Save the Deli

Esquire has Sandwiches on the Brain (and deli’s in there)

A few months back, as I was in the depths of book writing, my friend Jake called me up to tell me that Esquire was putting together an article on sandwiches. “Cool”, I thought, “a small piece on that most manly of meals. Hopefully they’ll put in some deli.”

Yesterday I clicked on esquire.com and beheld a veritable trove of sandwichocity. Not simply a mere article, the sandwich package was a series of essays, stories, ingredients, and lists, all devoted to the sandwich. And while there was a lot of subs, po’ boys, and other gentile incarnations, there’s a good amount of Jewish deli representation in there.

Take the article “The Best Sandwiches in America” (which is by no means definitive):

The first on the list is Jimmy’s Favorite from Jimmy and Drew’s 28th Street Deli, Boulder, Colorado


photo courtesy of Esquire.com/Michael Schmelling

“Never mind that Jimmy and Drew left Chicago to sell meat in a vegan stronghold: They survive because they make everything in-house. They thrive because Jimmy’s namesake Reuben swaps pedestrian rye (meh, it’s just a meat vessel) for schmaltz-fried latkes the size of your hubcaps. (2855 Twenty-eighth Street; 303-447-3354)”

I couldn’t aggree more. When I first stepped into Jimmy and Drew’s around this time last year I was blown away. Jake and I devoured that puppy in his Boulder kitchen, and I’ve made him a regular devotee. This is a place that makes its own meats and schmaltz, and I applaud their entry into this hall of fame.

Further down the list is Lisa C’s Boisterous Brisket from the venerable Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Gold Angus-beef brisket, dry-rubbed with sea salt, pungent Tellicherry black pepper, garlic, and marjoram, is left to sit in a mixture of butter-sautéed onions, caramelly demerara sugar, ketchup, molasses, garlic, and cayenne. Later it’s hand-pulled and layered into a bun that’s basically challah baked in hot-dog-roll form. On the side you get molasses-baked beans with applewood-smoked bacon, best added to the sandwich. (422 Detroit Street; 734-663-3354)

Naturally, it wouldn’t be complete without Pastrami on Rye from Katz’s, New York City

You know Katz’s. You know the scene in When Harry Met Sally. The orgasm. And if you’ve been there, you know she wasn’t faking it — the fatty, thick-cut pastrami on rye is that good. Better with a smear of mustard. (205 East Houston Street; 212-254-2246)

The magazine then goes on to stories about sandwiches, and one is most certainly deli worthy. In “The One Night Sandwich”, author John Hyduk recalls the tale long back of a random encounter in Montreal, a Ben’s smoked meat, and a beautiful, though mysterious woman.

“I saw her at Windsor Station. Tall and blond with a modeling portfolio under her arm, she stood across the platform and out of my league. Later, in the smoking car (this was a long time ago), she was tapping a Black Cat cigarette, fumbling for her lighter. I offered the matchbook. “Ah, Bens,” she said. I closed the deal with the sandwich in my duffel. She may have been lissome as a lily, but the girl chowed like a hockey goalie. I followed her all the way to New York City.”

Finally, there’s a hillarious interview with actor Elliott Gould on the sandwich at the Stage Deli that bears his name.


photo courtesy of Esquire.com/Michael Schmelling

Esquire: Ever eaten the Elliot Gould?

Elliott Gould: No. Did they spell my name right? Two l‘s, two t‘s?

ESQ: One t. So this isn’t your creation?

EG: It’s possible that at that time I was doing drugs and trying to be smart, because I can’t imagine that fucking sandwich. I certainly wouldn’t order it. But if I did, I’d take it apart, toast the bread, keep the liver and the turkey, lettuce, tomato, and bacon separate.

7 Responses to “Esquire has Sandwiches on the Brain (and deli’s in there)”

  1. Aredee Says:

    The reference to “goyishe” sandwiches, reminds me of a quip by Michael Feldman, host of Public Radio’s “Whad ‘ya Know.”

    Growing up as a kid in Milwaukee, his mom used to make pork chops. According to Feldman, it was OK, because the way she made them they weren’t recognizable to God or anyone else.

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