami curve with Refuge, Orson, Minnie's and Wood's Tavern, mentioned above, as some of places now having good pastrami sandwiches. None, however, mrs bacon like the one I got a Modern Deli on I believe Fenkell(5 Mile) so many years ago.

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Fenkell? Are we talking Detroit? Damn, I'm sure I had lots of pastrami sandwiches there, but it's been too long. The only delis I can remember are one that was downtown on Woodward that we used to hit at 1:00 a.m. when we had the munchies and another that was near the Eastern Market, which we would hit on Saturday morning for breakfast before going to the market.

                                  1. re: TopoTail

                                    Darby's Boom.
                                    Modern apparently still there but currently closed due to fire. See Darby's above?
                                    "Though he told the instrumental teacher at his Detroit elementary school"
                                    If you say Hampton or Pasteur I'll plotz.

                                  2. re: wolfe

                                    You're probably correct about being behind the curve as my disappointment made me lose interest for a number of years. Since then tried Refuge and acknowledge it was marbled, hand cut, and quite good but it had a weird sweetness about it, was surprisingly expensive and the rye seemed like it was straight out of a plastic bag. Minnie's was interesting, kind of smokey but too dry. Orson's and Wood's are next on my list. At least it's nice to know there is renewed interest and places are trying. By the way, who put Tommy's Joynt's address on my 7/15/10 comment (it surely wasn't me).

                                    1. re: SF Bill

                                      Chowhound has an auto-link feature. If it creates a link you didn't intend, you can remove it, but only for a few hours after you post.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        The "remove" feature does not have a time limit. I just checked and the button still shows on posts I made weeks ago. However, some have reported that there's no "remove" link visible in their browsers at any time.

                                      2. re: SF Bill

                                        I tried Refuge once and I didn't get what all the fuss was about. I've had a lot of Pastrami, Katz, Carnegie and Memphis Minnie's unique take and to me good pastrami is characterized by fat that melts in your mouth and of course that nice salty, mildly smoky pastrami flavor. The Refuge just didn't do it for me, maybe it's worth another try but the fat just wasn't right and as SF Bill says there was something about the flavor that just didn't appeal to me, maybe it wasn't salty enough. It is quite expensive but if it were as good as Katz or even Carnegie (which some New Yorkers trash but I think they're just spoiled)I would gladly pay it again and again.

                                        1. re: virtualguthrie

                                          Here's a detailed update on pastrami at The Refuge.
                                          Something changed about a year ago, not for the better.

                                          The Refuge
                                          963 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

                                  3. it's not relaly trying to be authentic anything, but the pastrami at Deli Board is quite delicious

                                    Deli Board
                                    1058 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: vulber

                                      I've tried Orson, Wood Tavern and the Refuge. WT is way to salty for my taste and the Refuge is too far away. I'll just wait for my next trip to Katz' Deli.

                                      Wood Tavern
                                      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                      1. re: zorrosf

                                        I finally tried Orson and didn't like the fact the meat was grilled; it had that re-heated taste and was extra salty because that precious moisture was cooked away. I know someone else mentioned this and that should've been enough of a warning. Maybe I'm being grumpy because I was greeted with a parking ticket afterward. Anyway, the portion was generous but this is just getting farther away from what I'm looking for. The restaurant has a neat urban artsy look but don't get their pastrami.

                                    2. You might try Memphis Minnies in the lower haight. They make their own pastrami but only serve it on Wednesdays. Reuben is pretty good and the pastrami is hand cut so its a little thicker than most but a great sandwich.

                                      1. Your not going to find great pastrami here in the bay area. The only one I ever had that sent me back for more was Miller's East West Coast. I just buy the pastrami and make my own Rachel at home.
                                        Memphis Minnie's would be worth a try. I haven't yet because it's only done on Wednesday. I love a lot of their other beef and pork.