Restaurants & Bars 13

[MSP] Pastrami Jack's

Dragon | Apr 22, 200812:44 PM

I just had lunch at Pastrami Jack's, and it was delightful enough to warrant its own quick review rather than the one-off mentions in the deli threads of this board.

Finding myself in Eden Prairie near the lunch hour is very rarely a pleasant prospect, but the occasional work outing lands me in the middle of the devil's triangle of the Crosstown, 169, 494 and 212 around the noon hour. Most of the time, in such cases, I head to Campiello's and ask for Jean, the long-time beverage director, to shake up me up a martini...and I forgo the gloppy alfredo sauce, close my eyes and wish I was in Uptown.

Today, rather than taking a long detour into a cold beverage, I chose the left-hand path and walked into Pastrami Jack's. From the outside it seemed a fairly deserted, typical suburban strip mall dining experience...except for the alluring "We Do Our Own Corned Beef" prominently plastered on the plate glass. Huh!? Sign me up...

On entering I joined a crowd (a crowd...in Eden Prairie!) queuing up around the counter and down the long service hall. Often, in joints like this, there are signs and omens about how good the chow is going to be, even before biting into the piled-high pastrami on rye. Sometimes, you can tell the caliber of a joint even before hitting the order station just by looking at who's in line. Slumming C.E.O.'s? Hmmm, interesting. Dusty, whip-thin construction workers? Getting warmer. Gaggles of old Jewish women (I'm assuming, they ordered kosher)? It's a winner. Over-weight suburban cops taking up time before their next call? Bingo! All of them? A definite dinaliscious scene. I don't see this diversity of diners in either of the downtowns, or inner ring suburbs...to find them in Eden Prairie over the lunch hour was more than surprising...it was revelatory.

After reading the first couple of lines of the board, I glanced away...I knew it without having to look. Hot pastrami, corned beef...I got the rest by inference (although I checked while savoring my tender, pepper-spiked pastrami). Brisket, soft salami (kosher), hard salami (not kosher), turkey pastrami, tongue...it was all there. As was the possibility of reubenizing all of the above...yikes! Matzo ball and chicken noodle were representing the soups...and, just in case you forgot you were in the middle of Minnesota rather than in New York...a nice bowl of chicken wild rice.

Service was quick and no-nonsense. I got my well-worn, little red number, and I sat down at my sparkling little formica two-top and within mere moments I was delivered one of the best culinary experiences I've had in the last coupla months...months that included visits to Porter and Frye, The Strip Club and Alma. The odor wafting off the pile of deliciousness was redolant of rye, and pepper, and beefy smoke...enough to set off alarms of excess that had me reaching for my dose of Vytorin before sucking down the savor.

There is, as we all know, an art to making a sandwich...particularly a hot sandwich. Too much meat and not enough bread it all breaks down into chaos. Too little of either and it's a disappointing, dry mess. Those whose art form is sandwich, who sculpt in mayo and meat, in bread and mustard, exist in a rarefied, rarely entered realm. Here, in front of me, was a shining example of the form. Perfectly executed, the bread sliced just so thick and reeking of rye, the proportion of meat, half-fatty half-lean, balancing on the edge of stuffed...it was tender and airy and dense...and delicious.

Add in a an open cole slaw and pickle bar (I just want to write that again...an open cole slaw and pickle bar), new dinner hours and a location that nearly guarantees chowish credibility for finding and you've got yourself a bona-fide, lunch-time, destination drive.

Leaving, I noticed an elderly lady, grinningly being pushed in a wheelchair through a door held open by a Brooks Brother-suit-wearing, Dolce & Gabbana-tie-sporting business type, both holding, "have a nice day" smiley bags filled with leftover containers. If there is a better endorsement of Pastrami Jack's, I don't know what it is.


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