The considerably less greasy Pastrami from the 2nd Ave Deli in Manhattan comparéd to Katz in the lower east side on Houston Street, offers a killer Pastrami on Rye yet memories of more meh bites of pricy Pastrami, don’t make my heart flutter with more erect interest the way repeat showings of the Cherry Pie video on MTV in junior high did or provide the same rapturous joy in hunting down the perfect chicken cutlet in high school throughout lower Westchester County once we all become licensed to drive.
Not every Pastrami sandwich on rye from Jewish Delis in New York is woo worthy. Growing up in the snuggle soft confines of Westchester County, 30 minutes north of Manhattan, our only local option for Pastrami was at Epstein’s, located on a semi-derelict, zero frills section of Central Avenue close to White Plains, NY. Where my friends and I used to frequent a local bodega who didn’t ID, to pick up more forties of Old English, Snoop Dog’s old school ho sprayer of choice. The pastrami on Rye at Epstein’s is only 13 bucks compared to its vastly superior, smokier succulent cousin at Katz Deli on Houston, the oldest deli in America, which was big time before George Burns uttered on his deathbed, “I got off easy compared to Jackie Mason, who had the misfortune of being branded as the less lovable, more overtly Jewish, curmudgeon version of Don Rickles.”
Reality is, you get what you pay for and the pastrami at Epstein’s always tasted a tad blubbery rubbery to be classified as Yelp stroking, jerking off Pastrami ever. Is the Pastrami at Katz infinitely better than Epstein’s? Is the Catholic Church soft on condemning pedophilia? Still, Katz is a schlep if you don’t live downtown or anywhere remotely close to the Island of Manhattan. Plus, the place is a dump and pictures of Ben Stiller on the wall don’t make it anymore alluring either regardless of him being the face of Mugatu or not. Also, when you go to Katz for the 1st time when you’re already in your late twenties when you’re selling ad space for the Village Voice, which doesn’t include the sale of she male size stamps in the back, you feel unfashionably late to the Pastrami is king, rallying party. I’ve tried the Pastrami from the famed Montreal Jewish deli transplant Mile End in the East Village, which packs as much old world charm as Ethel the waitress’s armpit stains, as she scribbles in your order, cursing your existence for being such a predictable, blah brain bore like the rest as she thinks, “Pastrami on rye with spicy brown Mustard, how original. I bet he thinks Bill Maher wishing for a Recession on Real Time to get President Trump out of office, pre-Corona was an example of keeping it real, resistor like, boy!”
My intention isn’t to completely crap on the most unifying of all foods for gentiles and Jews alike, Pastrami on rye. Still, taking my 3 kids to Epstein’s this past Saturday to celebrate my upcoming all-star book review for The Great American Jew Novel, to be published in the Midwest Review of all places, I was slightly embarrassed for hard selling my kids on how Pastrami is considered the Filet Mignon of kosher cow dishes. Granted, this type of Pastrami wasn’t the Austin smoked brisket kind or the Katz caliber, but for a comedy writer who prides himself on his originality, I felt like a used Honda car salesman, for pushing the Pastrami on rye to my 3 kids, by inferring they’d be fake news Jews without embracing the Romantic Comedy date nosh of choice.
Matilda, my eldest, actually emoted about her bit size bite of Pastrami the most, saying, “I like it Daddy. But can you make your London Broil again but a tad more tender next time?” Arthur, her younger brother said, “I like my Hebrew National Hot Dog way better than the Pastrami Daddy. Can you start making your Hebrew National Dogs at home taste more like this?” Baby brother Samuel took some excited nibbles from the pastrami, but he wasn’t doing any yummy dances in the smoked meat’s delicacy’s honor either. I inhaled the remainder of the Pastrami sandwich but only forcmere blessed meat Kosher sake. I actually preferred bites out of our communal square potato Knish by itself, without even dipping it in the too sour spicy brown mustard, proving meat isn’t always better, especially if it’s not a homemade do it all dad creation you made yourself.
At the same time, my kids were very giddy in our padded booth, sucking down their Dr. Brown’s diet cream soda, which isn’t nearly as sugary sweet, with big hearted, didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world relish. On this unseasonably warm Saturday, before we visited my nearby old elementary school in Edgemont, NY as I proceeded to make it rain with more perfect arching jumpers from way downtown before I started freaking out the more career stable parents by the playground by gunning our nerf football at our kids heads, which they ate up with a spoon. Sometimes, the best things in life, don’t have to be smoked, cured, brined or seasoned, reminding me how the only ingredient necessary for old school fun, is being silly as you want to be, which never gets played out in our hearts.