Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Streetcar Named Pastrami: Cochon Butcher, Central Grocery, Evelyn's Place

Hello pastrami lovers! I spent my 27th birthday weekend in New Orleans, which is a very charming city. I made it to a few pastrami spots as well as a muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery.

The muffuletta sandwich is a large, Italian sandwich said to have originated at this small deli by Jackson Square in New Orleans. I just happened to be walking by here on the only day they were open during my trip. Hey - they must call it Central Grocery for a reason, it's right in the middle of the French Quarter across from Cafe Du Monde (the beignet and coffee place).

The store itself is just like every other Italian deli you've been to. There are pastas, spices, fresh tomato sauce and all other specialty items synonymous with a place kinda like Genova's in Oakland or Guerra's in SF. I ordered one muffuletta to split with my dad from this counter. I noticed on the side of him there were half assembled muffulettas with the meat and cheese on the bread without the signature Olive spread. When you order he goes over and finishes the sandwich off with the famous spread and hands it to you. There is a small dining are towards the back, but honestly I wanted to eat outside in the nice, warm weather so we went to Jackson Square.

Jackson square is an interesting and significant place for many reasons. Andrew Jackson, our 9th president and face of the twenty dollar bill, was credited with saving New Orleans from the British during the War of 1812 and the city dedicated the square to him. During the day, it's a perfect place to bring a sandwich. I found a place on a bench and unwrapped the sandwich.

The muffuletta is a very tasty sandwich. The bread is super soft - a sesame roll. The Italian ham and mortadella are complimented well by the cheese and oil. The olive spread wasn't too overpowering and actually made the sandwich, in my opinion. It isn't a muffuletta without the proper olive spread. As I was sitting there with my dad another fellow from Seattle came along and ate a half-one next to us and some other ladies from Memphis and Brooklyn came with a sandwich as well. It seems this would be the muffuletta bench. I'd wager that at least a few thousand muffulettas have been eaten on that bench and everyone from everywhere seems to pass through Jackson Square.

Photo Credit -  Nicollette "Lawdy Lawdy Miss Clawdy" H. of Yelp!

At night Jackson square is an eerie place, with a much different energy than the day. I took a ghost tour while in New Orleans and I learned they used to hang people here. Many people lost their lives in the park and some people say spirits are still there. They lock the gates so drunk people don't sleep in there - but what's odd is a bunch of feral cats come out and roam the park and stare at people. They literally people watch. You will not see the cats at day, ever and they survived the hurricane. Also at night, the whole park is encircled with palm readers, fortune tellers, and mystics trying to sell you on a reading. Behind the square is one of the original churches in New Orleans and Pirate Alley where Faulkner set up shop in town and sipped on absinthe. The place has it's own energy - go at both night and day for the full experience.

The next place I went was kinda meh, but is very worth talking about. Evelyn's Place is located on Chartes street about a block away from Canal Street (The Market street of NO, essentially). The old guy sits on the outside and talks people up as they come by promising hot sandwiches and cold brew. He had pastrami, corned beef and brisket - so I was intrigued.

I ordered the corned beef because he was out of pastrami. It was served on a french roll, which I will forgive if it's good bread - but it was just ordinary. The corned beef was warm and that's about all I can say past that.  Not an overly salty flavor, but just not as flavorful as many corned beefs I have tried. I'd rather have Chick n' Coop corned beef, which is a hof-brau in Daly City not known for their corned beef. The gentleman who owned the restaurant, Frank, was a character though. I told him I was the pastrami king from San Francisco and he told me to move to NYC. That's all good and well, but I can get waygu pastrami here in SF. Then he proceeded to tell me that Evelyn's place was for workers, not necessarily the employed. He said to me "Look at that guy." I looked over to a guy dressed up like he worked in a business office "That guy is employed, but isn't a worker - big difference." Wow!!! OK. My dad hated his gumbo. Moving on...

