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Feb 25, 2009 10:37 AM

NYC Delis

Ok, you can get very good Italian food outside of Italy, you can get very good Chinese outside of China, you can get very good Indian outside of India, and on and why can't you get a great deli with great pastrami and corned beef like you can get in NYC...say at Katz's Deli somewhere other than NYC???

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  1. I live in Southern Cal and I love the Hat for Pastrami. It's actually really good!

    I know what you mean though. Living in Orange County I always wonder why there are no good deli places out here.

    Hmmmm?? Maybe I should open up a deli like Carnegie.

    We used to have Jerry's Famous Deli! Haha!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jaytizzle

      You've got to try Tommy Pastrami. The original on Harbor and Sunflower is, IMO, the best of the lot, though the franchises are good as well. Tommy owned over a dozen delis in NY and when he retired to So Cal, he couldn't put the deli behind him! He still uses his East Coast meat supplier and the quality is superb! I've introduced Tommy Pastrami to many of my NY friends and the ONLY complaint I heard was... the pastrami was a little too lean LOL, but that comment was followed by the remark that too lean really wasn't a fault.

      I think the brisket with a side of juice is the best sandwich, but also love the Ruben and the Italian sub. hmmmm If it wasn't Ash Wednesday, I'd be stopping their on my way home.........

      1. re: janetms383

        Delicious, I'm sure, but you're not talking "NYC Deli" when you mention Italian subs.

        1. re: CindyJ

          Try the pastrami or corn beef, then report back to me

          1. re: janetms383

            I didn't say it wouldn't be good. I only said that when Italian subs are on the menu, you're no longer talking about the type of NYC deli the OP was asking about. (I'm not sure if you get that distinction.)

      2. re: Jaytizzle

        Do you seriously consider the pastrami at The Hat and that at Katz's to be anything other than a meat with the same name??? I happen to like both but would never recommend either one to anyone looking for the other.

      3. But you can. You just can't do it in Los Angeles after 4 PM, which is when Langer's closes.

        1. Well, the people in Montreal would say "pastrami? corned beef? why bother? We've got smoked meat". They consider corned beef/pastrami poor cousins to their supernal smoked meat.

          And finally, in Toronto, we have our own unique taste - Zane Caplansky's fusion of southern flavours with smoked meat. It's not like anything I've ever tasted before, but geez, it is good!

          1. I've been asking that question for a long, long time. Those delis that try sometimes come close, but in the end, they always fall short. A NYC deli is the whole package -- it's the pastrami, the corned beef, the rye bread, the pickles, the franks w/kraut, the knishes, the tantalizing aromas when you first walk in, and of course, the attitude. Now, I'd be willing to give in a little on the 'tude in exchange for the real deal on the rest of the stuff. Or maybe it's that "New York State of Mind" that makes all the rest of it possible. I don't know, but I've been known to travel 2+ hours up the PA and NJ Turnpikes to feed a craving for pastrami on rye at Artie's on B'way.

            12 Replies
            1. re: CindyJ

              I don't get why the NYC deli experience has been unable to be duplicated elsewhere (and I am not talking about the "tude" but the food). We have a large Jewish population in the greater Boston area and you can get good, cold corned beef but no pastrami like in NYC...nothing even close and how I hate to admit that NYC does something better but they just do!!

              1. re: bakerboyz

                The common belief as to why NY/NJ area products cannot be duplicated is the water available from this area. NYC water has long been noted as very clean and fresh tasting.....while I am not a scientist, in the case of preparing products, it's been said it has to do with the mineral contents and the fact the water is soft and not hard.

                The water is also the reason why we have great bagels, pizza and crusty Italian bread unique to this area.

                (CindyJ), the cut-off for this water is believed to New Brunswick.....but i believe it is the Newark/Harrison area, as that is were many of the great New Jersey bakeries hail from. I also seem to recall there was a rumor was the Carnigie Deli had their meats prepared out of Secaucus. Best Provisions, which I think is a quality meat purveyour is also located out Newark.

                1. re: fourunder

                  I cannot believe that it's just the water!!!

