Friday, October 16, 2009

SoMa Throwdown! Ted's Market Vs. Ak Subs. (Save The Deli Book Signing)

Hello to all my loyal Pastrami Subjects. I've been having a small case of the writer's block, but I'm finally ready to get a new's been a month. What really got me back into the writing mood was a trip to Kansas City. While KC doesn't have any worthwhile pastrami - they do have another thing I adore - BBQ! I got to sample two places in the KC area - one was great and the other not so much. Oklahoma Joe's is located in a gas station in Kansas City, KS (not MO) - they had the best pulled pork I've ever had and the people were really cool. We talked a bit about the gas price differences between the Pacific Coast and the Midwest and how much I liked BBQ...he was so nice that he added some of that epic pulled pork to my cowboy dinner (which came with brisket, 2 ribs, and some sausage). If you're in Kansas City I highly recommend OK Joe's. The other spot I went was the oldest, probably most well-known BBQ spot in KC name - Gates and Sons BBQ. My boss made me promise him (He's a KU grad) that I would try the burnt end sandwich - sadly it disappointed and I longed for my Memphis Minnie's brisket in San Francisco - How ironic?! I featured Memphis Minnie's in a previous blog and I went there just last wednesday night with a group of friends and enjoyed their Reuben for a second time. I've seen the real deal and Memphis Minnie's in the city has better BBQ Brisket than anywhere I've ever tried- even a big BBQ town like Kansas City.

I have a very important announcement! On October 19th a book will be released to the public called "Save the Deli". It was written by my new personal hero - David Sax - a Jewish deli fan and Vanity Fair writer. He has his own blog at and he was very nice to add my pastrami blog on his blog index. Please check out his website and I want everyone to get the book and come to the Berkeley book signing at Saul's Deli, 4 PM October 24th! I have a link of the event on Bay area yelp to help people remember , but it is also on the Save the Deli website along with other dates in different cities. You'll get a chance to meet the writer of Save the Deli and the opportunity to try Saul's wonderful deli food. I've been several times to Saul's and it's very good, but a little pricey. Expect to pay 20$ total for yourself to do it right! I'm looking forward to meeting David and creating new relationships with pastrami fans in the Bay Area.

My dad sent me a great link yesterday from an interview with Current, soon to retire, Los Angeles Chief of Police. He was also Police chief in NYC for many years. He said straight up, "Los Angeles has better Corned Beef Sandwiches than NYC" and that he would try to get sandwiches from Langer's Shipped to New York. How about them apples NYC? although from reading some of Save the Delis blogs - I do see New York truly has Jewish "delicacies" like rolled beef or kreplach. I'm still prideful of Langer's and the Los Angeles pastrami scene with truly is the best pastrami in the world - says New Yorkers transplanted in LA. Take this into consderation - I don't hear anyone moving from LA claiming Katz' mops the floor with Langer's, but I've heard the opposite a few times. one of them here another one quoting David Sax from an interview with Vroman's bookstore in Los Angeles. “Brace yourselves, New York, because what I am about to write is definitely going to piss a lot of you off, but it needs to be said: Los Angeles has become America's premier deli city. Wait…Stop…Put the gun down. It's true.” “The delis [in LA] are bigger, are more comfortable, and ultimately serve better food than any other city in America, including the best pastrami sandwich on earth. Los Angeles is both the exception to the rule of deli's inevitable decline and the example for the rest of the nation of how deli can ultimately stay relevant. If we are to save the deli elsewhere, we can learn a lot from LA.” So I guess I can put a stop to my search for greatest pastrami sandwich in the world...I mean David did the research and found that the place I KNOW is the best in LA to also be the best pastrami sandwich in the world - HOWEVER!!!!! I still think the refuge in San Carlos, CA might have outdone Langer's and is just not as well known on the scene because it's not really a Jewish Deli, but rather a pub that serves pastrami sandwiches. The Refuge doesn't have matzo soup or whitefish - but it does have the thickest tastiest pastrami I've ever had - including Langer's.

