Friday, August 28, 2009
Lets Get Started - The Origin of the King.
Hello to all. Who likes Pastrami? I do!
First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Teddy, I'm 24 almost 25, I live in Pacifica and I work at an architecture office.
Many moons ago my father and I were trying to get a late night dinner after my flight down from the Bay by his house in Southern California. I said to him "In and Out is just down the street, I'd be fine with that." He had other plans. He wanted to take me to the acclaimed 24 hour diner in Los Angeles named Canter's. We showed up somewhere past midnight and the place was packed. My father said "You should get the pastrami or corned beef, it's really good here." Flashbacks in my mind spotlighted a memory from my early childhood... My first time at Langer's deli, I was about 9 years old. I remember sitting in one of those old brown booths with my grandpa. He wanted to show me the new LA rail which opened in 1990 and it just so happened they had a stop by MacArthur Park, just kitty corner to his favorite deli. He ordered the flagship #19, the best choice a guy/king could make. I ordered the cheeseburger. "WHAT!?!?!" my grandfather Ralph exclaimed. "You'd be a fool NOT to get the pastrami." Being into my own thing (probably Ninja turtles and Nintendo at the time???) I took his warning with a grain of salt. I don't remember the burger knocking my socks off, but I did remember Ralph's boisterous protest to my juvenile, ignorant selection. I digress back to Canter's on Fairfax in West LA circa 2004-05. That night I ordered the O'Malley's special. The O'Malley's is a corned beef or pastrami (your choice) on rye with tomatoes and Russian dressing. That sandwich changed my life. The mixing of the meat with the dressing was all of a sudden my favorite combination in the world. Like a true full-blooded Italian salivates over tomato marinara with mozzarella cheese , I was hooked into craving cured meats with Russian dressing and rye bread.
I assume at some point my tastes had changed over the years and I finally loved a "Man" sandwich instead of the little kid thing to do - a burger. I don't ever remember liking tomatoes as a little kid, yet with the Russian dressing that evening it was divine and tomatoes still remain a favorite of mine on pastrami sandwiches. If you had asked my friends my first years of college in 2002-2003 my favorite food, they probably would have either said a cheeseburger or a cheese steak.
After that sandwich at canter's, I came back to San Francisco a changed man. I was searching to replicate that sandwich I had at Canter's. I knew the Bay must have something to offer me to quell this cured meat craze. I remembered the chicken coop having good pastrami/corned beef from my days at Taraval Street in the sunset. I made the trip out there one day from my at the time home on the other side of the city. Their pastrami is good...no it's really good, falls short of great. However they didn't have the same bread or same sauce as Canter's...essentially it's not authentic. It was a substitute for Canter's, but I was still searching for more.
Alot changed for me at the end of 2006. I stopped going to school at SFSU and moved to the East Bay. During the beginning, middle, and end of my tenure in the East Bay I ate at an Irish Hof Brau in Berkley named Brennan's. It's right under the University Ave exit in B-town across the street from Spenger's Grotto. The first time I went was in their old location which was up for a little more than 50 years. They have opened in the old rail house across the street and although they have moved into a brighter, newer location, the old spot had a certain charm. Brennan's is famous for their corned beef, but this is the place that I determined that I love pastrami over its leaner brother corned beef. I got the corned beef several times and was disappointed. It was dry! The pastrami was always wet and juicy, the high fat content of the meat seemed to make it last longer, so if i got there at 8:30 it was still fresh, juicy. I have had many pastrami sandwiches there and I even went on a sort of pastrami diet there while on a low carb diet. I would get the pastrami plate with brown rice instead of mash potatoes and green vegetables. It's actually a great South Beach option! Their pastrami on rye was excellent, but they do not have Russian dressing and the pastrami is still not quite as good as Canter's.
August 18th 2007 I started working for my firm in SOMA. In one of the first month's working there we all ordered from AK Subs at Harrison and 8th. I ordered the pastrami, assuming i was just gonna get an average pastrami experience. Boom, pow, surprise! What my coworker brought back for me was at the time the best Pastrami sandwich I had devoured in San Francisco city limits. I started going there regularly on my lunch breaks to get pastrami sandwiches. My other coworker has a beef with AK's. He always would say to me "Why do you go there, their bread sucks." Although I do not share the same opinion (AK subs is a-ok, cheap & good in my book) I was willing to listen to his suggestion for other places to go. One day he took me to Ted's on Howard by 10th street under the suggestion from his girlfriend. There I found another great pastrami sandwich, it trumped AK's and I now go to Ted's several times a week if I can. It's still not quite as good as the Canter's though...so now the quest was in full effect.
I decided to join Yelp in December 2008 to help aid my quest for the best pastrami sandwich in the Bay area. At the time I joined I thought nothing could hold a candle to my favorite LA delis Canter's and Langer's. One day while looking for what to get for lunch at work I stumbled upon Miller's East Coast Delicatessen near the Intersection of Polk and Clay. My coworker who went to the Art Academy yelled "Oh that place is super good. If you got get me a burger." That was all I needed to hear and I was off to put the pastrami at Miller's to the test. What I found was a sandwich that beats Canter's pastrami straight up and rivals the famous #19 at Langer's. Right now my reigning best pastrami sandwich in the bay is the Grilled New York pastrami special at Miller's. It's not grilled because they grill the pastrami...they put a little butter on the bread like you would a grilled cheese so the rye bread gets all crispy while the Swiss cheese melts over my favorite - pastrami and Russian dressing. I recently brought my dad to Miller's and when he saw the Grilled pastrami special at Miller's He asked in amazement and recognition "No they didn't do that to the bread...did they?" I still give Langer's #19 the slight edge on my favorite pastrami sandwich in California...but it's very close and up to debate.
Somewhere during this meat judging, I remembered the scene from Ferris Beuller's Day Off when he was trying to mcgillicutty his was into a swank Chicago restaurant. He pretended he was another guest on the reservation list - Abe Froman. The snooty Chicago waiter asked (Can you do the snooty Chicago waiter accent?) "You're Abe Froman???? You're Abe Froman, The Sausage King of Chicago?" in a disbelieving, threatening tone. I thought to myself.....I should be the pastrami king of San Francisco, shoot the pastrami king of the whole Bay Area. I should be the guy that walks in Brennan's and the lady behind the counter goes "Hey there's the pastrami king!" ...and it did happen! Gabi from Brennan's read my yelp reviews and greeted me as pastrami king in my favorite pastrami spots. How awesome is that?
I'm passionate about pastrami and my friends hear me talk about it. My friend saw my new photoshopped photo of me standing with a pastrami sandwich, crown on my head and asked "When are you going to start the website?" It's tonight my friends. Tonight is the night I start the pastrami blog and the quest for the ultimate pastrami sandwich. Who knows I might expand my title to pastrami king of California, pastrami king of the West, and ultimately Emperor Pastramus the first when i take over the whole world. I kid, but I do have lofty goals. I plan to take the pastrami belt to New York in a short while to sample Katz' and Carnegie Deli. Even though some New Yorkers have hailed Los Angeles' Langer's as the best deli in America, I understand to truly expand my pastrami knowledge I must make the journey to the motherland, birthplace of Pastrami - NYC. As for this blog I would like to blog all things pastrami related I can think of, as well as a log of the pastrami sandwiches I eat. I have some ideas but I would always love feedback at my new e-mail for the blog PastramiKing@gmail.com . Please check out my yelp reviews at http://pastramiking.yelp.com . If you click lists, I have a list of my favorite pastrami sandwiches in California. Try one out if you get the urge!