Mile End Deli

Mile End Deli Brooklyn-6

One of the few English words that my French other-half has mastered is “pastrami.” Which in his defense, is just fine because most Americans that speak little, if any French, can easily say baguette, croissant, tarte au citron, and macaron before they head to France. Seems like both cultures knows where their priorities lie!

Mile End Deli

So when I hear “Daveed, je veux du pastrami,” I look into those sweet little brown eyes, misting over a bit, I realize that I have to get him some. And some for myself, too — although I am a corned beef guy. But it’s hard to explain “corn” and “beef” (in French, bœuf maïsé doesn’t quite sound as appetizing), so I just go with le flow.

There are few really good delis left in New York. In Manhattan, Pastrami Queen does a good job, I haven’t been to Carnegie Deli since I was a kid but hear it’s still going, Sarge’s just reopened, and Second Avenue Deli reopened elsewhere a few years ago, neither of which I’ve revisited since. (But plan to.) And Brooklyn has Mill Basin Kosher Delicatessen, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Deli, and David’s Brisket House, which I think I need to visit, if only because of the name.

Mile End Deli

But some of the Brooklyn joints require a substantial subway commitment, even if you’re already in Brooklyn, so the more centrally located Mile End Deli it was. But it didn’t just win on location alone. It’s a favorite stop of mine for a sandwich.

Like corned beef, I wasn’t able to describe poutine, the Canadian dish made of frites smothered in cheese curds and gravy. But if that’s what you’re looking for, Mile End Deli has it. One of the owners of the restaurant is Canadian, so there are nods to Canadian delis, beers, and some of their other traditional fare.

Mile End Deli

And lest you think it’s why Americans – and let’s include us all as North Americans – are chunky, a very slender hipster kid behind us was wolfing down the “Fat Jewish Poutine“ with tongue, salami, bacon, hot dogs, cheese curds, gravy and French fries piled on the inevitable mound of fries. I don’t think I could have fit one of my arms into the legs of his skinny jeans.

Since I’m no longer a twenty-something, and I’m too old to wear pegged jeans made of stretchy material (not that I want to…), I didn’t go there, and settled on a smoked meat sandwich. I was asked to explain why it wasn’t actually a vrai (true) pastrami, so I asked the super-nice waitress about and it (the French like pastrami…and explanations), and the super-nice waitress explained that it’s like pastrami, but made from a different cut of meat. It’s certainly leaner than other versions, less-salty, and comes out on not stacked quite so high as the old-fashioned delis. But on the other hand, afterwards you don’t feel the need to call a crane to get your derrière out of the restaurant.

Mile End Deli

Our tablemates had a hefty smoked whitefish sandwich with lemon aïoli on toasted, carb-friendly challah bread, and a smoked meat burger topped off with fried egg and cheese on a toasted onion roll.

Mile End Deli

A few local workers wandered in and dove into gravy-laden poutines at the counter. They have a more reasonable version of poutine with “just” fries, meat, and gravy – but I’m sticking with smoked meat sandwiches, and will continue get my fry-fix on the side.

(I dislike sauce on French fries; I’ve never seen the benefit of soaking crisp foods with sauce, except for the spicy Indonesian peanut sauce I had once in Holland which admittedly won over a bit of this condiment curmudgeon.)

Mile End Deli

I do miss the slightly creamy deli version of cole slaw with celery seed that I grew up eating, but the fries – oh, those fries. How I’ve missed les frites, fried to a crusty tenderness, which, in spite of my altruism of indulging my Frenchman in getting his pastrami fix, why he was concentrating on his sandwich, I dug around the bowl of fries, pulling out the slender, extra-crispy ones that have fallen to the bottom, slyly slipped those choice morsels them into my craw, getting more than my share before he caught on to my constant digging, and joined me.

Mile End Deli

Yes, America has become the land of craft beers. Certainly Brooklyn has. But in spite of Mile End Deli’s extensive beer menu with brews from everywhere – Queens to California – I thought for a real American experience (and because the French like history), I ordered a Narragansett Lager for Romain, which claims to be New England’s oldest beer. As always, I went with Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda. Someday, I will explain Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray celery soda, but I think I need to understand it myself, first.

Mile End Deli

I don’t even know if Mile End Deli has dessert. But if you can handle one after a meal like this, you’re a bigger man than I. Or at least you will be.

Mile End Deli

Mile End Deli
97A Hoyt Street (Brooklyn)
and
53 Bond Street (Manhattan)

Mile End Deli



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59 comments

  • March 16, 2015 7:30pm

    Yummy!

