Any Good Pastrami In The Bay Area?

I went to Wise Sons this weekend and had pretty disappointing eats. I’ve been eating their pastrami about once a year since the time they were just a pop-up and I’ve always enjoyed it even though I’ve always felt that they are a little skimpy with it. It was usually moist, salty, slightly smoky and hand cut into decently thick slices.

Saturday it was dry, very little flavor and sliced thin on a slicer. Tasted like standard Boar’s Head deli pastrami. Chicken liver on toast was just OK. I like their rye but it was sliced way too thick. I don’t see myself returning.

Rye Project slices their pastrami super thin and dips it into juice/grease to give it moisture. Last time I had it they put it on toasted rye and it was very skimpy on the pastrami.
Sauls – I had it 20 years ago when I first moved to SF, so its been a while, but I just remember it being OK.
Wood Tavern – they do a nice pastrami sandwich, thinly sliced, large pile of moist/greasy meat.
Have not yet been to The Refuge in San Carlos, but looks legit.

Now I lived a 2 blocks from Katz’s for 5 years and do a yearly visit to Langers in LA as well as Pastrami Queen in NY, so maybe I’m a little too picky in this department, but would love to find a good pastrami sandwich close to home.

I’ve enjoyed the pastrami at Saul’s in Berkeley. In the 20 years since you last had it, they’ve started curing it in-house, and they have excellent Acme rye bread. Ask for a fatty cut.

Smoke BBQ in Berkeley occasionally has pretty good pastrami, and again, ask for the fatty cut.

Other than that, you’re correct that most pastrami around here is Boar’s Head-level.

Different from Langer’s or Katz’s but welcome just the same:

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OK thanks, sounds like a return trip to Saul’s is on my agenda!

Not an expected location, perhaps, but Woodhouse Tavern’s pastrami is outstanding. It may not be on the dinner menu, so check it out for lunch or afternoon eats. Comes on an Acme roll, not rye, but this is so good that I never miss it. Seriously crave-worthy.

Katz’s is great and Langer’s is even better. My two favorite pastrami sandwiches in the whole wide world.

The Refuge is the best that I’ve tried in the Bay Area. Thick-cut (which I consider very important) and to me invokes Katz’s or Langer’s better than any place else. Certainly not in their class, but close enough to scratch my pastrami itch. There are two branches: San Carlos and Menlo Park. If you get your food at the San Carlos location to-go, you can eat next door at Ale Arsenal, which has an excellent craft beer selection, though both locations do have a decent Belgian beer selection.

I don’t find Sauls, Wise Sons or Wood Tavern to be in the same class as The Refuge.

I have not been back to The Refuge since sometime in its first year. I found the flavor to be lacking, and left disappointed. Perhaps my preference for thin-sliced pastrami is part of my differing perspective.

Rye Project is closed.

I like Refuge’s pastrami, but wasn’t enthused by their bread (too thick IIRC)

I agree - Wood Tavern’s pastrami is my favorite. It is just on the lunch menu and, while it is on an acme roll, the pastrami is so fatty and juicy, I don’t mind it. Love it so much.

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I’m from the Northeast and the only pastrami I truly like out here is what they have at Max’s on Van Ness. (My husband just buys it by the pound and brings it home to my sad little pastrami-starved life in bougie North Berkeley.) It’s fatty, very thinly sliced, and it has a supple texture.

My problem with Saul’s, Wood Tavern’s, Smoke’s etc., is that it’s dry and sliced too thick. When I eat it, it’s eating a brisket sandwich - nothing wrong with that. (And I LOVE a Smoke brisket sandwich.) But it’s not pastrami.

I’m just very attached to the specific combination of the right rye bread (Semi-Freddi’s Odessa rye, in this case), the kind of pastrami I grew up on (Max’s), and yellow mustard. That’s why using even the loveliest baguette and the fanciest artisan meat doesn’t do it for me.


I am with you about thick sliced pastrami, which is all I ever had growing up in Boston. But Wood Tavern’s is very thinly sliced, not thick. I will concede the bread is not ideal, but I would happily eat their fatty, nicely seasoned pastrami with nothing but some good deli mustard.

I’m with heavysnaxx on this - nice fat-marbled pastrami, good rye, decent sauerkraut, Russian dressing (NOT Thousand Island, grrrr!), aged Swiss - yum!

I will say that altho I prefer thin to thick-sliced, the pastrami is so mediocre these days I’ll take it sliced any way I can get it. But no, Wood Tavern’s bready white just doesn’t make it with me. As bad as Clove & Hoof, ugh.

The best pastrami we’ve encountered were unfortunately specials, and not regular menu items. Lalime/Berkeley back in 2016 and Solbar May 2017 both produced fabulously juicy, truly smoky pastrami for Reuben specials.

We have to settle for visiting 1400 Bar & Grill/Alameda. They make a classic Reuben and the pastrami is nicely marbled, thin sliced. They don’t stuff much into it, but it’s a nicely balanced Reuben; just not the overlarge NY deli style that the original Max’s Deli used to do back in the 1970’s in downtown SF. My DH and I used to do a lot of date lunches over those Reubens!

I’ll keep in mind that tip about Max’s/Van Ness SF, but we are almost never in The City any longer. Sigh.

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