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February 9, 2011

Yesterday’s Daily News handed out the award for best pastrami in the City. The prize went to the Mill Basin Deli out in, well, Mill Basin. Second place went to the venerable Katz’s, and, in a surprise, third place went to Loeser’s Delicatessen on 231st St. in The Bronx.

Loeser’s just happens to be one of the delis of my youth. I went there often with my friends throughout high school and college. Though I am embarrassed and ashamed to say that I haven’t been back in years. Not that long ago I drove by the place and wondered if it was still open. It was after hours and the place was dark, these days it’s just as likely that a shuttered place is just an abandoned store front rather than gone and replaced by something new. But it is with great joy I can report that it is not closed. In fact, they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary and are the oldest deli in the Bronx. Visit their facebook page and become a fan.

Amidst all this celebration the article recalls a dark chapter in my long relationship with pastrami. My junior year in college I went off to Mexico for a while. While there I developed two powerful cravings, cravings that could be fulfilled neither in Mexico nor Minnesota, where I was in school. I was desperate for a pastrami sandwich and fettucini alfredo. Yes, it was a little odd and no, I can’t tell you why I got them. But got them I did.

Before returning to school I came home to visit the family. One of the first things I did when back in the Bronx was go get a sandwich. I wasn’t going to eat it then and there, but was going to savor it later on. After picking up the sandwich I stopped at my favorite pizza place, Riviera Pizza also on 231st, just down the block from Loeser’s. I ate the slice on the way back to the car. About a block or two into the drive back to my parent’s I lost control of my pastrami lust and tore open the bag and ate half the sandwich. FUCKING FANTASTIC.

Two hours later I was puking up everything I had eaten for the last day and a half. I felt miserable all night but was fine in the morning. It was probably not the sandwich, I had never had a problem before, I had eaten pizza too and, right, I had just returned from an extended stay in Mexico. Regardless, the illness and the pastrami became fused in my mind and I could not eat it, from anywhere, for something like ten years. The very notion of the meat made me sick.

Eventually I was able to return pastrami to my diet, but it was never quite the same. I do enjoy it again, but those days of packing in fatty meat eating deli with abandon were gone forever. I was older, wiser, fatter, already had an elevated cholesterol rate and, most importantly, was less confident of my own immortality and more aware of the fact that people in my family seemed to get a big kick out of massive heart attacks and assorted other coronary artery diseases.

I think I’ve said enough about pastrami for now, but can tell you that I will be paying a visit to Freddie Loeser’s Deli soon and you should too.

Loeser’s Kosher Delicatessen. 214 W. 231st St. between Broadway and Godwin Terrace in Kingsbridge, The Bronx.

One more thing, I hope the wise cracking counterman is still there.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Fat Al permalink*
    February 9, 2011 11:20 pm

    Who you calling a Loeser?

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