West Town Bakery - Chicago, IL

 Abbie, Renae and Naomi

Abbie, Renae and Naomi

One of my favorite boutique hotels in Chicago is the ACME Hotel Company on East Ohio St.  It is a trendy, hipster, high-tech hotel with a vibe that brings the 50s into the 21st century.   Just off the hotel lobby is the entrance to the West Town Bakery.  On the first morning of my most recent visit to the ACME, I wandered into the bakery.  I was greeted by three charming young ladies (Abbie, Renae and Naomi), who welcomed me and gave me insights into the breakfast items on the menu.   Being a deli lover, and resisting the temptation of the house made danishes, cake balls and pastries in the display counter, I gravitated toward the "Lox on a Bagel".   My mouth watered as Naomi assembled my sandwich.  Starting with a hot "everything bagel" she added cream cheese, capers, beautifully sliced lox and topped it off with pickled onions and arugula.   It was delicious.   I enjoyed it so much that I returned the next morning and had another "Lox on a Bagel", this time on an asiago bagel.  

This West Town Bakery shop at the ACME Hotel Company is their second location.  Although their meal offerings are more limited, this location serves the same delicious bakery it as their flagship store.      I look forward to my next visit to this hidden gem in the River North area of Chicago.

West Town Bakery, 15 East Ohio St., Chicago, IL 60611, (312) 894-0935, www.westtownbakery.com

ACME Hotel Company, 15 East Ohio St., Chicago, IL 60611, (312) 894-0800, www.acmehotelcompany.com

 LOX ON A BAGEL

LOX ON A BAGEL

 WEST TOWN BAKERY VIEWED FROM THE FOYER OF THE ACME HOTEL COMPANY

WEST TOWN BAKERY VIEWED FROM THE FOYER OF THE ACME HOTEL COMPANY

 ACME HOTEL COMPANY

ACME HOTEL COMPANY

 FRONT WINDOW

FRONT WINDOW

 UNTIL NEXT TIME

UNTIL NEXT TIME

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches - PASTRAMI QUEEN

 PASTRAMI QUEEN

PASTRAMI QUEEN


It was a chilly and overcast Tuesday afternoon.   I had just taken the train from the Newark Airport to Manhattan.   I hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take me to 78th & Lexington.  My destination was Pastrami Queen.  My plan was to have a pastrami sandwich prior to checking into my hotel and preparing to join some colleagues to see a Broadway show that evening.

I arrived at Pastrami Queen shortly before 3:30 PM.   The ambiance was that of a classical no-nonsense deli.  Through the glass windows in the long stainless steel deli case, I saw a large assortment of appetizing delicacies - knishes, kugel, potato latkes, meats, chopped liver, stuffed derma, pickles, salads and much more.   Loaves of rye bread were stacked on a shelf behind the counter.    The visual and the aroma let me know that I was in for a very special meal.

Since I arrived after the traditional lunch hour, a few of the 16 seats in the deli were available.   As I seated myself at a small table near the deli counter, I observed several of the patrons engaged in scintillating conversation and partaking in what I consider to be the perfect meal - deli sandwiches.      

Luis was my server.  I ordered a pastrami on rye, pickles on the side, and a potato latke.  Everything was delicious.  The pastrami was thinly sliced, not too fatty, well steamed and nearly melted in my mouth.  The flavor was mild.  It had more of a smoky flavor, not peppery, not salty.  The rye bread was unseeded and had a crispy crust. The potato latke was the size of a small Frisbee.  Again delicious.  The mild flavored latke had a crispy, chewy crust and a soft inside.

Pastrami Queen was an outstanding first stop on this trip. Kudos to the owner, Steve Friedman and his staff for a great deli experience that brightened my Tuesday afternoon.

 PASTRAMI QUEEN, 1125 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10075, (212) 734-1500,  www.PastramiQueen.com

 PASTRAMI SANDWICH

PASTRAMI SANDWICH

 DILL & NEW PICKLES

DILL & NEW PICKLES

 POTATO LATKE

POTATO LATKE

 NOODLE KUGEL

NOODLE KUGEL

 KNISHES

KNISHES

 SHARPENING THE KNIFE

SHARPENING THE KNIFE

 A CUT OF PASTRAMI

A CUT OF PASTRAMI

 LUIS WAS MY SERVER.

