Friday, December 18, 2009

Al and Pastrami King do Miller's

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a fan of the blog for lunch. His name is Al - I got into contact with him on yelp and he made it up to my office to talk about architectural products. To be honest, we talked business for about 2 minutes and the rest of the talk was a great deli lunch at the best, most complete deli in San Francisco - Miller's East coast Deli.

We arrived around 11:40 to beat the lunch rush, as I was entering I saw the owner Robby Morgenstein working hard someone's order. I had read about Robby in the Save the Deli book and I made contact with him on Facebook - so I was ready to finally meet the man, the legend. I pointed him out to Al as were went to sit down at our table "That's the owner. Let's go say hi to him when we get a chance". I approached Robby and handed him my pastrami king card. "Oh yeah, it's you! You looked a little different in the pictures." Al and I had a nice conversation with him about opening of the deli years ago and also about his meat suppliers. "I rotate between Sy Ginsberg and Robert's Corned Meats. Every week we get palettes of meat!" I know of Robert's Corned Meats - the office is actually one whole block away from my office and I walk past it daily on my way to get a soda from the Shell Station. I did a little more research and they also supply Tommy's Joynt and Brennan's in Berkeley - one of my favorite spots in the East Bay. I shall have to get a tour/interview in the near future.

Before entering Miller's Al gave me a small pep talk - "Anything you haven't had the guts to order here - order it today!" We were on a mission to sample as much as we could for his introduction to Miller's. We got three appetizers - tongue polonaise, stuffed cabbage roll, and stuffed derma (kishka). All appetizers were very good. The tongue had a sweet and sour cabbage sauce that accented the cured meat excellently. The stuffed cabbage rolls reminded me of the cabbage rolls my Polish Grandma used to make. It had meat with small bits of rice in the cabbage roll - very traditional style. I had read about the derma before I ordered it. Someone called it "Old school even compared to New York standards". It looked like small brown hockey pucks smothered in gravy. The taste reminded me of a very rich stuffing in gravy within every bight. These are all great, unique dishes that truly make Miller's the premier Jewish-Style Deli in the Bay Area.

As we were ordering our sandwiches I told Al about the grilled New York style the Miller's does. "The way they grill the bread is outstanding - you have to try it." I sold Al on it and he got a 3-way combo pastrami, corned beef, and tongue while I just stuck to the pastrami. As you can see, both sandwiches look so large they could humble even the hungriest fresser. As soon as Al bit into his 3-way he exclaimed "This is just as good as my favorite spot in LA (Brent's in Northridge)". Coming after the smorgasbord of appetizers, Al and I were only able to finish half of our sandwiches, but I was very happy to take them home. Al wanted me to take his half as well because he was headed to Saul's in Berkeley that night to check out the digs of the East Bay chic deli - What a true deli lover! I took the sandwiches back in my car to work. When I left my office at 5 PM, I stepped in my car and the smell of Miller's hit me in the nose...hmm that makes me think - Deli air freshener's for cars? I looked it up and they do have bacon flavored air fresheners but not deli. Who would buy them? Probably Al for one! I want to thank AL so much for coming to lunch with me. He gave Miller's such a good review on yelp, Mr. Morgenstein himself asked me to thank him. Check out Al's yelp reviews here. He's very through with his reviews and he does a great job with his photo spreads - an awesome yelp profile! Thanks once again to Al for the photos!

This is a nice corned beef sandwich I made at work. It's just Primo Taglio corned beef on Corn rye bread with Beaver's hot mustard. I used a whole package of the meat to make it proper size. All in all, it was better than the sandwich I had at a place in Berkeley called the Stuffed Inn. I read about the Stuffed Inn and made the trip with my friend the brisket baron. When I ordered the double pastrami with cheese I was upset to learn they were out of rye bread, and on top of that the pastrami was some lunch meat equivalent to the one above. The saving grace of the Stuffed inn was their vegan split pea soup and their cookies. I told my buddy "This is like a 3 star on yelp, but a complete fail for the pastrami blog." I have some pictures which were hi-jacked by the brisket baron on his trip to Florida - I'll post them later on.

I just found out that I have all of next week off of work. I previously said I was going to be in the Bay for the next for posts, but this looks like the next one is going to be in LA. I have 9 days to roam my old home and check out some spot's I haven't gotten around to trying, as well as the obligatory trip to Langer's.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Seattle Pastrami!

