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Pastrami

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I am still on the quest for the best pastrami sandwich in the New York City area. The first test to determining which deli has the best pastrami is to find which ones make their own pastrami. Not to denigrate Empire National which is very good, but delis often purchase their pastrami from a wholesaler and pass it off as their own. For those who care, Empire National's pastrami is much better than Hebrew National's. That said, my quest is to find a pastrami place that makes their own pastrami that is rich in spices and flavor, moist and tender. To date, I have to say that I have found that the two best pastrami sandwiches I have had are in Philadelphia. One is at a place called the Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ and the other in central Philadelphia called the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. I find it ironic that to get the two most authentic and tasty pastrami sandwiches, you have to travel to Philadelphia. Insofar as New York is concerned, my rankings would be as follows:

1. Carnegie Deli (still consistently the best)
2. Stage Deli (on a good day it can be as good if not better than the Carnegie, but on a bad day, it tastes very processed)
3. Junior's on Flatbush or Grand Central Station (pretty good as they make their own and gives the top two a run for their money on occasion)
4. Sarge's (it is their own, it is very tender and moist, but there is not enough seasoning)
5. Katz's (it has all the right stuff, hand cut, well seasoned but something is just not there)

I am most curious about the Brooklyn Delis but heard that both Adelman's and Mill Basin use Empire National. I was wondering if anybody can confirm or deny this and whether there are any authentic pastrami places left in Brooklyn other than Junior's.

So, with all of that said, I would still like to find the best place that makes their own pastrami in the New York City greater area. I welcome feedback from all pastrami lovers across the land.

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  1. Hey MitchPastrami. Since Pastrami is in your name, I don't want to debate which is best, but I want to ask a question as part of your consideration process. To me, judgement includes both taste (cure, seasoning) as well as texture (bite, tenderness).

    The question has to do with the slicing of the pastrami. I know Carnegie goes for traditional thin slicing on the machine... as do most others. But Katz's goes hand carved, in thicker slices. If you work with brisket or cured brisket for pastrami, you know that achieving the tenderness required to allow thicker slicing is very, very difficult. Many a slightly tougher pastrami come off as perfectly excellent with the help of the slicing machine.

    So when you make your ratings, is this tenderness issue properly accounted for? I think Katz's wins based on their ability to deliver the complete package...

    4 Replies
    1. re: woodburner

      Hey Woodburner:

      I wholeheartedly agree that hand carved is the way to go. When the pastrami is machine sliced, it somehow loses a little of its moisture and tenderness. I know that the Carnegie uses a machine and that does detract slightly from the taste. However, I prefer as brisket that has a nice layer of fat on the outside that is heavily coated with black garlicky and peppery seasoning. The Carnegie's pastrami has a little more of that than Katz's. Katz's does deliver the complete package in terms of cut, however, I think it is missing either the garlic or coriander seasoning which give the Carnegie its extra zest.

      1. re: MitchPastrami

        I have to agree with the above poster about the machine slicing. Katz's is the best b/c they don't do that. (maybe for some other reasons as well). Katz's always hits the spot for me as well.

        1. re: MitchPastrami

          Isn't pastrami properly made from the navel (plate), rather than brisket?

        2. re: woodburner

          Here are two more for you to try.

          Blooms on Lexington. When it is good is it is very good.

          Surprisingly just up the Avenue is Delmonico's. It is a local deli that has a great sandwich counter and the pastrami is almost always great. Melt in you mouth.

        3. The best pastrami/corned beef I have ever had is at Irvings on Route 10 in Livingston. I can't say I know the details about their prep, but what lies within the rye bread bread is tender, moist and delectable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: traderdube

            have to agree with Irvings! i was REALLY surprised.