My search for the best corned beef/pastrami in New York continues….
Of all the iconic foods of New York that I have documented, I think corned beef and pastrami is the one that is updated the least. We are immersed in fancy bagel and hot dog shops and we all know the world of pizza keeps growing. But it’s only once in a while that somebody comes along to elevate the humble Jewish meat sandwich.
Mile End did it a few years back with their introduction of Montreal-style smoked meat. It was an eye-opening experience that was akin to trying pickled and smoked meat for the first time. I wish I actually remembered when that was.
I had another holy experience similar to my first visit to Mile End recently when I went to the new sandwich shop Harry & Ida’s. This brand-new spot opened in the East Village earlier this summer and is overseen by chef Will Horowitz from nearby meat-centric restaurant Ducks Eatery.
Reading about the sandwiches and the process behind the pastrami, I was expecting some of the vibe to emulate a classic old-school Jewish delicatessen. Not so much. This is pure hipster territory meets northern small-town country general store. A small menu offers both cured and smoked meat by the pound or as sandwich concoctions. Whichever route you choose, there is no place to sit and eat – only a standing counter near the window.
The man behind the counter was very eager to cut me a taste of the pastrami. I initially declined since I knew I was ordering the sandwich and didn’t need the sneak preview. But as he began to carve the brisket, he cut me a sample anyway. This is how they do it at Katz’s and in both instances, it gets you even more excited to dig in.
Also, like Katz’s (and Mile End), the meat is hand-sliced to order and so the cuts are thicker and the meat is moister since it can stay in the steamer longer. I truly wish everybody serving pastrami did this, but alas the machine is a lot easier.
Pop’s Pastrami sandwich was not cheap at $19.50, but it was oh so delicious. The tender and deeply flavored pastrami (intense notes of smoke and garlic melt away along with the meat itself) was garnished with thin cucumber slices and fresh dill sprigs. I was a bit worried that this didn’t have any mustard, but after a few bites the tangy condiment revealed itself and brought it back into the world of Jewish deli sandwiches.
The one alteration that many purists would find unforgivable was that the sandwich was served on a soft baguette rather than the classic rye bread. But I must admit the excellent bread gave the sandwich even more depth and aside from the missing caraway seeds, didn’t taken anything away from the sandwich experience.
Harry & Ida’s (name for the owner’s great-grandparents who had a deli in Harlem) is also serving a pastrami hot dog. I assumed this would be a hot dog with pastrami on top, but no, it’s a hot dog made from pastrami scraps. Something to try for next time. That and the smoked bluefish, the smoked eel, and perhaps the entire menu.
Does Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co. have the best corned beef/pastrami in NYC? Well, they are only doing the pastrami half of that combo, but they are doing it with the utmost care and quality. It’s by far the best new pastrami sandwich in the city in many, many years. 10 out of 10.
|HARRY & IDA’S MEAT AND SUPPLY CO.|
|189 Avenue A (between East 11th and East 12th Street),