pastrami

Johnnies Pastrami is a Culver City landmark. The 50s styled restaurant is small. It has a diner feel with the central bar area — everything is just smaller in scale. Their pastrami sandwiches though, are quite large. I will undoubtedly compare this to The Hat. If you want to stop reading, I will tell you right now. I like the pastrami at The Hat better. Call it biased if you wish, but I call it how it is–you can read the comparison below.

The pastrami sandwich at Johnnies was packed full of meat. The sandwich was just pastrami in between a sliced roll. Granted, you can get it with coleslaw and cheese, but I wanted the pure pastrami sandwich to shine (for the sake of the comparison). Bread for bread, both Johnnies and The Hat was a tie. As for the pastrami, Johnnies was a bit on the dryer side and had less flavor. The Hat’s was more juicy and saltier (in a good way). Both was probably achieved with a dunk in their special au jus. Sorry to say, The Hat’s pastrami was better than Johnnie’s.

But wait… There is something that Johnnie’s kills it in, and that is their pickles. These pickles were tart, salty, and crisp. It went so perfectly with the pastrami sandwich. I finished the whole bowl of complimentary pickles that was offered. These were probably some of my favorite pickles I have ever eaten. I did dream of eating these pickles with a Hat pastrami sandwich from the SGV. In hind sight, I should have bought a jar of them. Interestingly, the pickles were better than their pastrami.

I guess in comparison, it should be Hat’s pastrami a sandwich vs. johnnie’s pastrami with the pickles. If that is the case, it would be a much tougher comparison. Honestly, the Tito’s Tacos neighbor is a hot sport for late night diners in Culver City. I understand you can’t drive all the way to the SGV to get the best “thin” pastrami in LA. I guess you can stay in Culver City for pastrami, but it would only be 2nd best. And all of you “how about Oinkster pastrami?” folks, you can just keep those kinds of irrelevant questions to yourself. :)

Johnnie's Pastrami on Urbanspoon

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The Hat (Alhambra) – OG Pastrami

by Franklin on April 24, 2013

To me, The Hat is that place that I remember most. As I mentioned in my blog about The Hat in Monterey Park, it is one of the first food items I remember as a child. Stuff like that is powerful. I’m not talking about remembering my first happy meal or cheeseburger from Mc Donald’s. I’m talking about my first real burger, or real pastrami. For all I knew, the Hat in Monterey Park was the first. Growing up, I realized the OG, the orignal Hat was in Alhambra. A small stand on the north west corner of Valley and Garfield, The Hat is a classic. Started in 1951, Southern California residents have been enjoying their World Famous Pastrami since then.

Your with your friends? Get the chili cheese fries and pastrami dip. Your with a few of your friends? Get the chili cheese fries, wet fries (gravy on the side), pastrami dip, and pastrami burger. And do share a bag of large onion rings. Your by yourself, home alone after a long/bad day? Get the chili cheese fries with pickles and pastrami on top. Just make sure to take a hot shower right after. Whatever the occasion, The Hat is a stop you must take. If you want the OG, the Original, head to Garfield and Valley.

Hat on Urbanspoon

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You gotta love pastrami. Its salty, meaty, and delicious. The process to make pastrami is kind of a long process. You have to brine it, get all of the spices right, and cook that thing for a while. Oinkster in Eagle Rock prides itself as having some good pastrami. The once hole in the wall burger joint kind of has a cult following now. I remember going in there and the place would be nearly empty. Today, lines form outside the door. I let the food speak for itself.

Different from the house cured pastrami sandwich, the oinkster pastrami sandwich adds a little more. It had gruyere cheese, caramelized onion, and red cabbage slaw. The caramelized onions gave it a nice savory flavor, and the slaw gave it a nice crunch. The gruyere cheese was a bit shadowed by the other ingredients. To be honest, the sandwich was a bit salty. I don’t know if it was from the actual pastrami or the onions, but it took away the flavor from the actual meat. And even though the mustard is salty, the Oinkster mustard made things a little better in the too salty department.

I was impressed with the belgium fries. They are especially delicious dipping it in their house made sauces. Dipping it in the garlic aioli, it was simply delicious. I would have liked it to be more garlicky, but it was that big of a deal. I normally don’t like ketchup, but theirs is made in house, fresh. None of that Heinz mess. I wish I could have tried their ranch, but definitely for next time. With all of these sauces not from a bottle, I should have ordered some more fries.