LUIS WAS MY SERVER.

 STEVE FRIEDMAN - OWNER OF PASTRAMI QUEEN

STEVE FRIEDMAN - OWNER OF PASTRAMI QUEEN

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches - SAM LaGRASSA'S

    SAM LaGRASSA'S -   WORLDS #1 SANDWICHES

 

SAM LaGRASSA'S -  WORLDS #1 SANDWICHES


When I visit Boston, I look forward to immersing myself into the culture by spending hours walking through the neigborhoods, stopping at the shops, landmarks and restaurants, conversing with the people and, of course, searching for delicious pastrami.   Recently, my wanderings led me to a very special sandwich shop in the heart of the city, not far from Boston Common and the Financial District.  It was the lunch hour and I walked into Sam LaGrassa’s sandwich shop.  I was met by the aroma of fresh and appetizing deli meat and a menu board featuring their signature offerings.  I saw at least six counter persons, enthusiastically preparing sandwiches for individuals who appeared to be regular customers.  I looked around and observed many locals enjoying their favorite deli sandwiches.   The energetic vibe in the restaurant clearly reflected the passion that Sam LaGrassa and his sons have for creating outstanding sandwiches.

As usual, I ordered pastrami on rye.   Upon taking my first bite of the sandwich, I realized that this one was different.   The pastrami was very lean and tender, but instead of being more peppery or spicy, it was sweet and flavorful.  Although this preparation of pastrami departed from the mainstream, I found the sandwich to be delicious.  

I look forward to my next visit to again enjoy the pastrami and to try the other signature sandwiches that have earned Sam LaGrassa’s its “World’s No. 1” ranking.

Sam LaGrassa's, 44 Province St., Boston, MA 02108, (617) 357-6861, samlagrassas.com


 SAM LaGRASSA

SAM LaGRASSA

 PASTRAMI SANDWICH

PASTRAMI SANDWICH

 SAM AND HIS SON RICHARD

SAM AND HIS SON RICHARD

 RUMANIAN PASTRAMI - DRY CURED BEEF, SEASONED AND GENTLY SMOKED

RUMANIAN PASTRAMI - DRY CURED BEEF, SEASONED AND GENTLY SMOKED

 WORLD'S #1 SANDWICHES

WORLD'S #1 SANDWICHES

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches - HARRY & IDA'S Meat and Supply Co.

 "Pop's Pastrami" sandwich at Harry & Ida's

"Pop's Pastrami" sandwich at Harry & Ida's

Prior to my most recent trip to New York, I learned of an artisan deli in the East Village that serves a pastrami sandwich unlike the traditional fare in the well known Jewish delis.  So after a delicious breakfast at "Russ & Daughter's Cafe" and a mid morning snack at "Yonah Schimmel's", I walked up to 12th Street, turned right at Avenue A and arrived at Harry & Ida's.  As I read the menu, I knew that I would experience something special, as three of the eight sandwich offerings on the menu were variations of pastrami. Vinny, the counter man who greeted me, enthusiastically explained that that a Harry & Ida's pastrami sandwich would be unlike any other.   Will Horowitz, the owner,  soon joined the conversation  and described how the "Pop's Pastrami" sandwich was constructed, and explained how each of the special ingredients (home steamed & smoked brisket pastrami, with anchovy mustard, cucumber kraut and dill on a soft bun) contributed to the overall experience.  Will also shared the historical background of his eatery and how it was inspired by his great-grandparents, Harry and Ida.  

Notwithstanding such a compelling story, I still wondered how a pastrami sandwich adorned with unconventional ingredients served on something other than rye bread could compete with the traditional preparation. However, the manner in which Will prepared my pastrami sandwich - beginning with his hand-carving the well-steamed pastrami through his careful and deliberate addition of the cucumber slaw, anchovy mustard and dill - radiated a level of confidence and pride characteristic of a true artisan.

One bite and I was sold.  This sandwich was beyond delicious. At the heart of the sandwich were thick slices of well-steamed pastrami brisket, with excellent flavor and texture,  Although the sandwich departed from the traditional preparation, it was clearly among the best.   I look forward to my next visit to Harry & Ida's.

Harry & Ida's Meat & Supply Co., 189 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009, (646) 864-0967, meatandsupplyco.com

 Harry & Ida's

Harry & Ida's

 Will Horowitz prepares my "Pop's Pastrami" sandwich.

