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SF - Lunch at Orson - Pastrami Heaven

Last week, I had a fabulous lunch at Orson.

No, it did not involve a 5 course tasting menu.

But what I had was an utterly delicious pastrami sandwich with duck fat fries.

This sandwich is enormous in size. It has rich, fatty, salty pastrami as the centerpiece – good amount of pepper, I think it had some coriander too.

One of my friends from NY says it’s not authentic enough because they toast the rye. I personally don't care about whether they toast it or not.

So for all you worshippers of Millers, East Coast West, etc, here is another destination you must visit.

It easily outclasses the one at the Refuge in San Carlos – my favourite Pastrami in the greater Bay Area.

The picture was taken on my mobile phone - so it's not the best quality.

Older threads on this topic:

Best Pastrami: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552359

Wood Tavern: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/490347

Saul’s: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/550543

Wood Tavern
6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

Orson Restaurant
508 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

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  1. Beteasily better than Refuge? Wow, that is a serious challenge!

    1. Amazing how the review highlighted restaurant Orson did not make the map.

      1. I'm very tempted by this. Do you know whether it's a regular menu item?

        4 Replies
        1. re: mrs bacon

          I know it's available for lunch and for brunch over the weekend.

          1. re: osho

            Damn it! They stop serving lunch at 2:00, and I got there at 2:03 today.

            1. re: ernie in berkeley

              That's heart-breaking. Can't wait to try it.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I had it yesterday at lunch. It is indeed enormous--packed with lots of pastrami and huge slices of bread. I could only eat half of it and about a third of my fries. It was delicious but I thought the pastrami, though nicely flavored, was a bit too stringy. It does seem to be a regular menu item at lunch.

        2. Orson has one of my favorite lunches in the neighborhood, although I haven't gotten around to trying the pastrami because I've always been too tempted by the fried chicken sandwich. Looking forward to try the pastrami on one of my next visits.

          1. I finally made it over there today and I'm afraid the pastrami sandwich was a great disappointment--overwhelmingly salty and quite tough, with the melted swiss cheese soaking the bread to the point where I couldn't pick it up comfortably. I didn't notice much spicing amid the salt. The meat was thickly sliced, with the grain, which added to the chewy texture. I picked at it with a fork and knife, ate about half the fries (ok, not great), and that was all I could manage. Sauls was very good in comparison, and I guess I'll try Wood Tavern next.

            Wood Tavern
            6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

            7 Replies
            1. re: ernie in berkeley

              Thanks ernie, saved me a trip. Meanwhile I've got da Bronx made naval cut from Robert's warming up in the bull pen while my sourdough rye is developing.

              1. re: ernie in berkeley

                Wood Tavern will not disappoint. Perfect with fries (a la carte for $5)--thin, plentiful, perfectly fried wonderful--and one of their craft beers on draft, perhaps Old Speckled Hen, Moose Drool or Extra Hoppy Ale.

                Wood Tavern
                6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                1. re: ernie in berkeley

                  I am very surprised to hear this, did you provide feedback ? They do take it seriously. Wow.

                  1. re: osho

                    Feedback, good idea. I'll look into sending some email. But while I was there only one waiter was working the room (and answering the phone and making drinks at the bar), and one of the big tables was giving him grief over something so I didn't want to make his life worse.

                    1. re: ernie in berkeley

                      Ernie, my (now jobless) boyfriend went during lunch and had the exact same thing, practically verbatim, to say -- not only about the service but also about the sandwich itself. He waited 40 minutes for a sandwich with two other tables there and nobody else...I tried his leftovers when I got home from work. The bread was didn't have a strong rye flavor, and it was dense and soaked in oil. The pastrami was not cut thick enough, and it was stringy, dry, and overly seasoned. The best thing in that sandwich was the cave-aged Gruyere cheese — the only thing not house-made. I was so disappointed; I wanted to like it so badly!

                      1. re: t.susannah.chen

                        After all these reviews, now I need to go and eat this sandwich again. :)

                        How things can go so pear shaped within a couple of weeks is something I cannot fathom.

                        I will definitely post an update very soon.

                        1. re: osho

                          Different batches of pastrami, maybe? They cure it in-house, and someone might not have been paying attention.

                2. I have been meaning to try this sandwich for a while, and I gave it a go on Saturday. I have to agree with ernie and bob with respect to the texture of the pastrami -- it is on the drier, tougher side, nothing like good pastrami you can find in NY or LA (was just in NY the previous weekend, so the pastrami sandwiches there were fresh in my mind). I thought the flavor was good, well brined and seasoned (it had a bit more heat than the usual pastrami, which I liked). Maybe just needs more time in the steam box, not sure.

                  The bread was great, crusty, thick cut rye. The surprise was the pickle, which was the best full sour I have had in a long time. A friend of mine agreed on the pickle.

                  Duck fat fries, there are some where you taste the fat, and others where they just taste like regular fries. These taste like regular fries.

                  I ate here for brunch, and the table split an order of thick cut bacon, which was delicious. The other folks ordered brunch items, and everyone was happy. All in all, a very good meal, but the sandwich does not fill the void we have for great pastrami in the Bay Area. Interestingly, Orson also serves ramen for brunch, may have to try that next time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: david de berkeley

                    I've been to Orson twice for brunch. The first time a couple of weeks ago my husband had the pastrami sandwich,. I though it was way too salty, (inedible actually) but I don't eat a lot of salt and I am no pastrami expert.

                    We gave them another shot this past weekend and had the a side of the Thick Cut Bacon . I would return to Orson again and again just for that dish. It's fatty,
                    crispy, meaty, sweet and salty. (but not too salty!)

                    I must also mention I though it was a great value for brunch, with bottomless Mimosas for ten bucks.

                  2. Orson was in the San Francisco Magazine's Opinionated guide to sandwiches (http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/an-op...) as one of the best pastrami sandwiches. I still haven't made it there, but it's on my list.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Pastrami King

                      Thanks Pastrami King for reviving this thread.

                      Unfortunately I have to disagree with a whole lot of you. After my original post, I have eaten it two more times and I still think it's an awesome pastrami sandwich.

                      I am not saying it compares to Katz's (ate their pastrami this week).

                    2. i tried to go yesterday for lunch and found they've dropped Weekday lunches. now Tu-Fri: Dinner only. Weekend: Brunch + Dinner (Sunday is some odd DIY Pizza & Burger thing from 3-9pm)

                      when did that happen?

                      Pastrami quest: FAIL! :(

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: drewskiSF

                        I stopped by last night for desert and was both over and underwhelmed. most of the deserts were ice cream, which was very cool - like the white truffle ice cream and the sourdough ice cream - but I was hoping for more desert-desert. The space was cold and drafty, too. But the ice cream was interesting.