The ube shake we ordered was amazing. Having tried ube cake (purple cake is what I called it when I was kid), ube ice cream, and fresh taro, the ube shake intrigued me and ordering one was a no brainer. It was refreshing and not too sweet. The bits of taro inside were nice with a mellow flavor. This rounded off everything and the flavors were so good together.

Oinkster is a popular spot, especially for night time diners. It’s good for any occation — dates, groups, or just having a nice meal out. The atmosphere is friendly and casual as the food is as well. I would come back for the fries, aioli, and shake, but I don’t know about the sandwich. I am a true fan of The Hat and their pastrami. Honestly though, Oinkster has some major followers, and I can see why.

Oinkster on Urbanspoon

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What is in a perfect sandwich? Before you start scratching your head or making a pros and cons list, let me just tell you. It’s pastrami. Come on. It’s salty, fatty, and meaty. Perfect recipe for some good meat right? Pastrami sandwiches at The Hat is the way to go. At the Brea, CA should be lucky to have this mini chain bless their city.

I always get the pastrami burger and gravy fries. Taking a bite from the pastrami burger is like meat heaven. Pastrami is probably the best topping any cheeseburger can have. The saltiness really rounds out the flavor of the burger really well. It is simply delicious.

Every delicious burger needs a side of fries. I always get their gravy fries — gravy on the side. We don’t want to eat soggy fries now do we? Something about the gravy at The Hat is so tasty. It is on the salty side, but it’s so good with the fries. Think of fried mashed potatoes and gravy that you dunk it in. The gravy is dark brown and thick. It really is the perfect gravy for almost anything. I literally grave these late at night. Dangerous, I know, but so good.

Eating at The Hat, I eat like a man. No calorie counting here. Pastrami everything, gravy everything. That is the way to do it when you go to The Hat. And for you lazy bums, myself included, the Brea location has a drive through — not something patrons of the other restaurants can enjoy. World famous pastrami, and you don’t even need to get out of your car. Awesome.

The Hat (Brea) on Urbanspoon

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Pastrami is probably one of my favorite cured meats. Done right, it can sometimes even beat out bacon. Shocking, I know. That along with porchuto and pancheta, I feel that pastrami is so widely available, it has to be my favorite. I dream of a fantasy land in my head where pastrami, bacon, porchuto, and pancheta battle it out to be my favorite cured meat. Swords would be drawn, injuries would occur, and limbs would be chopped, or in this case, sliced.

How did the pastrami become the victor? That would be because of a childhood memory I have. I remember my dad picked me up from school in his white tin can van. I sat in the back, no seat belt, no seats even. He handed me this sandwich. It was a pastrami sandwich from The Hat. For some reason, I still remember it — not so much the taste of it all, but the experience. It could quite possibly be the first time I had pastrami, and which is how I fell in love with it. It was special because for one, my dad never bought me junk food as a kid, second, I can actually say “my dad took me there”. I dream of having a son and telling him, “you know, your grandpa took me here when I was your age.” Something about having a sense of history and tradition, it is very special to me.

As an adult, I still frequent this joint for some of that memorable pastrami. The pastrami here is cut thin — a little fatty, a little salty. Perfect. I like to eat the pastrami burger mostly, but sometimes yearn for the regular pastrami dip — keeping it classic and simple. Finish that off with some greasy chili cheese fries, and I am set. That is my go to meal at The Hat. My cousin tried the BBQ beef sandwich. I had a bite — it was meaty. Nothing spectacular. It’s good for BBQ lovers, but not this pastrami loving fellow. The Hat is known for their pastrami, so why stray from that? I think they have pastrami fries, which I haven’t tried yet. Maybe something for a future post.

Before

I also love their chili cheese fries.  They pour on mounds of chili and handfuls of cheese over it. They let it melt and it is game over from there.  You can also add chopped tomatoes and pickles on top.  Hmm.  Fries, chili, cheese, pastrami, pickles, and tomatoes?  I think that will be a perfect mess of a meal.

After

Would I still love The Hat if it weren’t for my memory of my after school treat? Probably. But I don’t think I would associate it as something special. It was my first pastrami. Who can ever forget that?

The Hat on Urbanspoon

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