  • PLRD
    March 16, 2015 7:34pm
    • March 16, 2015 7:46pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I had it at Schwartz’s in Montreal. It’s a great place!

  • Susan
    March 16, 2015 7:55pm

    I’m more of a corned beef sandwich person, myself, specifically in a Reuben. I can’t tell you how many times here in the Bay Area corned beef is not offered at all, and a Reuben is featured at a restaurant with pastrami as the meat. And..no barrel cured dill pickles. What the heck? I have hope, though. I’ve seen barrel cured sour kraut for sale at the farmers mkt over the past couple years, so big dills can’t be far behind.

  • March 16, 2015 8:20pm

    Such a nice piece! I used to gruelingly commute to work at the Hoyt Street location on the G from Greenpoint, and even landed a mug-shot in the cookbook in the employee photo. It is truly a special place. When I worked there they sold rugelach and mandel bread, and sometimes some delicious egg-white driven cookie for a dessert option, and for dinner service always a single dessert special (like the cheesecake or Hungarian Shortbread). Thanks for this.

  • March 16, 2015 8:51pm

    Those fries look amazing. I’m always disappointed when a favorite place can’t do a good french fry, much like when a good Mexican place has crappy salsas.

    What’s the verdict on the leaner “pastrami”?

  • March 16, 2015 8:52pm

    The picture of the pastrami looks delicious, but that mustard really had my heart aching. The mustard completes the perfect deli sandwich.

  • Ruth Lane
    March 16, 2015 9:21pm

    One more week, and I’ll be in NYC, and in two weeks I’ll be in Paris for two months—armed with your places-to-eat recommendations. It’s been way too long away!

  • March 16, 2015 9:53pm

    Never really got into pastrami, but have only had it in Brazil since after deciding I didn’t like it at the age of 10, I have managed to mostly avoid it for the past 16 years. Maybe NY does it better. Roast beef was always my favorite (with sharp cheddar or toasted whole grain bread!)

  • witloof
    March 17, 2015 12:10am

    Oh my gosh. I lived in that neighborhood for years and years, and it was just starting to gentrify when I left. I passed that corner nearly every day! I’ll have to make it a point to go eat some of those fries the next time I’m in Brooklyn. And yes, absolutely, washed down with Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry.

  • Judi Suttles
    March 17, 2015 12:50am

    I have had a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s in Montreal and it was great-infact, it was the best thing I had the entire trip. Had some poutine elsewhere and liked that also. Brought home cheese curds and made it at home-yummy!

  • March 17, 2015 1:44am

    That looks so good!

    I’d eat pastrami every day if I had half the chance (except for June 18th…it’s a long story…don’t ask…)

  • March 17, 2015 1:39pm

    aahhh I was hoping to get a recipe, like this one but easier:
    http://ladyandpups.com/2014/03/25/faux-smoked-meat-pastrami-eng/
    also, your boyfriend doesn’t speak English?? Whaaaaat :-D my uncle had to learn Romanian when he got married, at least to communicate with his mother-in-law (a nice old lady, btw, but every time I see her she tries to talk to me in Romanian and I’m totally lost :-/)

  • March 17, 2015 2:54pm

    Beautiful, luscious pics! I can only imagine the tastiness of all of it.

    (Nick’s book arrived on Sunday. What a beautiful item! I spotted an unusual ingredient he uses, often, and I’m so anxious to play in the kitchen. You weren’t kidding; this is a well thought out item. Thanks, David. I might just learn to make a decent crust after all!)

  • montrealaise
    March 17, 2015 3:38pm

    Mile End is a neighborhood in Montreal, and Mile End Deli is a Montreal-themed hipster deli. The sandwich is a Montreal classic, as is much of the menu (try the bagels!).

  • Bebe
    March 17, 2015 3:40pm

    David, cole slaw made with Best Foods (Hellman’s in the East) Real Mayonnaise and celery seeds, as well as a few other ingredients, was the standard in my Mother’s family for generations. Passed on to me, we enjoyed it at home and also featured it as a choice for a sandwich side in our restaurant. Along with Grandma’s potato salad, which also included celery seeds, it was a huge hit.

  • Gina
    March 17, 2015 5:19pm

    Yesssss! Smoked meat on rye, a kosher dill pickle and a cherry coke! How I miss Montreal!

  • March 17, 2015 5:29pm

    I love Mile End Deli, their sandwiches are so so delicious :) There is also a location in Manhattan for those who are too lazy to venture out into Brooklyn.

    Their poutine is also some of the best, though I do love poutine from pomme frites on second ave.