Pike's Public Market

Seattle is a lovely place! I went the weekend of November 20th to the 22nd and I did my best to try as many pastrami places as I could, but there were a few miscues that led to me not getting to all the places I wanted to for the blog. However I enjoyed my trip very much and made it to the Seattle Center, University of Washington, the Fremont neighborhood, and various other cool locations. Above pictured is Pike's Market from Pike and 1st Ave.

I was staying at the Green Tortoise Youth Hostel which is a block away from Pike's Market. You can't really beat the location! I checked in around lunch time and headed out to Pike's to find a map. Before I could even find a map I unintentionally stumbled upon the I Love NY Deli. I approached the gentlemen and told them about my blog. "Oh, Jon (the owner) would love to meet you then. You have to go to the spot up by the University. He's normally there." The nice young man pulled out his card and handed it to me. I proceeded to order. "May I get a pastrami sandwich on marble rye with Russian dressing. I would LOVE to try one of you potato knishes. And can I get a cel-ray to wash that down?" The guy proceeded making my sandwich, the slicing machine pumping. He said to himself "This guy knows how to order." I smiled to myself and sat over in the small public seating area just to the left of the stand. The meal that came out of that small stand was a real treat!

When I opened the box the smell was very familiar. It smelled like a deli smells...right in the middle of Pike's fish market and flowers displays the smell from the box tantalized my nose just before I sank my mouth into the epic sandwich. The pastrami had a lovely brine and excellent flavor, up there with some of the great delis I love in California. The potato knish seemed to fit the environment perfectly and was good enough. I'd like to try the other flavors, but I played it safe and went with the potato, next time it's the sweet potato or garlic potato knish! As I was sitting there I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was a transplant from Massachusetts. He was enjoying his turkey on dark rye while I was telling him about my trip plans in Seattle. I told him the next place I wanted to try was Tat's deli on Occidental and he gave me fairly good directions on how to get there "go down to Pioneer square area and make a left then Occidental is the next right."

I took one more picture and then did some sight seeing for a few hours to let my stomach settle before I try to get to Tat's deli. I started the walk after getting off the monorail near Pike and 4th Ave. I got to the Pioneer Building and a statue of Chief Seattle. As I was taking a picture of Chief Seattle it started pouring. Was this an omen sent from the Chief himself?

I pulled out my umbrella and made the right turn on Occidental. As I made the turn I saw a bicycle cop kinda just wave his finger at a group of 6 or 7 menacing looking vagrants smoking crack in the middle of the rain....This place is a lot like Frisco! As I came to the door of Tat's (around 2 PM on Friday, they normally close at 4) a lady was standing in the middle of the doorway. "Yeah, we're closing...we ran out of bread." I pleaded with her "I came all the way from SF just to try Tat's pastrami, could I just sample a piece of the pastrami and I'll be on my way?" the one lady who was leaving from I presume finishing the last sandwich of the premature day backed me up "Aww, come on, let him try a little piece." she said to the woman. She kinda looked back at the interior and then back at me and finally said "No, the grill is off, we're closed. We'll be open on Sunday for the Seahawks game though come back Sunday." and then shut the door in my face. I continued back up 1st street in the rain, I got back near Pike's market area the rain cleared up and the weather was nice enough for me to enjoy the rest of Friday evening. Sadly, She was wrong about being open Sunday as the Seahawks were out of town and they were closed. I never got to try a tatstrami in Seattle.

The next day I woke up early and had a plan to try Barney's pastrami in Everett, Washington about 20 minutes North of Seattle. I had talked to the owner about 10 days prior to my coming up there and he assured that he would be "open to 4 PM for lunch on Saturday." I got started early and tried to make it for opening, so I didn't call....causing a huge detour for no reason in my trip to Seattle.

Frustration and disappointment all from a yellow piece of paper taped up to a storefront. I called when I got back to the bay to get an explanation. I asked the guy that answered the phone "Hey, why were you guys closed last Saturday?" To which the man responded "Oh I was rotating on a stick, but I'll be open till 5 today for lunch." Oh great (seething sarcasm)! Did I scare him by calling him about 10 days prior saying I wanted to try this place for my blog or was it just a slow day in Everett? I'll never know.

At this point I was pretty frustrated, I got shut down at 2 places and I had to take a bus back to the city which took about 30 minutes. I don't regret taking the ride as the scenery outside of Seattle was interesting and beautiful to see, however I greatly regret not calling the day prior.I decided that after this fiasco I was headed to the University District to check out "The Ave" as well as the I Love New York Deli location on Roosevelt. The bus pulled off I-5 and let me off somewhere on the other side of the U district at 45th Ave. I remembered the area from looking at the maps on google and proceeded on the overpass towards the University. I pulled out the card the guys gave me at the Pikes Kiosk...5200 Roosevelt I looked up and I was at Roosevelt and 45th, perfect. I had my umbrella out as it was drizzling as I pulled up to the deli from the south end. I saw through the window a lady carrying what looked like to be a big pot of soup and a guy slicing meat away at the machine.