Cochon Butcher or simply Butcher is my favorite restaurant in New Orleans and perhaps one of my favorite lunch spots in the country. It's essentially smoked meat heaven. They their own meat and Butcher is a lunch spot only while the restaurant next door that owns it and shares it's kitchen serves brunch, lunch, dinner. I'd like to go to Cochon itself another time, but Butcher was a real treat!

They had so many great things on the menu and in the deli counter to oogle at. They had whole hogs for sale if you wanted along with sausages, rib eyes, salamis.

 Duck Pastrami Sliders

Pastrami Sandwich

muenster was not like turkey pastrami as it was richer and noticeably smoky without a coriander spice layer on the outside that is normally synonymous with bird pastrami. It was very tasty, excellent. My regular pastrami sandwich was the best thing of the whole meal though. The pastrami here is some of the best I had because it's smoked in house by a guy that learned from his father how to smoke meat. He obviously was taught well and knows what he's doing because it had a certain smoky quality that was unparalleled to other pastrami I have had...not as sweet, but more smoky than others. I told the guy I liked it better than Carnegie Deli's pastrami and he was touched by that compliment. New York has some great pastrami, but this is just as good if not better than any pastrami in the United States. I say so, and I've tried it coast to coast - winner of the best pastrami in New Orleans. Who dat!? I made sure to grab a shirt from the friendly staff and I plan on sporting it with pride.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Johnny's - Antioch, California & Bite Me Sandwiches, SF

Hey there pastrami fans! I hope you enjoyed my post on the Waygu/Kobe beef pastrami as much I enjoyed eating it. I have some news and a few deli sandwich reviews that I'd like to share with you for this mid-September post.

My first bit of news - I'm going to be in New Orleans this weekend to celebrate my birthday. I plan to try some pastrami for the blog, but the big, well known sandwich in New Orleans is the Muffuletta which is an Italian style sandwich with olive spread on a round roll (and of course the po-boy). It's normally a sandwich meant to be shared, so I hope my dad will want some or I'll just order a half-muffuletta. I'm also planning on just relaxing and having a sazerac on Canal street. If you have any suggestions for me to enjoy my vacation in New Orleans, feel free to comment on the blog or e-mail me at

This past week I was able to attend the Giants vs Dodgers game. Giants/Dodgers is a huge rivalry and I showed up in my Dodger gear, which is making yourself a target for smack talk. The only problem for Giant's fans - it's hard to hate on a guy with pastrami. My dad flew up from LA that day to go to the game with me and he brought a gift package from Langer's. We watched the game at AT&T park in SF while eating pastrami sandwiches from Langer's in LA. The guy sitting behind me asked "Hey, where did you get that sandwich?" and I responded "L.A." and he got really interested. "Wow you brought pastrami all the way from L.A.? You must be a pastrami fan." I smiled and gave him my card as well as a small piece of Langer's pastrami, then went on to discuss the fine establishments in SF that carry good pastrami. The Dodgers winning that night was cool, but the highlight of the evening was eating the pastrami sandwich at the game inside the ballpark and having people intrigued by my blog. Awesome!

My first sandwich review is from a place in San Francisco named Bite Me Sandwiches on South Van Ness at 17th street. They had an interesting menu with lots of sandwiches featuring pastrami/corned beef, so I was intrigued to check it out. It's a small sandwich shop operated by two guys who are super friendly and like to make a good sandwich. I ordered a pastrami Reuben and the guy offered it on rye bread because he wanted to make it traditional. I always appreciate that - you can't mess with a classic.

 Bite-Me Sandwiches Pastrami Reuben

The pastrami itself was OK, pretty good, but not great. I did like the toasted rye bread, the Russian dressing, and the sauerkraut. The flavor of the classic Reuben was all there, it just wasn't a Carnegie Deli Reuben, but I didn't pay near that price either. The advantages of this place - it has great prices for a big sandwich and has a relatively small line at lunch time compared to Ike's, Deli Board, or Ted's. I'm always down for a new sandwich shop by my work and I will look forward to trying out all their sandwiches till I decide what I really like there.