  • March 17, 2015 5:30pm

    David,

    I can’t believe that you left out Katz’s Deli http://katzsdelicatessen.com/photo-gallery/ in your list of pastrami places in NYC. I used to to to Carnegie and the Stage (now closed) but Katz’s won me over years ago. Yes, it is full of tourists. Yes, it is very old school. And yes, your jaw will hurt after you try to wrap your mouth around one of their pastrami or CB sandwiches. Forget about table service. Order at the counter and be sure the guy sees you put a few dollars in the tip jar. You will get a few extra slices and a big smile.

    Can’t wait to get back to Paris and try more of your favorites.

    Best,

    Paul
    VP Secty, Les Marmitons of NJ

    • March 17, 2015 5:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t have a great experience the last time I went there (and yes, I tipped the fellow slicing the meat in advance) so unfortunately it’s hard to recommend it based on my last meal there.

  • Bob Vaillancourt
    March 17, 2015 5:30pm

    I have always ordered corned beef in a Reuben but have finally given up here in the South because they insist on serving it toasted rather than grilled, nicely slathered in butter. The toasted version is good, it’s just not the same.

  • Sarah
    March 17, 2015 5:33pm

    There’s a new documentary “Deli Man”. It’s worth a view for those of us w/ a deep love for Jewish Delicatessens. This past year Wexler’s Deli opened up in downtown LA, and it’s the real deal!!! Have you been to LA recently? It’s a must try next time you are in town :-)

  • Steve
    March 17, 2015 5:38pm

    Your food photography is incredibly good.

  • Charlie Olken
    March 17, 2015 5:38pm

    David–

    I am a cured brisket fan from way back and it really does not matter to me whether it comes in the form of corned beef (salt beef to the Brits, by the way) or pastrami or Montreal smoked meat.

    You commented that Smoked Meat was made from a different cut. I am wondering if that is true. I always thought it was also brisket.

    Got any insider info on that?

  • Lorraine French
    March 17, 2015 5:43pm

    Hi David…
    Try (Boeuf sale..accent aigu ) close as we can come. I love pastrami and started to make my own.11 days dry brined, 4-6 hours in smoker, 4-6 hours in an oven braise………….then finally a sandwich!! That’s really planning ahead. I use the Mile End Deli’s cookbook too…………..maybe someday I’ll get there.

    • March 17, 2015 6:07pm
      David Lebovitz

      Perhaps because of the recent fascination with all-things-New York/Brooklyn, le pastrami is known in Paris. You can sometimes see it in grocery stores and restaurants, but it doesn’t look much like what we know as “pastrami,” (curiously, some Italian charcuteries in Paris carry pastrami, but it’s a different beast, too) and if you order a sandwich with pastrami on it in a restaurant, they often put just a slice or two on there, between two pieces of bread. You don’t get a nice pile of meat in there.

      One of the most authentic renditions of the sandwich in Paris is at Schwartz’s deli in the Marais. (It’s not related to the terrific Schwartz’s in Montreal.)

  • Ken
    March 17, 2015 6:03pm

    To complete the experience, Romain should have a crème d’oeuf, or what is referred to in NY as an “egg cream”. My wife is from down that area, and grew up with them. I’m not/didn’t, but I make them for her often (she thinks I do a pretty good job). We decided the French translation sounds more hip, so we’ve abandoned “egg cream”. :-)

  • Ginny Burnham
    March 17, 2015 6:07pm

    Sounds great! A couple of comments –
    Here in Central Vermont, it is difficult to find good rye bread. I highly recommend Smitten Kitchen’s New York Deli Rye. I guarantee it will be great with either pastrami or corned beef.
    And, I am about to make the French Apple Pie you posted recently. I can’t ignore the similarity to a gateau basque (which you may want to do a post on sometime in the future.) Of course, tasting will tell.

  • Heather L
    March 17, 2015 6:09pm

    Will be back in Paris next week. Trying to remember the French pottery/dish shop that you talked about in the past few months. Crockery and earthenware. Would love to go there.

    thanks ahead of time…for the name of the shop.

    It’s La Tuile à Loup. – dl

  • Marilyn Rogers
    March 17, 2015 6:24pm

    Brie, pepper jelly and toasted pecans chopped on artisan bread grilled.
    Yummy. C,est magnifique.

