San Diego Local Community News

Food historians generally agree that the first pastrami sandwich to appear on America’s culinary scene dates back to the late 1800s. It was served in New York City by Lithuanian immigrant and butcher Sussman Volk, who presented the cured brisket on hearty bread to friends and customers. Word soon spread about its sumptuous, novel flavor, and by the 1920s pastrami was all the rage in New York delis—and particularly favored within the Jewish community.

Howard Solomon of The Pastrami Stand (Courtesy photo)

National Pastrami Day is Jan. 14. But we didn’t wait to track down restaurant-industry maven Howard Solomon, who has been generating an extra dose of enthusiasm over the meat with his recent launch of The Pastrami Strand. The pop-up business appears regularly at the Poway Farmers Market on Saturdays; and the Leucadia Farmers Market and La Jolla Open Aire Market on Sundays.

In addition, his 10 x10 canopy shows up at a different brewery every Sunday in the Miramar area. Solomon says that sometime after March, he hopes to take part in the Thursday farmers markets in North Park and Scripps Ranch. (See
his weekly schedule at

Solomon started the business after working as a hospitality consultant for the past 16 years. He turned to pastrami as the focal point because he loved it as a kid.

“I grew up in deli-deprived Peoria, Illinois. On rare occasions my parents took me to Chicago where I got to eat pastrami. It was a luxury. Now when I go to Chicago my favorite place for pastrami is Manny’s Delicatessen.”

Solomon sources his pastrami from a butcher in Los Angeles whose family has been in the meat business since 1958.

“Our butcher procures the meat, trims it, brines it, and smokes it—and we pick it up,” Solomon noted.

From there, the sliced goodness lands in a variety of sandwiches, such as the well-endowed “No. 18” with mustard on rye—or the “pastrami dip” served on a roll with mustard and pickles, and dipped in pastrami au jus.

“Those are our biggest sellers,” he added. “They are the go-to items for people who have visited any sort of delicatessen in New York or Los Angeles.”

And what makes for a perfect pastrami?

“It’s got to have good marbling and a decent fat cap that isn’t overly fatty but just adds flavor to the meat. And there has to be a balance of brine to rub to smoke,” he noted.

When asked if he foresees opening a brickand-mortar pastrami business down the road, Solomon replied: “I never thought the business would take off like it has. In a super busy week we could sell up to 125 pounds of pastrami depending on the location. But our next step will be to try to land in a brewery tasting room to be their fulltime vendor while still doing the popups because they are a great marketing tool.”

There are many other places throughout San Diego County that serve pastrami in a variety of ways. Below are several of our top picks.

A downtown destination for pastrami sandwiches (Carnivore Sandwich)

Carnivore Sandwich
670 W. B St., Little Italy

Owner Bas Emini refers to his popular eatery as “a West Coast take on an East Coast classic.” He pairs his perfectly spiced pastrami to other proteins such as fried egg and cheese on the “Big Apple sandwich” and top turkey breast and Muenster cheese on the ultra-hearty “Empire State sandwich.” The menu also offers a buildyour-own option, which allows you to garnish your pastrami (and other meats) with a host ofcondiments and garnishments.
Although for traditionalists like us, we’re sticking to deli mustard and pickles.

Pastrami and chopped liver at DZ Akins (

Elija’s Restaurant & Delicatessen
7061 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa

If hot pastrami is your thing, this humble restaurant serves it sliced thin and stacked generously within fresh rye bread. Things get even taller when opting for the “Empire State Building” found under the “Sky High” sandwich category. The creation combines stacks of both pastrami and corned beef enhanced with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing – a super Reuben of sorts.

2660 Villa De La Valle, Del Ma

Del Mar’s haven for pastrami and other Jewish fare (Milton’s)

Just north of San Diego is yet another large and bustling Jewish deli, where “over stuffed” pastrami sandwiches have ruled the day since 1995. The restaurant also serves a notable Philadelphia-style cheese steak made with chopped pastrami that gets tucked into a warm French roll. The construct takes on the additions of grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms, plus Jack and cheddar cheeses. It’s a tasty departure from the classic pastrami sandwich on rye.

DZ Akins
6930 Alvarado Road, La Mesa

San Diego’s biggest and most popular Jewish deli is home to an array of traditional favorites, including house-prepared pastrami served in a variety of different sandwiches. Aside from the traditional straight-up on rye version, the restaurant’s juicy pastrami is combined in other sandwiches with meats such as chopped liver, beef tongue, and even atop a burger if you so choose. For the No. 54 sandwich, pastrami tucked into an onion roll with bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Papa Duke’s Deli & Grill
12169 Kirkham Road, Suite A, Poway

When the urge for pastrami strikes between 7 and 11 a.m., we head to the family-run fast-casual Papa Duke’s, which slings a satisfying pastrami- egg-Swiss cheese sandwich on a fresh ciabatta roll. Or if you’re on the hunt for a classic or custom-made pastrami sandwich, you’re also in luck. The eatery sources its pastrami from Boar’s Head, a favorite national brand that is also available in grocery stores such as Ralph’s.

Get your pastrami fix at this popular meat store. (By Frank Sabatini Jr.)

The Butchery Quality Meats
3720 Caminito Court, Suite 200, Carmel Valley

This upscale meat market and grocer sells slow-roasted pastrami by deli-purveyor Block and Barrel, either by the pound or for hot and cold sandwiches made onsite. The sandies come with a choice of bread or roll. And by default they’re adorned with baby Swiss cheese, mustard, mayo and pickles. Best to call ahead of time if you’re on the hunt for the prized meat because the store sometimes sells out.

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