Eat This Now: Rachel’s Hot Cousin at the BBQ Joint

Rachel's Hot Cousin at the BBQ Joint on 14 Street. Photograph by Ronald Flores.

Back when I was living in New York, I became obsessed with reuben sandwiches. Katz’s made the best one—at noon, at 3 AM—but sometimes during the week, a coworker and I would go in on the pie-sized behemoth from Carnegie Deli, the tourist haven around the corner from our office. We would eat the thing for the rest of the week (although somehow we’d always forget that refrigerated day-old reubens=not so delicious).

It’s no secret that a truly great reuben isn’t so easy to find around here. Especially those made with pastrami, not corned beef (you’ll have an easier time scoring a Rachel, the version that switches in roast turkey and trades kraut for slaw). And a barbecue restaurant? That was about the last place I thought to look.

But it turns out, Andrew Evans, chef/owner of the new BBQ Joint on 14th Street is crazy about the sandwiches, too, and it shows. His take, which he calls Rachel’s Hot Cousin—a sort of reuben/Rachel mash-up—is the best I’ve tasted in the city. The glory of it is in the details. The squishy rye bread, heavy on the caraway, from Lyon Bakery. The thick slices of brisket that are corned then rubbed in pastrami spices and smoked. The nutty aged Swiss. Creamy slaw that has just a hint of peppery bite to it. And bringing it all together, homemade Thousand Island, studded with bread and butter pickles that are brined just for that dressing.

Good as the pastrami is, this sandwich isn’t really about the meat. It’s the messy harmony of its other parts—the buttery, crunchy griddled bread, the tangy, drippy sauce, the melted cheese—that have me day-dreaming about it 14 hours after I took my last bite. Alas, this was a sandwich that had zero chance of making it to the fridge.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.