  • Cynthia
    March 17, 2015 6:51pm

    I do not understand where poutine comes into this. jewish deli is jewish deli. plus patsami sandwiches aren’t neat. I liked the aesthetics of the image, but that’s not a pastrami sandwich.

    pastrami is mounded, a mountain of goodness, sliced thin enough to give you juice, thick enough to stay in one substantial piece.

    so what’s this with the poutine? NO POUTINE. poutine, admittedly yum on and around all kinds of things, is not jewish deli. no cheese, cheese curds or milk products. ever. yellow mustard.

    I’m from brooklyn, I’m a purist. you get to choose rye or club. no white. no challah. no kaiser roles, no ciabatta. you order: a mile high pastrami or corned beef, or a hot dog or a special, then sides: maybe potato salad but normally an order of fries (the fries above were exactly right), always courtesy pickles and creamy fabuloso cole slaw, order up a cel ray and you eat and you don’t stop eating.

    the franks better have crunch. and the knishes better have a crust.

    no poutine.

  • Anne E
    March 17, 2015 7:52pm

    Ack!
    Now I have heartburn, just looking at the pictures… but its the BEST kind of heartburn– virtual!
    Loved your description of the fries and how you dug out the crispiest.
    David, you are my kind of guy~~

  • Reynold
    March 17, 2015 8:15pm

    Love the Mile End! For a late night option, I like Will Horowitz’ version at Duck’s Eatery.
    Hopefully it will be available soon at other hours!
    https://vimeo.com/87420927

  • March 17, 2015 8:19pm

    This so reminds me of the great delis in the Bronx, where I was born. But there’s an amazing place in Glendale, Ca, where I grew up – Billy’s Delicatessen (on Orange St.)…sandwiches, pickles, pastries etc.. Restaurant/store to stock up. I’m especially partial to the pastrami on rye or au jus. A must place to eat in LA.

  • March 17, 2015 8:58pm

    The next time you’re in LA, please go to Langers–it not only has amazing pastrami but the best rye bread I’ve ever eaten, all of which is baked in-house. As Nora Ephron pointed out, Langers’ bread elevates its pastrami sandwiches above all others–it’s always warm, crisp on the outside and slightly soft inside. Also, their coleslaw is fantastic. I’ve had pastrami sandwiches in New York and have always found them very disappointing–the bread is cold and thick, and the meat is usually sliced too thickly as well.

  • CB
    March 17, 2015 10:16pm

    Mile End has dessert! And many other delicious things on the menu in the evening.

    Smoked meat sandwiches (they are not pastrami sandwiches) are unbelievably good and what lured us in so many times. But the last time we were there for dinner sat down to chicken livers with gribenes, some spot-on latkes, and some inventive salads and vegetable dishes.

  • March 17, 2015 10:18pm

    I want a Pastrami sandwich just like this one. I don’t remember the last time I had a good one.

  • Janet
    March 17, 2015 11:34pm

    Brilliant blog, great pics and your words take us there, if only! I always get a chuckle when you “tease” your other half.

  • Joyce Agress
    March 18, 2015 12:29am

    Ah, delis. I still mourn the loss of the New York Deli, where once, 30-odd years ago, my 5-year-old daughter fromSouth Georgia ordered (and devoured with relish) gefilte fish and my 4-year-old son went for the salami on rye. But the Carnegie is great, and the Mile End seems to warrant a visit, if only for the poutine. As for the Cel-Ray soda, my husband recently introduced it to our 2-year-old grandson. Hard to explain, but if you love it, that is all hat needs be said.

  • LWood
    March 18, 2015 2:17am

    We’ve got the Zingerman’s deli here in Ann Arbor, and lucky for me it’s within walking distance. Can’t deny the corned beef/pastrami isn’t heaven, but I had the beef brisket on the most amazing Zing’s jewish rye the other day, and it still lingers in my memory. Worth mentioning if you are ever in the hood. Also agree that the bread is the make/break, but what is “carb-friendly challah bread”?!?!?!

  • Mike Davis
    March 18, 2015 4:16am

    I’ve been to Mile End a few times. Last time I went there for lunch, I had their frank, fries, a piece of pickle and a Dr. Browns. It set me back $18. What a ripoff. I believe places like Mile End are more hype than anything else. The price of a deli sandwich is astronomical. I can’t believe people go for that.

  • Steve Puu
    March 18, 2015 4:37am

    You can use an Actifry to enjoy French Fries, Chicken Wings, Chicken Fried Steak, cooking was much healthier with 70% less oil.

  • marlene
    March 18, 2015 5:24am

    I just saw the documentary “The Deli Man” in San Francisco……
    You must see it……it traces jewish deli’s in new york from the early
    jewish immigrants to the present……you will LOVE it……truly a must see.
    You will learn deli history.
    Greater New York was home to more than 1,500 kosher delis in the 1940’s
    and today, the number is down to about 150 throughout all of North America
    according to this film……..Please see this wonderful movie.