Will Horowitz prepares my "Pop's Pastrami" sandwich.

 Vinny and Isle observe Will's preparation of my sandwich.

Vinny and Isle observe Will's preparation of my sandwich.

 "Pop's Pastrami" sandwich at Harry & Ida's

"Pop's Pastrami" sandwich at Harry & Ida's

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches - MAMALEH'S DELICATESSEN - Cambridge, MA

 SHEA AND JENNA WERE MY SERVERS

SHEA AND JENNA WERE MY SERVERS

When I travel to the Boston area I am always reminded of the Kingston Trio song about Charlie’s ride on the MTA.    On my most recent trip, I purchased my “Charlie Ticket” and rode the “T” to the Kendall Square Station (where Charlie “handed in his dime”) and then walked just a few blocks to Mamaleh’s Delicatessen.

Upon entering the deli I was greeted and welcomed by John Kessen, one of the owners.  The restaurant was bustling with diners enjoying bagels, fish plates, deli sandwiches, chicken soup, chopped liver, latkes and other great deli items.   After a very short wait I was seated at a small table near the window.  I took one look at the menu and saw a number of must-try items.  I started with a bowl of chicken soup with duck kreplach (a 21st century iteration of a traditional Jewish staple).   It was delicious.    

My next course was “gribenes,” an old school preparation of cholesterol, disguised as crispy fried pieces of chicken skin and onions. (Traditionally, "gribenes" or "grieven" consists of the chicken skin cracklings with fried onions that is the byproduct in the rendering of chicken schmaltz.)  This was even more delicious and brought back memories of my grandmother feeding me this wonderful food in my early childhood.   The ladies seated at the table next to me were so intrigued by this delicacy, that I shared my order of gribenes with them.

The grand finale of my lunch was a “fresser” size pastrami sandwich.  This sandwich consisted of well-flavored, steamed pastrami layered onto traditional east coast marble rye bread.   Again – it was delicious.  

I enjoyed the experience so much that two-days later, before heading to the airport for my return flight home, I stopped at Mamaleh’s once again, enjoyed a bowl of matzo ball soup and then took a pastrami sandwich with me for dinner on the plane.

Although Charlie may never return from his MTA ride, you can be assured that I look forward to my return to Mamaleh's.

Mamaleh's Delicatessen, One Kendall Square/Building 300, 15 Hampshire St.,  Cambridge, MA 02139, (617) 958-3354, mamalehs.com .

 WELCOME TO MAMALEH'S

WELCOME TO MAMALEH'S

 GRIBENES

GRIBENES

 PASTRAMI ON MARBLE RYE

PASTRAMI ON MARBLE RYE

 WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN A BOWL OF MATZO BALL SOUP AND A PASTRAMI SANDWICH?

WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN A BOWL OF MATZO BALL SOUP AND A PASTRAMI SANDWICH?

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches - JOSH'S DELI - Surfside, FL

 JOSH MARCUS HAND CARVING HIS HOMEMADE PASTRAMI

JOSH MARCUS HAND CARVING HIS HOMEMADE PASTRAMI

On a recent trip to south Florida, I discovered Josh's Deli in the town of Surfside.  After reading the reviews and inquiring of the hotel concierge I knew that this was a local gem that I could not miss.  Fortunately, I was able to break away from my conference during the next day's lunch break with time enough to get to Josh's, enjoy the delicacies and return in time for my afternoon meetings.    

Upon arriving at the deli, I was surprised to see a very understated storefront with only a very small "Josh's Deli" sign in the window..  I knew that I was in the right place when I observed two ladies sitting at a table out front, eating what appeared to be designer potato latkes (pancakes).  I entered the small establishment and placed my  pastrami on rye order with a very engaging young lady at the counter.   She then introduced me to the owner & chef, Josh Marcus.   I had great conversation with him as he hand carved the pastrami for my sandwich.  The pastrami was excellent.  It was flavorful, well steamed, and had great texture.  

After I finished my sandwich,  Josh then described some of his other signature deli items and strongly suggested that I try his "Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes".  With the first bite, I knew that these latkes were something special.  Each potato latke was covered with a light "schmear" of sriracha cream cheese and topped with a slice of spiced seared tuna.  To say that these latkes were outstanding would be an understatement.  

