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Saul's-Fantastic Pastrami Sandwich, why all the hate?

I finally tried Saul's in Berkeley yesterday and I had a fantastic pastrami sandwich, the best in the bay area by far in my opinion. In trying to find something that can compare to Katz' and Carnegie I've tried them all... Minnie's, Moishe's, The Refuge, MIller's, Tommy's Joynt. Usually when I want a fix I go to Moishe's and it does the trick if I can get some fat on it. I've liked them all except for the Refuge, I don't understand all the praise.
Anyhow, I got the "Old Style" Pastrami sandwich which is 9 oz of pastrami. I meant to order rye but I think I forgot and it cam on sourdough (either that or their rye is a bit sour). In any case the bread was fantastic with a nice crusty crust. The pastrami was nice and fatty, I think it's hand carved or sliced thick with just the right spicing and great salty flavor. Good pastrami should melt in your mouth and that's just what this pastrami did.
My only complaint would be the price ($17.95!), which I think could've been about $4 cheaper but then again all the high class pastrami sandwiches are pricy. Honestly I'm just glad I can get a sandwich this good around here, it's worth it to me.
So that being said, why all the hate? Where else can you get a pastrami sandwich this good?

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  1. If you're comparing the prices to Katz's, I agree it's a few dollars high. Just California pricing, I suppose.

    1. I agree and don't understand the abuse Saul's gets from this board either. Just had a family dinner there and everything was exemplary - flavorful matzoh ball soup, crispy and oniony latkes, a fine pastrami sandwich, good falafel platter, nice blintzes. Love the homemade sodas including a celery soda that tastes like slightly sweet fresh celery, far better than Dr. Brown's. Love the mostly traditional New York deli menu with the California touch of fresh local ingredients. What's not to like?

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      Saul's Deli
      1475 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

      1. I think nostalgia and homesickness affects peoples judgment about certain dishes and cuisines. And bagels and deli food are definitely in that category. Seems to me that Jewish delis are an endangered breed even in NYC. Carnegie Deli is a chain now and a tourist destination more than a Broadway hangout for locals. So anyone trying to serve a "old style" pastrami sandwich has to compete with cherished, faded memories of the golden years of Jewish culture. Its a can't win proposition. The same phenomenon can be seen with Chinese food not living up to Hong Kong ex-pat standards.

        And its too bad. There has been a real void when it comes to deli food around here. I like Saul's a lot - maybe in part because I have no childhood memories of great delis to cloud my judgment.

        1. For me, I stopped going to Sauls a long time ago cause the Nova was really mediocre, and the rye bread was tasteless. This was the situation not just with Saul's, but all of Northern CA.

          But the real frustration was when I had the chopped liver and learned it was made from calves' liver, not chicken livers. My bubbeh's wig would be spinning on her head at such a transgression!

          However, it's been a very long time, and perhaps it's time to go back and check it out.

          9 Replies
          1. re: escargot3

            I've long enjoyed Saul's pastrami sandwich, but last time I ordered one it was quite dry, which underlines the importance of ordering it "jucy," assuming they still offer that option. Checking their online menu, I don't see that they still offer the jucy option. Anybody have recent experience on that?

            1. re: TopoTail

              No Saul's "hate" from me, but after a handful of "meh" or "this is ok" meals, it ended up in the "why bother, there's so much other good food" category. I can't say I've ever had a pastrami sandwich there. The only truly bleh (that is one step down from meh) meal was something with latkes. Maybe I should check it out again when I'm in the mood to plop down $25 for a sandwich, beverage, tax and tip.

            2. re: escargot3

              you'll be happy to know that last week the menu said the chopped liver was something like "Saul's famous chicken livers"

              or are you saying the menu said chicken liver, but they served you calves liver?

              1. re: drewskiSF

                Sorry for the lack of clarity. This was an experience from a long time ago.
                The menu said chopped liver. We asked, and they said it wasn't chicken liver.

              2. re: escargot3

                FYI, there are many old-time traditional Jewish recipes that will use calves liver, not chicken liver. Not a transgression at all. My favorite one from bar mitzvah parties when i was an adolescent was made with calves liver and, of course, plenty of schmaltz.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  true, people use calves liver. and I can imagine the taste was good.
                  But people also cook with margarine.

                  My point: in my community, the finest of chopped liver was prepared using chicken livers (by the way, the traditional way of preparing them is to first grill them over a flame till there's no more blood, then chop with schmaltz and sauted onion.)

                    1. re: wolfe

                      if the kids haven't already eaten all the gribenes first...

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    More tradition...my Grandma used a combination of chicken and calves liver...ofcourse gribines (which we called "greevin") more chicken fat, and in addition to the shmaltezd onions..at the end a small handful of freshly chopped onions was added for taste and texture!

                2. Poor service and cold latkes. I try to get by with Robert's imported from "de Bronx" navel cut pastrami($5.50/lb) on TJ's or preferably home made rye.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: wolfe

                    Is there a minimum amount you have to buy at Roberts? How do you prepare it? Also, of the two New York style pastrami types I see brisket and plate so I'm assuming you meant the brisket? Thanks.

                    1. re: virtualguthrie

                      I get the whole shrink wrapped piece, usually about 5 lb, and cut it into 1 lb chunks and freeze those not for immediate use. I don't have that many friends. I defrost and steam until warmed through to about 160 then slice thinly across grain. The navel cut which I ask for is I believe the plate, the stuff with fat.

                      1. re: wolfe

                        OK, thanks for the info wolfe. Can you buy just 1 lb or will they be annoyed?

                        1. re: virtualguthrie

                          They won't be annoyed but they probably don't sell pieces.

                          1. re: wolfe

                            Ah, ok thanks. I guess my vacum sealer is going to come in handy then.

                  2. BTW, my associate informed me SAUL is showing the CRICKET WORLD CUP ... does anyone know the logistics ... given that the time delta for the matches is about 13 hrs [matches start at 8pm, or 1-2am] and the are often ~9hrs long. Internet details [twitter?] were sketchy ... I may stop by to have a soda and inquire, but in case anyone else if watching it there already.

                    WOO, awesome result in "BARCENAL" game today (watched at Oakland Commonwealth per suggestion).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: psb

                      I don't hate Saul's, but I don't feel like the sandwiches I get there are up to the ones I get at Nate 'n Al's or Junior's in LA. Maybe it's just the atmospherics, but I don't think so. I do like the matzoh ball soup and latkes at Saul's. Saul's seems more like a good quality diner to me. In the 30 years I've been here, Northern California has never been known as a great area for Jewish deli.

                      The Jewish deli is an endangered species, there's a whole book about it, called Save the Deli. The author believes that Los Angeles is now the best deli city, because entertainment industry folk support them. Deli is the food of older Jewish generations, but younger Jews are much less inclined to eat deli.

                    2. FWIW, I'm originally from NY and I love Saul's. Last time in NY, a couple of years ago, we went to Katz's and it was nowhere near as good any longer. The meat was dry and fairly tasteless whereas I always look forward to Saul's version of it.

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                      Saul's Deli
                      1475 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709