  • March 18, 2015 9:34am

    I went to the Mile End deli when I was in New York last December. I was trying to remember the name of the place as I was taken by a friend and Brooklyn local. Thanks for bringing back the memory ( it was the poutines that gave it away). You forgot to mention how tiny the place is, and how packed, at least it was when I was there. They also do less traditional deli food, I had an acorn squash stuffed with couscous and arugula, with a delicious dressing of balsamic, cumin and paprika, which I have been trying to recreate back home (taking credit for as my own invention). The food was memorable and thanks again for bringing it all back to me.

  • March 18, 2015 1:11pm

    Seems like I need to move to New York (or France!) This looks delicious! :)

  • March 18, 2015 4:35pm

    I love this place! And if you’re in Manhattan, there’s another branch on Bond Street. It’s right around the corner from one of my favorite bars, and the poutine is perfect after a martini (okay after 1.5 martinis).

  • March 19, 2015 4:35am

    David,,, you totally make me smile!

  • Andy
    March 19, 2015 9:38am

    Gotta agree with Paul E. above. Katz’s pastrami is the best. Years ago I used to go to Carnegie Deli. It went downhill a long time ago. Even at its best, though, it didn’t compare to Katz’s.

    You *must* go the next time you are in NYC. You’ll thank us both.

  • Jersey Girl
    March 20, 2015 2:47am

    David, saw this in NY Times and thought of this column immediately! Enjoy pastrami while you can still get it:

    Pastrami Piled as High as New York, With Prices to Match

  • Peter
    March 20, 2015 2:52am

    Gotta disagree with you on Americans being able to pronounce croissant or Gruyere. It comes out croy-sant or grew-year.

  • ron shappley(nyc)
    March 20, 2015 4:12am

    You call that a deli sandwich ? Maybe in Iowa..

  • March 20, 2015 6:23pm

    here is one from Katz’s http://www.lesmarmitonsnj.com/photos/Pastrami-sandwich-at-Katz.jpg

    Now dat’s a deli sandwich. (Pardon my New Yawkese.)

    Paul

  • Kathleen
    March 20, 2015 10:36pm

    Another great, old-time NYC deli that’s still going strong is Liebman’s, on 235th Street in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Going strong since 1953, it’s an authentique Jewish deli with no dairy (as one poster above mentioned).

    http://liebmansdeli.com/

  • Denise
    March 21, 2015 8:07am

    Mile End Deli! I was so excited to see this post, because I’ve personally never heard anyone else talk about this fantastic place, despite its ridiculously delicious food, and its equally charming vibe. My fiance took me there a couple years ago, for my birthday. I’d been dead set on finding poutine, and lo and behold they do have it. It was good, but as you said, a total gut buster. Though I think afterwards we walked it off a bit & probably continued stuffing our faces elsewhere, so. Anyway, it was nice to know other people know of & love this place too.

  • March 21, 2015 7:03pm

    Liebman’s looks good to me. They are certainly cheaper than Katz’s and the menu is certainly comprehensive. Mile End is on my list for Brooklyn also.

  • Linda Grossman
    March 23, 2015 7:08pm

    Dear David,

    I’ve been remodeling my kitchen, so not much time to check my e-mails. Much to my chagrin, after many years of following you I’ve been kicked off your mailing list and when I try to sign up again, I do not receive the confirmation e mail. I love your blog and need to catch up which I am doing, but it would really help if I could receive your e-mails. What to do?

    I went into the newsletter list and saw that you were on there but the address was surpressed. The newsletter service may have done that if you haven’t opened a newsletter in a while, but I unsurpressed it so hopefully it’ll come. Since you are in AOL, you may wish to put domain in your ‘safe’ list as AOL has a habit of putting newsletters in spam folders. If you want to catch up, newsletters are archived at the end of my FAQs page. Hope the remodel is almost done! : ) – dl

  • March 23, 2015 8:08pm

    Thought you might be interested to know that the “corn” in “corned beef” is unrelated to the maize we Americans refer to as corn. The word “corn” actually means “grain,” and generally refers to the dominant cereal grain of a region. Only in the U.S. and Canada does “corn” always mean “maize.” In the case of corned beef, the grain being spoken of is salt — as in “take it with a grain of salt.” So it’s just salt beef — or boeuf salé. Might still not sound as good as corned beef — or as good as pastrami (both of which I love), but it is at least a truer description.