For my second review - I went all the way to Antioch, California which is about half way between San Francisco and Sacramento. Its nickname is the "Gateway to the Delta", referring to the San Joaquin River Delta which is actually where most of Southern California gets it water from. I had to go out there to measure a building for my job, which was abandoned except for the raccoons that lived on the top floor in the rafters. For lunch, I found a place on yelp called Johnny's Market.

 Pastrami on soft roll - Large and in charge

When we were driving to Johnny's, a few blocks before the shop a sign was hammered into the ground advertising "Beef Brisket" this way. I knew I was in for a treat. This sandwich shop has been here for years and this is the place the locals go for their sandwiches. I ordered a big pastrami on a soft roll and sat down at the dining table next to the TV to talk with the other patrons. They told me they had been coming here for years and this was the best sandwich in town - I have to agree that it's a great value and they have great hot meats like brisket, pastrami, and hot links. It reminded me of Ted's Deli in the city, but this was in Antioch - which isn't necessarily known for it's culinary prowess. In fact, they even use the same pastrami as Ted's Market which is Evergood pastrami. I think that it's a four star out of five on the pastrami spectrum. Evergood is a San Francisco based company and their pastrami has a great flavor, but it's a little thin and a bit salty. Overall a very good pastrami, just not grass fed, organically grown, Waygu beef (I'm getting spoiled now). No, Johnny's isn't a petit cafe - it's an old school sandwich shop with friendly owners and a cool room for you to enjoy your sandwich before going back to your work day. If you're ever in Antioch, I high recommend coming in here and talking with the owners and locals.

My last bit of news is a shout out to Rene C. on yelp and his review of the Refuge that reminds me of Langer's and the time my Grandpa told me only a fool would order the cheeseburger. When you go to a place that's known for pastrami a burger is normally a bad call. But to be fair, Refuge has some great burgers, although I'm going to get the pastrami each and every time. Hmm, maybe a pastrami burger? Thank you Rene C. for your wonderful review of the Refuge and I hope you're a pastrami convert for life now!

I hope you enjoyed the Mid-September post and I plan on having another one once I get back from New Orleans. Traffic on the website has been down this quarter, which has been probably due to my lack of posts. I have a renewed passion for the blog and I plan on posting more frequently than once per month now. Keep coming back - I love getting your comments and suggestions for pastrami places. for email, @Pastramiking on twitter, and please join my Facebook fan page - otherwise i'm posting it up on your wall and you have to deal with it :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Viognier Restaurant/Draeger’s Markets American Kobe/Waygu Pastrami, Wise Son's Rye

Happy September. This is my favorite month because the weather is still nice, football is starting, and my birthday is on the 19th. The Pastrami Blog celebrated it's 2nd anniversary on August 28th. It's amazing how far this blog has come. Just in the past two years I've tried pastrami from NYC, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and all over the Bay Area. Also, we've seen great things happen in our backyard as new pastrami/corned beef spots have popped up over the city like Wise Sons & Deli Board. There are still many places to try in San Francisco and other areas of the Bay and I look forward to sampling them for another year to come. Feel free to send suggestions although a small list of places I'd like to try soon include - Giordano Bros on Mission, Orson Cafe, and Spruce Cafe. I'm always happy to get more suggestions from readers and fans - send e-mails to

With Chef Preston

 Lovely Fluffy Rolls

 Wrapped Pastrami and Mustard

This post we have something extraordinary - a pastrami made from Kobe/Waygu beef. This product is going to be available soon at Draeger's Market / Viognier Restaurant in San Mateo (Viognier is located above Draeger's market). Chef Preston Dishman makes this pastrami and is a pastrami blog fan - here is another bio on Preston. He sent me a small gift package with pastrami, homemade rolls, homemade mustard, a napkin and a sweet note letting me know about the sugar cure and the blend of spices they used for the rub for the large, smoky outside of the pastrami as well as instructions for the perfect pastrami sandwich.