I celebrated my birthday the 19th of September with a lunch at Miller's - my favorite deli in the city. I got the grilled NY pastrami special with macaroni salad along with an order of potato pancakes. Potato Pancakes have a very special meaning to me. The tradition in my Polish family was to have Borscht on Christmas Eve and to have Potato Pancakes Christmas morning. I think I associate potato pancakes with opening Legos, Video Games, and other childhood memories (remember that bright shiny bike!?!?). They're so important to me that when asked on the yelp profile survey what my last meal would be - I made sure to say both a pastrami with potato pancakes on the side. The combo of the two for me is killer and something I will only do once in a moon. My 25th birthday is just such an occasion.

Alright so let's get down to business. I work in an area of San Francisco known as South of Market or SoMa. There are two sandwich places people swear by - Ted's Market or AK Subs - anything else is just meh. Both places have been known to have lines outside the door during peak lunch hour and both places pack a great value sandwich. So which place has the better pastrami for your 6$????

AK subs is located at Harrison and 8th in SoMA and you can see the big blue building from the 5th street exit coming from the Bay Bridge. You may have noticed the Hancock ad on the side of the building that was there for entirely too long after the movie bombed. I remember my friend Mike, who was working at another architecture office, walked by me one day on the street and said, "Dude, you ever tried AK - it's like SoCal Prices." He's another LA transplant and like me or any other person from LA who has moved to SF we notice the price gouge - especially when it comes to sandwiches and burgers (I'm looking at you Ike's sandwiches and BurgerMeister, with a vengeful eye and an empty pocket!). However AKs is refreshing. You can get a drink and a soda for a little more than 5 bucks and the sandwich is large and in charge. They have different soups daily, of which my favorite is the Potato Leek soup on Tuesdays...remembers Tuesdays! The pastrami sandwich at AKS is known as Tony's Hot Pastrami and comes with melted swiss cheese and a bread of your choosing. I got it on Rye of course.

The pastrami is very good. Nice color and a tasty flavor - quite impressive for a sub shop. However the yellow mustard and the rye bread aren't the bomb like some other spots. For around 7$ with a drink though, it's quite a value. If you order more than 10$ worth, AK subs will deliver during lunch time - good to know. Suggest it for your company meeting next time and get the pastrami. The lady behind the counter is very sweet and helpful (and cute to boot).

Ted's Market is located at Howard and 10th across the street from the Royal Motors VW/Audi shop. People come from the DPT (the ticket people) and other government agencies to get their sandwiches here. Once I talked to a guy from the MTA, who worked on traveling routes for San Francisco MUNI. I see cops in here regularly coming in to make their lunch breaks. I think when you see cops at a restaurant it normally means there is good food there....cops and old couple know where to eat. Ted's market was also featured in Will Smith's movie - The Pursuit of Happyness (I'm not spelling it wrong - watch the movie). There are pictures of Will Smith with the owner of Ted's and pictures of what the market looked like in the movie. I remember I was working at Virgin Megastore when they were filming the movie. If you lived in SF in 2004-2005, it was almost impossible not to run into them filming a scene from this or the Zodiac. I digress back to Ted's - this place is not a place to go if you want to get a sandwich FAST! The line always goes around the bend by the sodas - at least ten sandwiches away from you ordering. There is a reason people wait for their sandwich - it's the BOMB and hey look at it this way - at least you don't have to make an appointment for your sandwich like overrated Ike's. I ordered the steamed New york pastrami on Rye with Russian dressing and tomatoes for 5.25$ and it came out looking like this.

The Bread was pretty even between AKs and Ted's - neither one would be considered hot stuff by a true pastrami guru - it was just ok. However the Pastrami and Cheese on the Ted's pastrami tasted better. You can see the Swiss on the Ted's sorta melted into the bread because of the hot pastrami - it wasn't pre-melted like I'm guessing the AK subs pastrami they grill the Swiss on the pastrami when they hand it to you. I prefer the Ted's way. If you look at the pastrami, Ted's pastrami was a deeper color and definitely has more fat...meaning more flavor. Ted's also has better sides than AK's even considering their potato leek soup on Tuesdays. Ted's has mozzarella and tomato salad, Greek pastisto, macaroni salad, potato salad, and much more. On top of pastrami, they have tri-tip MWF, roasted pork T&TH, and roasted turkey everyday all day. If you're gonna get a lunch time pastrami in SoMa, I highly recommend Ted's over AK's subs.