Stacking up the metropolitan pastrami Rat Pack

February 13, 2013

Washington, a pastrami mecca? Over the past year house versions of the smoked and spiced deli meat have been on the rise. Taste it for yourself. Here are contenders, in sandwich form, analyzed by overall impressions, price, meat weight, appearance and flavor profile.


Wagshal's Delicatessen (Photo by Deb Lindsey)

Wagshal’s Delicatessen
4855 Massachusetts Ave. NW
202-363-5698

Chef: Bill Fuchs

Overall Impressions: This Spring Valley institution works it old-style. The pastrami’s flesh is dark and has a distinctive dark black line of crust around it that none of the other pastramis here do. It’s juicy and lush-tasting, the closest approximation to what you’d remember from childhood. “One thing that sets us apart is that we use USDA Prime beef,” says Fuchs. He contends that the meat must be sliced thin to enhance the richness of the
mouth feel and meld its flavors completely.

Sandwich price: $6.99

Meat weight per sandwich / per-meat-ounce value: 5 ounces / $1.40

Meat sold by pound? / price: Yes / $11.99

Part of the brisket used: Whole (the point, which is fattier, and the flat, which is leaner)

How the pastrami is made: Wet-cured for 12-14 days, crusted with spice, dry-cured for 12-14 days, hickory-smoked for 6-8 hours, baked at 180 degrees for 2-3 hours, until tender. Sliced and steamed to order.

Appearance / texture: Deep adobe color, dark crust, very thin (1/8-inch) slices /melty tender.

Flavor profile / fat: Smoky, spicy/marbled, high fat.


DGS Delicatessen (Photo by Deb Lindsey)

DGS Delicatessen
1317 Connecticut Ave. NW
202-293-4400

Chef: Barry Koslow

Overall Impressions: The rye bread is lightly toasted, and that provides a nice crunchy counterpoint to the meat. “I look for salty, sweet, smoky and fat,” says Koslow. “And spicy. Those five things make an ideal pastrami. Without that, you might as well have a turkey
sandwich.” It’s a delicious sandwich, if not a tad pricey, and absolutely lives up to the expectations created before DGS opened in November.

Sandwich price: $13

Meat weight per sandwich / per-meat-ounce value: 6 ounces /$2.16

Meat sold by pound? / price: Not yet.

Part of the brisket used: Point (flat used for corned beef).

How the pastrami is made: Wet-cured for 7 days, crusted with spice and smoked for 6 hours using a custom blend of apple wood and hickory, put in a steam bath until tender, about 4 hours. Held in a temperature-controlled steamer and sliced
to order.

Appearance / texture: Rosy hue, very light crust, 1/4-inch slices /al dente.

Flavor profile / fat: Sweet, rich, spicy, smoky/marbled, high fat.


Bourbon Steak (Photo by Deb Lindsey)

Bourbon Steak
2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
202-944-2026

Chef: Adam Sobel

Overall Impressions: Preparations of fatty meats are a matter of course at a restaurant whose claim to fame is poaching ultra-thick steaks in butter before finishing them off on a grill. Sobel uses only the leaner flat cut of the brisket for his pastrami but wisely leaves a good portion of the fat line between it and the point intact. “You can always take fat off
after it’s smoked,” he says. “That’s where all the juiciness is.” The meat is flavorful, with
even spice and smoke throughout; it might benefit from being sliced thinner.

Sandwich price: $12

Meat weight per sandwich / per-meat-ounce value: 7.2 ounces /$1.66

Meat sold by pound? / price: No

Part of the brisket used: Flat (point used for a brisket sandwich)

How the pastrami is made: Injected with brine and wet-cured for 7-10 days, crusted with spice and smoked for 4-6 hours, steamed for 4 hours, cooled and cryovaced. Sliced and griddled to order.

Appearance / texture: Adobe hue, medium crust, 1/2-inch slices /tender.

Flavor profile / fat: Peppery, lightly smoky/lean, with 1/2-inch fat line.


Stachowski's Market (Photo by Deb Lindsey)

Stachowski’s Market
1425 28th St. NW
202-506-3125

Chef: Jamie Stachowski

Overall Impressions: In Stachowski’s world, bigger is better. His sandwich is enormous, and it is physically impossible to bite into the whole thing. What you’ve got here is four meals. Here’s one strategy: Eat a quarter on-site and another quarter at home several hours later. Save the rest and make hash out of it the next day for breakfast. The meat’s rosy hue brings to mind more the color of corned beef. The pepper comes through in every bite, and there’s plenty of fat for moisture. Here, too, slices could be a bit thinner.

Sandwich price: $12.99

Meat weight per sandwich / per-meat-ounce value: 24 ounces /54 cents

Meat sold by pound? / price: Yes /$12.99

Part of the brisket used: Whole (point and flat)

How the pastrami is made: Wet-cured for 7 days; rinsed, patted dry, crusted with spice and smoked for 11 hours using red oak. Held in a steamer and sliced to order.

Appearance / texture: Rosy hue, very light crust, 1/2-inch slices /al dente

Flavor profile / fat: Peppery, salty, briny, light smoke/marbled, yet medium fat


Artifact Coffee (Deb Lindsey)

Artifact Coffee
1500 Union Ave., Baltimore
410-235-1881

Butcher and chef: George Marsh, Isaiah Billington

Overall Impressions: At chef-owner Spike Gjerde’s new Baltimore shop, the butcher and chef de cuisine add hours of sous-vide cookery to extract the most tenderness from the grass-fed beef used there. Their sandwich resembles a Reuben made cheesesteak style: Chopped pastrami is griddled with sauerkraut, fried onions and Swiss cheese, piled between thick slices of toasted rye bread spread with Russian dressing. Why chop the meat, though? It should star in the sandwich, not be lumped in with the rest of the cast.

Sandwich price: $12

Meat weight per sandwich / per-meat-ounce value: 4-5 ounces /$2.40

Meat sold by pound? / price: No

Part of the brisket used: Whole (point and flat)

How the pastrami is made: Wet-cured for 7 days, air-dried overnight, caked with spice, vacuum-sealed, cooked sous-vide at 180 degrees for 12 hours, iceshocked
to cool, smoked with accumulated cooking juices for 2-3 hours using hickory.
Sliced and chopped.

Appearance / texture: Adobe hue, very light crust, chopped/melty tender

Flavor profile / fat: Deep smoke, light pepper/lean

Read more on the pastrami take-over here.

SECTION: {section=goingoutguide, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=goingoutguide, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Most Read Entertainment
Next Story
Lavanya Ramanathan · February 13, 2013