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