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