I was tired and cold when I took the picture of the Met's Country labeled front door then I entered a truly wonderful and warm place! As I entered the same smell that had emanated from my box yesterday filled room. This was truly the complete picture of a nice neighborhood deli complete with everything under the sun. The small stand at Pike's market only had a small number of items compared to the more complete location in the University district. I walked up to the counter and asked about Jon the owner, to my dismay he wasn't around, luckily I was to reach him and tell him over the phone how impressed I was with his deli!

Pastrami Egg and Cheese on a Kaiser

Pastrami Lox

The special of the day was 1/2 sandwich with soup which sounded great to me on a cold, rainy day. I also ordered a potato latke on the side.

Daily Special

I enjoyed this rye more than the marble rye because it had a crispier more flavorful crust. The split pea soup and latke warmed my inside. When I arrived, I was tired and weary and upon leaving I felt like a new man! I had the rest of the afternoon to check out University Ave known to locals simply as "The Ave". The whole scene really reminded me of Telegraph by UC Berkeley. Lots of Thai restaurants, pizza joints, smoke shops, and just funky side shops with odd items worth looking at just once. I also got to check out the Mercer Museum which had some intersting Native American Art from the Pacific Northwest. I highly recommend you take a trip to the U District on your visit to Seattle. Make sure to have lunch at I love NY Deli at 52nd and Roosevelt! They have a webaddress Check it out for a full menu.

Sunday, my last day in Seattle, I planned to go to the Fremont district where a small diner named Roxy's was pointed out by many people on Yelp as the best pastrami sandwich in Seattle. Fremont has an interesting Farmer's Market and Hypermarket (swap meet) on Sundays which I checked out just before going to Roxy's Diner. The whole neighborhood district itself was very cool to check out. They have a large rocket, a statute of Lenin, and a self proclaimed center of the Universe just a block from Roxy's Diner.

When I walked up to Roxy's diner it looked popping! There were many people waiting on the outside, smoking cigarettes, talking about what they did on their Saturday night. I walked in the diner and the place was crowded! I found a small place at the bar in the corner next to the register. The lady who helped was very friendly and asked me what i wanted. I ordered the NY pastrami (regular size, you can get bigger for more $) with a diet coke and started looking around the scene of the diner. It looked like a cool, hipster place that young people go to after a hard night of partying.

Roxy's Diner

The pastrami melted in my mouth! I was truly impressed by Roxy's and it was a very cool, special spot in the neighborhood. They had characters doodled of the servers on pieces of pad paper saying funny things like "I need a drink!" I saw a picture of an Old Guy with glasses that kinda looked like the guy on the front of the Diner. I asked my server "Is that the man? the owner?" She giggled. "No, we found this in a picture frame at good will. We just like him." Roxy's seemed like a fun, cool place to go in the neighborhood, definitely check it out on Sunday along with the Fremont market. I got a cool shirt on as a souvenir that has the logo, at the bottom it reads "You can't beat our meat." I love the sense of humor! Roxy's has the very cool web address of give it a look!

I had a really great time in Seattle. It's now one of my favorite cities along with SF and Paris. I just wish it didn't rain so much! When I got back to the Bay Area I got to try a place by my work Sage Lounge which has a Reuben for 8$.

Sage Lounge Rebuen and floor plans

I phone ordered ahead and when I got to the place about 10-15 minutes later I was informed that they were out of rye bread. I made an upset face and the lady said "you can wait, our other co-worker is out getting the bread. she should be back very soon." I sat down in the bright white, ultra modern chair and started reading SF weekly. A few minutes later a lady with a TRADER JOE'S bag walked in the restaurant and into the back. The pastrami didn't have a large brine and tasted a bit of hot dogs - the sign of bad pastrami. The "coleslaw" didn't taste like slaw and reminded me of the shredded lettuce you get at Subway - no tang or anything to it. I recommend skipping over this place and going to Ted's market or AK subs. You seem to pay a bit more for the atmosphere at the Sage Lounge.

I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving! I'll be in the Bay Area for the next for posts. Looking foward to meeting some new people and trying some new sandwiches.