I look forward to returning to this great artisan deli and enjoying some of Josh's other culinary creations.

 Josh's Deli, 9517 Harding Avenue, Surfside, FL 33154,  (305) 397-8494  joshsdeli.com  

 PASTRAMI ON RYE

PASTRAMI ON RYE

 SLICING THE SEARED TUNA

SLICING THE SEARED TUNA

 KRUNCHY SPICY TUNA LATKE

KRUNCHY SPICY TUNA LATKE

 SURFSIDE MAYOR, DANIEL DIETCH, AND DELI OWNER/CHEF, JOSH MARCUS.

SURFSIDE MAYOR, DANIEL DIETCH, AND DELI OWNER/CHEF, JOSH MARCUS.

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches -- KENNY & ZIGGY'S - Houston, TX

 Pastrami on Rye

Pastrami on Rye

After seeing the movie, Deli Man, I quickly scheduled a business trip to Houston to experience for myself what appeared to be a remarkable deli. My flight departed Los Angeles at 6:00AM and arrived in Houston 11:16 AM. I grabbed my carry-on luggage from the overhead compartment, headed for the airport exit and summoned an Uber car.  We arrived at Kenny & Ziggy's shortly after noon.  The hostess seated me at my table, and as I looked around the restaurant, I spotted the owner, Ziggy Gruber, seated at a table and engaged in conversation with customers   After ordering my pastrami sandwich, I let my server know that I wanted to speak with Ziggy.    I was about halfway through my sandwich when Ziggy came over, introduced himself, and took a seat across from me. I told him about my love for pastrami and that I hoped to feature his deli in an upcoming blog post.  He responded with hospitality that rivaled that of my grandmother.  First, he took me behind the deli counter to get a close up look at the pastrami still in the steamers.  He also insisted that I sample the chopped liver (which was to die for) and the rugalach.  

My experience was so good that I returned four more times on this trip.  One evening I ordered the stuffed cabbage with sides of kishka and noodle kugel.  All were excellent.  The next evening, I ordered a pastrami sandwich. While I was waiting for it to arrive, Ziggy sent over a plate full of delicious gribines.  I thought that my dinner was complete as I took the last bite of my sandwich, but Ziggy - in the tradition of my grandmother - insisted that I have some blintzes.   Again - all were excellent. 

Kenny & Ziggy's combines well prepared deli food with outstanding service and Ziggy's personality to create an outstanding deli experience.  I look forward to my next visit.  Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant is located at 2327 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX - (713) 871-8883 - kennyandziggys.com

 Chopped Liver   

Chopped Liver

 

 Blintzes

Blintzes

 Ziggy Gruber welcoming me to his deli.

Ziggy Gruber welcoming me to his deli.

 Carolina Silva was my server.

Carolina Silva was my server.

My Favorite Pastrami Sandwiches- - LANGER'S RESTAURANT-DELICATESSEN - Los Angeles, CA

 Pastrami on rye at langer's Deli

Pastrami on rye at langer's Deli

Shortly after the turn of the century I discovered pastrami.  Yes, I had previously seen it on deli menus and on party platters, and on occasion I had tasted it but always considered it nothing more than another variation of "deli meat."  For years I had heard about a deli in the heart of Los Angeles that served an excellent pastrami sandwich, but it wasn't until the early 2000s that I gave it a try.  One day I walked into Langer's Deli in Los Angeles and ordered the pastrami sandwich.  Upon taking my first bite, my view of the pastrami sandwich was forever changed.  This sandwich was a masterpiece of perfectly flavored, well steamed, hand carved slices of pastrami served on fresh rye bread, crusty on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  It was clearly a culinary art form. This sandwich marked the beginning of my obsession with this traditional Jewish delicacy.  When I am in town I visit Langer's once or twice a week to enjoy my favorite sandwich.  Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant is located at 704 South Alvarado St., Los Angeles, CA 90057  -  (213) 483-8050 - langersdeli.com .

When I travel out of town, my itinerary always includes visits to local delis so that I may try their pastrami sandwiches.   I have been to delis in many cities throughout the United States.  I have recently prepared a list of my favorite pastrami sandwiches and will soon be featuring each of my favorites as part of Michael's America: People, Places & Pastrami.