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Best of Washington: Look Ma, No Mustard!
Comments () | Published August 25, 2008

Washingtonian > Packages > Best of Washington

Best Deli Sandwich

Deli City piles its corned-beef sandwiches with tender, slow-cooked brisket. Photograph by Matthew Worden

Maybe it’s a law of nature that being near anything named New York makes a deli sandwich better. Deli City Restaurant (2200 Bladensburg Rd., NE; 202-526-1800), off New York Avenue, stacks a corned-beef sandwich so rich you might think you’re on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (the illusion gets an assist from the restaurant’s diner atmosphere and view of the Budweiser distribution center). Owner Jay Eckstein slow-cooks the brisket, yielding tender morsels that soak the caraway-studded rye bread with flavor. Crumbling and almost sweet with a hint of spice, it doesn’t even need mustard. The pastrami? Imagine a beefy bacon, only softer.

Deli City may serve up Washington’s most delicious cured meat, but a sampling of area name-brand delis turned up other corned-beef and pastrami sandwiches with satisfying flavors. Around here, we tend to like our corned beef and pastrami lean. Our sandwiches are well stacked but not tottering. And don’t expect a crust of pepper; many Washingtonians seem to prefer a milder pastrami.

At Eli’s Restaurant (1253 20th St., NW; 202-785-4314), the corned beef’s briny tang pairs nicely with the crusty, marbled rye. Ditto for the pastrami, smoky and as fine as the restaurant’s white tablecloths. Both meats sport a deep color and full flavor.

Chutzpah (8100 Boone Blvd., 703-556-3354; also 12214 Fairfax Towne Center, 703-385-8883) does justice to the genre with a hefty corned beef redolent of cloves and cinnamon—a perfect combo with spicy mustard. The pastrami plays its shyer cousin, with a pleasant taste but no realpunch.

Silver Spring’s Parkway Deli (8317 Grubb Rd.; 301-587-1427) charges an additional 35 cents for “extra lean” corned beef and pastrami. Unexpectedly, the leaner version packs more flavor per bite, without the rubberiness of the fattier option.

Best eaten hot, these sandwiches aren’t the top choice for a summer picnic. But is there anything better before a ballgame? Fuggedaboutit.

This article appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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