I relish readers who ask me to go looking for the perfect something or other.
In 2013, readers sent me searching for the crispiest fish and chips, sloppiest meatball sandwiches and cheesiest chile rellenos.
I start 2014 with a mighty mission: to find the perfect hot pastrami sandwich.
Tacoma reader Jack Green sent me his must-have list for a hot pastrami sandwich. His hallmarks mirror mine: a sandwich piled high with pastrami of the juicy variety, made purely of rye bread and meat, although a pickle and mustard are an occasional nice addition.
Around Tacoma, I had a tough time finding straightforward hot pastramis made to Green’s specifications requiring the most basic trifecta of pastrami and mustard on rye. That’s a sandwich you would easily find in other parts of this country, with or without add-ins such as Swiss, kraut, slaw or pickles.
I had far less trouble finding something here that might make East Coasters cringe: pastrami Reubens, a sandwich typically made with corned beef East of here. The difference between the meats is somewhat subtle – there seem to be as many methods for producing them as there are raindrops in Washington – but in general, pastrami is cured and smoked while corned beef is brined and steamed. In the end? They’re both delicious piles of brisket.
Today’s review – dedicated to Green – is a collection of the best pastrami sandwiches I could find broken into two categories: bare bones hot pastramis with simple additions of cheese, mustard or pickles, and some versions of a pastrami Reuben made with kraut, puckery dressing, melted Swiss and some other twist. I’ve also got honorable mentions.
I found feasting upon nine pastrami sandwiches in about a month was pushing my limit. I’m sure I missed some good ones. Have a favorite pastrami sandwich? Let News Tribune readers know. Call me at 253-597-8270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Three pastrami Reubens to try, each with an unusual twist.
1. Foley’s On The Green
7108 Lakewood Drive W., Tacoma; 253-473-3033, metroparkstacoma.org/golf-foleys
The Andres sandwich at Foley’s On The Green – a great restaurant find at Tacoma’s Meadow Park golf course – was a purely delicious Reuben sandwiching a secret weapon: a fried egg.
The Andres gets my highest consideration for perfect construction that held up to the last bite. Melted Swiss glued together smoky, thin-shaved pastrami and broadly-sliced ’kraut on grilled marbled rye. I loved the extra level of flavor from the over-medium fried egg and the pronounced tang in the Thousand Island dressing. $10.99 with fries, chips or tots.
Fun fact: The Andres is a nod to Olympia professional golfer Andres Gonzales’ favorite sandwich. Gonzales is a friend of Jason Follen and Ryan Welborn, former Golden State Tour pros and co-owners of Foley’s. They cheekily include a shades and ’stache icon of Gonzales on the menu.
2. The Swiss Restaurant and Pub
1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma; 253-572-2821, theswisspub.com
The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in Tacoma injected flavor into its grilled sandwich with a double puff of smoke: It used triple layers each of pastrami and ham, which proved to be perfect smoky companions for the grilled marble rye with melted Swiss, griddled onions, a sweetened ’kraut licked with dill and a tangy Thousand Island. $9.99 with fries or tots, or pay the extra buck for a sublime warm German potato salad laced with bacon and vinegar.
3. Netshed No. 9
3313 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor; 253-858-7175.
It’s too deconstructed to be considered a Reuben, which is why Netshed No. 9’s pastrami panini was instead coined “Rubenesque” on the menu. Double layers of smoky pastrami got pucker from pickles, not kraut. Sharpness came from Beecher’s cheese curds and marinated tomatoes. The panini dripped punchy flavored mayo down my wrist – a nice touch. The sandwich came on rosemary ciabatta. $10 with chips.
The plain Jane hot pastrami proved elusive, but here are three stellar styles of that East Coast favorite:
4. Top of Tacoma
3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma; 253-272-1502, topoftacoma.com
Top of Tacoma’s New York-style pastrami panini was built on thick-cut sourdough from Macrina Bakery and layered with medium-thick smoky pastrami. Deli mustard and white cheddar added a sock of flavor along with thin-sliced pickle chips. $8 with chips.
Bonus: Try the Top’s Rainier Reuben ($8.50) with pastrami, cider-braised kraut and housemade Russian dressing with a tinge of horseradish.
5. Stanley and Seafort’s
115 E. 34th St., Tacoma; 253-473-7300, stanleyandseaforts.com
I was enamored with the unusual hot pastrami at the restaurant with Tacoma’s finest view, Stanley and Seafort’s. Several meaty layers of thinly shaved pastrami came on lightly toasted rye with the quirky Pittsburgh-style addition of fries tucked into the sandwich. Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and a smear of whole-grain mustard locked in crunch and tang. $13.95 with chips or fries.
6. Rock The Dock Pub and Grill
535 Dock St., Tacoma; 253-272-5004, rockthedockpub.com
Sometimes simplicity wins, and Rock The Dock on the Foss waterway nailed the basics with lots of pastrami and Dijon on grilled dark rye. Skip the cheese, or get it as the Rock The Dock kitchen recommends: with pepper jack. That restaurant should be on your radar for reliable sandwiches and brew. $8.99 with tots or fries.
* The pastrami Reuben was worth noting at Tacoma’s Peterson Bros./Eleven Eleven because the sandwich was built on a sturdy rye hoagie, an unusual find. $9. 1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 253-284-1111.
* I’d like the pastrami Reuben better at Tacoma’s Go Philly if it came on rye instead of white, but it earned points for sloppiest sandwich in town. $10.50. 1402 Tacoma Ave S., Tacoma, 253-572-3000, gophillycheesesteaks.com.
* I dug the piled-high portion of pastrami at Bumpy’s, which advertises itself as home to the Northwest’s biggest pastrami sandwich. The sandwich was a bit soggy, keeping it out of my top tier. $8. 116 E. Main St., Puyallup, 253-841-2931, bumpys.net.
Sue Kidd dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals.