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The Refuge in San Carlos: REAL Pastrami and more!

The Refuge opened up on Tuesday. I wandered in for lunch today.

The sign on the front says "wine bar, pastrami, charcuterie." I had a Pastrami sandwich with coleslaw and russian dressing. It was simply outstanding. The pastrami was warm and moist yet not fatty at with great texture. It had the perfect amount of spice. It was served on a hearty rye bread that did a great job of standing up to the pastrami. The sandwich was a perfectly reasonable size: ample, but not overstuffed. Let's see if I can put it into perspective. The refuge's pastrami is to the typical boar's head pastrami as a hershey bar is to an artisan handmade truffle. Not in the same universe.

My 2 year old son, had a very tasty grilled cheese and fries. He liked it a lot...and I concur.

In addition to the pastrami, they have fresh ground american kobe burgers, cheesesteaks made from fresh sliced ribeye, a nice charcuterie and cheese selection, as well as soups and salads.

They've also got what looks to be a very well thought out wine and beer selection with an emphasis on biodynamic wines and Belgian beer.

I spoke with the owner, Matt. He told me that he had been chef de cuisine at Viogner and wanted to open up his own, much less formal place. I hope he'll be successful.

Prices. Not cheap, but reasonable for the quality. The basic pastrami is $13, reuben $14, cheese stakes and burgers $12.

Bottom line: I think this place is yet another winner for San Carlos (yes, SAN CARLOS!) . If you like pastrami, this is a place that is worth a trip out of your way (possibly a long trip out of your way!) I'm looking forward to returning soon to try the other items on the menu.

The Refuge
963 Laurel Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
650-598-9824
http://www.refugesc.com

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  1. Thanks for the report. Looking forward to reports about future visits

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    The Refuge
    963 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

    1. Just went to Refuge tonight. The pastrami is fantastic! Definitely worth a visit, especially if you like meats and appreciate artisan, quality food.

      This isn't anything like pastrami you normally get from a deli. This is homemade , smoked pastrami that has more in common with the best smoked briskets from great BBQ joints than the deli-style pastrami one normally thinks of.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Shane Greenwood

        That was pretty much my impression. It's lean, but juicy, the flavor is similar to traditional fatty NY pastrami, but a bit smokier than I recall ever having encountered in New York. In some ways it was the best pastrami I've ever had. I got the plain, now that I know what it's like I wish we'd split one plain and one Reuben. Pickles were very good. For the total sandwich experience I still prefer Wood Tavern's.

        The fries were Belgian-style, like Luka's. I must have been really hungry as who wants fries with a pastrami sandwich? Odd that they have cole slaw as an ingredient in sandwiches but don't offer it as a side dish.

        Chopped liver was good but bland, I prefer the style with more onion. Odd menu, that's the only other real deli-type item.

        Re an earlier complaint, they had a sign at the door saying please wait to be seated.

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        Wood Tavern
        6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          They do have a heavier smoke then NYC. While I'm not generally an advocate of a heavier smoke, which seems to prevalent in West Coast smoked fish, it does seem to work, here for their pastrami which I also think is the best I have ever had. Now, if only they had dark rye........

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          West Coast Cafe
          466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            They will do sides of anything if you ask; they are just not on the menu. We have gotten a side of coleslaw before...
            Last time, I also got a side of the chopped liver to go with my pastrami salad (because eating chopped liver with salad is completely logical in my universe). The salad is huge, fresh, filled with pastrami, and served with a slice of toasted rye.
            Btw, I love their chopped liver; although, I agree that there are not many flavors other than liver...

        2. Their site is now live, and their menu is online:

          http://www.refugesc.com/home.html

          It looks fantastic, and I don't think there's anything like it in the area. Haven't been yet, but will soon, hopefully this weekend.

          1. Wow, thanks for the report on the pastrami, it sounds intriguing, I must visit soon. Is it hand carved? Ever since visiting Katz's deli in NYC I have been craving something like what I had there but am mostly sure it doesn't exist here.

            Just looked at the menu and answered my own question and it says it is indeed hand carved.

            1. I had lunch at The Refuge today and it was a disappointment. I had the pastrami w/cole slaw & Russian dressing and an iced tea.

              1) I did not find the pastrami especially flavorful. It was not very peppery and seemed closer to corned beef than pastrami.
              2) I was disappointed there was so little pastrami in the sandwich, especially for $14.
              3) The cole slaw was OK and the sandwich was served with a scoop of good potato salad and half a tasty sour pickle.
              4) The rye bread was very good.
              5) The iced tea was served with simple syrup instead of sugar, which is a nice touch. However, the charge for iced tea was $3.00, which seems pricey to me.

              With tax & tip, I spent $21, which seems like quite a lot for lunch in San Carlos. Those are prices I would pay (and have paid) at Katz's and the Carnegie delis in NYC, but the sandwiches there would have 3x the amount of pastrami on them.