 Holy Marbleized! 

Upon opening the package I was very impressed with the way they thought of everything for me to have a perfect lunch - Thanks Preston and Viognier for the lovely care package and chance to try this pastrami.

The pastrami itself got inspection right away. The first thing I noticed with the very marbleized pastrami - this is of course Kobe/Waygu which is known for it's increased flavor and fat content. That was very evident from just looking at the meat - there were many layers of fat within the meat. The large black outside smelled excellent and the sugar cure was also evident in it's aroma when first smelling the pastrami. The flavor cold and hot is tremendous.

Sliced Pastrami - Ready for Warming...or Not.

It's almost a whole different world trying it cold versus hot and both are pleasurable in a different way. When tried cold the fat sort of melts in your mouth like butter but the flavor on the outside almost tastes more like a jerky rub - which isn't bad, just a bit more of a jerky flavor to the rub than normal (spicy). It's honestly so good this way that my roommate has caught me eating cold slices late at night for dessert. He makes fun, but even he likes it when it's cold. When heated up the sugar cure really comes out and it's very sweet, but the peppery outside offsets it in a wondrous way. I would say it's most similar to the Wise Son's pastrami with the cure - much different than Sy Ginsberg which is served at Miller's because of the sweeter cures. Also, like Wise Son's, this was not packaged and was cured within miles of where it was given to me (not stored, refrigerated, and shipped over), which means it's very fresh tasting. When I tried the sandwich I was very impressed with the roll - it was soft and a perfect picnic type of roll for a lunch. I also thought to myself that I'd like to try it on rye bread and since they gave me about a pound (maybe more, not sure) I would have plenty of meat to try a couple of sandwiches on different mediums. I always say a double baked rye bread is the best way to experience a pastrami and I think Wise Son's has the best rye in town.

The Perfect Pastrami Lunch at work

When I went to Wise Son's I got a pastrami and tried to order a rye bread, but they were out. The guy up front tried to sell me a challah roll, but I explained to him it was for something special and that I thought they had the best rye bread around. He asked "Did you read that or somewhere, best rye bread?" No! That's what I think and I have tried many rye breads. They have the double baked caraway seeded rye bread with the chewy outer crust which is essential to a classic Jewish deli sandwich. When I was waiting for my pastrami I explained to Leo (co-owner of Wise Sons) that I had some special Waygu/Kobe beef pastrami at home and that I wanted to try it on his rye bread because I thought it was the best. He found a few slices for me. Thanks Leo!
Double Baked Rye Bread with Kobe Pastrami - Only for the King!

That sandwich description - Kobe beef pastrami on the double baked caraway seeded Jewish rye bread with homemade cheese and homemade mustard, what a mouthful just describing this sandwich only fit for a king! I think that sandwich was good either way though - with the soft roll or the rye bread. One is more for a bright sunny day outside in the park (the roll) and the other is better for and indoor Sunday lunch. Why does the scenery matter? I'm not sure, but I think it does more than the chewy crust versus the super softness of the fresh roll. What do you think? Rye bread or not? It's a hot topic in the pastrami community -  leave a comment about it if you have an opinion. I'm glad to say I got to experience multiple sandwiches of each! Overall I would say this is some of the best pastrami in the Bay Area, competing with The Refuge and NimanWaygu/Kobe beef which is praised as some of the most tasty beef - normally reserved for steaks - they made pastrami out of it and the flavor is amazing! The time and care are also advantages as this was prepared by a great chef who knew what flavors he was trying to obtain - kudos to Chef Preston for your vision - the man the man that made the sugar cure Kobe beef pastrami should be hailed by all pastrami blog fans as a royal
culinary genius!