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Best Pastrami Sandwich Joint in SF?

kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 10:32 AM

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. Robert Lauriston RE: kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 10:42 AM

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


    1. d
      david kaplan RE: kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 11:00 AM

      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. m
        Munching Mark RE: kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 12:13 PM

        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. m
          ML8000 RE: kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 12:29 PM

          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
            Skunk2Racer RE: ML8000 Feb 13, 2008 03:15 PM

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

          2. d
            Deeg67 RE: kalikahuna Feb 13, 2008 12:53 PM

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

            7 Replies
            1. re: Deeg67
              Civil Bear RE: Deeg67 Feb 19, 2008 04:02 PM

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

              1. re: Civil Bear
                Deeg67 RE: Civil Bear Feb 19, 2008 08:00 PM

                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
                  Civil Bear RE: Deeg67 Feb 20, 2008 09:53 AM

                  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
                    sugartoof RE: Deeg67 Apr 28, 2008 06:56 PM

                    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
                      mrs bacon RE: sugartoof Apr 29, 2008 09:19 AM

                      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
                        sugartoof RE: mrs bacon Apr 29, 2008 10:03 AM

                        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
                          bbulkow RE: sugartoof Nov 21, 2010 08:43 PM

                          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. n
                nerdigrrl RE: kalikahuna Feb 15, 2008 08:25 AM

                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
                  Robert Lauriston RE: nerdigrrl Feb 15, 2008 09:05 AM

                  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. Lori SF RE: kalikahuna Feb 15, 2008 01:05 PM

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

                  1. m
                    margieco RE: kalikahuna Feb 19, 2008 06:54 PM

                    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
                      Robert Lauriston RE: margieco Feb 20, 2008 08:18 AM

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

                    2. Robert Lauriston RE: kalikahuna Apr 29, 2008 09:28 AM

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


                      Wood Tavern
                      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                      1. f
                        Fog City Kid RE: kalikahuna Apr 29, 2008 05:46 PM

                        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
                          virtualguthrie RE: Fog City Kid Apr 30, 2008 11:35 AM

                          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
                            baron45 RE: virtualguthrie Apr 30, 2008 07:25 PM

                            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
                            misspiggy RE: Fog City Kid Nov 16, 2010 01:18 AM

                            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. f
                            Fine RE: kalikahuna May 2, 2008 01:46 AM

                            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. s
                              SF Bill RE: kalikahuna Jul 15, 2010 02:21 PM

                              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
                                wolfe RE: SF Bill Jul 15, 2010 02:43 PM

                                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
                                  TopoTail RE: wolfe Jul 15, 2010 03:00 PM

                                  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
                                    wolfe RE: TopoTail Jul 15, 2010 03:57 PM

                                    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
                                    SF Bill RE: wolfe Nov 15, 2010 10:38 AM

                                    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
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: SF Bill Nov 15, 2010 10:43 AM

                                      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
                                        Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 15, 2010 10:54 PM

                                        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
                                        virtualguthrie RE: SF Bill Nov 17, 2010 05:54 PM

                                        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
                                          Melanie Wong RE: virtualguthrie Nov 17, 2010 07:31 PM

                                          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. v
                                    vulber RE: kalikahuna Sep 17, 2010 09:19 PM

                                    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
                                      zorrosf RE: vulber Nov 15, 2010 10:55 AM

                                      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
                                        SF Bill RE: zorrosf Nov 19, 2010 01:04 PM

                                        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. JBRTx RE: kalikahuna Nov 21, 2010 07:17 PM

                                      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. d
                                        Doctor D RE: kalikahuna Nov 21, 2010 08:15 PM

                                        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.

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