                  1. re: bakerboyz


                    Then why do you suppose you cannot get any good Sourdough Bread outside of San Francisco? Do you think it's the flour or yeast?

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Actually, it IS the yeast -- traditional San Francisco sourdough is made with wild yeast, which varies depending on the location. And why would the water have anything to do with pastrami??

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek


                        I am aware it is suggested /determined to be the yeast.....but theoretically, you could take the same yeast off the walls or wherever it is started and bring it to New still would not come out the same...and I believe it has been tried many times over. As I is believed to be a combination of factors....with water being the common denominator and being an integregal part of the equation.

                        With regards to the water and Pastrami.....the meat is brined before it is smoked with spices. you can purchase the same meat from the same purveyour, purchase the exact same spices and have the recipe....but without the water, it's just ......whatever you are trying to make and close...but not the they say.

                        With regards to baking....there have been many start-up pizzerias in South Florida made by transplanted New Yorkers who have their water shipped in tanks to make their dough.....extreme yes, but actively done for their desire to be a little different and make a better product.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          No, in the case of SF (Bay Area, really) sourdough, it really is all about the yeast. You can't "take it off the walls," you must allow it to collect in your fermenting starter from the air. You can bring the starter to another location, but because creating bread means exposing it to air, the local yeast strains will infiltrate and take over. It's not the water here in the Bay Area that creates our distinctive sourdough tang, it's the air!

                          Concerning deli, I doubt the water has anything to do with it. Rather, I think it's the talent, the artisanship that doesn't travel far from the NY area and its iconic Jewish delis.

                  2. re: fourunder

                    I've heard that said about NYC bagels ... and I believe it, because bagels are boiled before they're baked. But how does the water supply affect corned beef or pastrami?

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      The water in the steam table would permeate the meat to some extent.
                      But I think fourunder is talking about the manufacturing plant itself, and the brine.

                      1. re: coll

                        coll and CindyJ,

                        (coll), yes you are correct. My comments meaning was that it was due to the process during the brine with the water available in the region.


                        The bagels in the area are not better simply because they are boiled before's the fact that the dough is made with the water. The same holds true for the Italian Bread and Rolls we have herein New York and New Jersey. The water is the reason we have the crusty bread unique to this area.

                  3. re: bakerboyz

                    NYC Deli's are about far more than pastrami and corned beef. They're about chopped liver and kishke and knish and kugel and herring and whitefish and latkes and tongue and great fresh (half-sour) and full sour pickles and brisket and etcetc... Boston doesn't even come close in terms of the remaining population. Boston did have some areas - enclaves in Revere, West Roxbury - but that was many, many years ago. The Jews dispersed into the burbs long ago - from Brookline to Newton to Lexington to everywhere, and even there it's not anywhere close to the spread out of NYC.. Nobody wants a piece of herring any more, or a nice piece of kishke with gravy, never mind a decent pickle.

                    It's funny that the Deli's we do have (Joan&Ed's) that have those things have lousy pastrami and corned beef - not super lousy, but packaged stuff - Sabrett or Hebrew National. If you want a real Jewish pastrami in the area, you have to go to an Italian sandwich shop (Sam LaGrassa's).

                  4. re: CindyJ

                    Take 280 from the Turnpike to Livingston, NJ (Eisenhower Pkwy exit), and go to Irving's Deli on rte.10. Even as a native NYCer, I've got to acknowledge that it has hand-cut pastrami comparable to Katz's (both of which are superior, IMO, to Artie's), and offers a classic deli menu and ambience to boot. At the very least, it'll save you the bridge or tunnel toll!

                  5. Easily the best corned beef and pastrami I've had in my life is not in NY but in Florida. I've had it served at more than one country club, but the latest place was Boca Pointe. If you do not know someone who lives there, then I'm not sure how you can get this. When Woodmont in Tamarac had their carving stations on Sundays, that too was in the same league.

                    In Washington, DC, I think the pastrami or corned beef at Deli City is equal to the best NY has to offer.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Steve

                      I would love to try Deli City, but why oh why are they located in Bladensburg??