I love a good pastrami sandwich. Emphasis on good! We’re at home in New Jersey, which means no way to celebrate the occasion as there isn’t any worthy pastrami near our house.
There are those who order pastrami lean. Blech!! In my not-so-humble-opinion, the only good pastrami is very fatty. That’s what makes the meat juicy. Without the fat, you might as well be eating shoe leather.
Katz’s has been in the same Lower East Side location, on the corner of Houston and Ludlow, since 1888. Truth be told, when I was growing up in that neighborhood during the 1940’s and 50’s, we didn’t go to Katz’s. I was not because it wasn’t kosher since though we kept kosher at home, we didn’t do so when we ate out. It was due to the much closer proximity of Gitlitz, a kosher deli on Rivington Street right down the block and around the corner from our Norfolk Street building. The pastrami was very tasty. I usually had it on rye though occasionally I opted for club bread. The sandwich cost 65 cents.
Perhaps you’re familiar with Katz’s’ slogan during the Second World War, “Send a salami to your boy in the army!” But the fact is, at Katz’s, it’s all about the pastrami! It’s hand-sliced into thick cuts. It’s fatty! It’s delicious! My only quibble is with the rye bread. It sucks! Flabby and tasteless, it falls apart under the weight of the pile of juicy meat. I end up eating the pastrami with a knife and fork.
Sarge’s, on 3rd Ave. and 37th Strett, is more conveniently located for us, i.e. walking distance, than Katz’s and has become our favorite place for pastrami. We always request it “very fatty,” and that guarantees a sandwich piled mile high with juicy meat. It’s of a different style than at Katz’s with regard to spicing. And it’s sliced much, much thinner by machine. Nevertheless, I find it just as delicious as the pastrami at Katz’s. In addition to eating at Sarge’s with some regularity, we have also ordered delivery a number of times.
Unfortunately, Sarge’s suffered a devastating fire in November 2012 (just a day or so after we had eaten there) and has been closed since then. The owners announced immediately that they would rebuild. But that process has been really sl-o-o-o-w, during which time we’ve sorely missed the place. Now, the good news is that Sarge’s expects to reopen sometime next month. We presume it will, as before, be open 24/7. We are eagerly looking forward to eating there and also being able to again order delivery.
The 2nd Ave. Deli, on 33rd & 3rd, is a little closer to our apartment than Sarge’s. In the past, we’ve avoided having pastrami there because of a bad pastrami experience right after they opened. Instead, whenever we’d go there, we’d order the knoblewurst (which, by the way, is terrific!). However, with Sarge’s out of commission and not wanting to trek down to Katz’s, we decided to give 2nd Ave.’s pastrami another try. When we ordered, we were very explicit that it had to be “very fatty.” And wonder of wonders, we got what we asked for! In style, it resembles Sarge’s rather than Katz’s. We had our most recent pastrami sandwich at 2nd Ave. in December, a late supper after attending the complete Brandenburg Concertos at Lincoln Center.