Pastrami, as deli denizens and Seinfeld fans alike know, “is the most sensual of all the salted cured meats.” At least once a month I find myself compelled to eat the luscious peppery cured beef , usually at Ben’s Best. The meat owes its sensuality to a three-fold process: curing, smoking, and steaming. Essentially the pastrami process is a Jewish form of low and slow barbecue.
So it’s not surprising that some of New York City’s pitmasters have at one time or another experimented with this most New York of smoked meats. Barbecue joint pastrami is a breed apart from its old-school deli forebears, though. It is of course smokier, but is also more rough hewn than the melting slices one finds at Bens or Katz’s. The only barbecue joint in Queens currently serving it is John Brown Smokehouse. An excellent sandwich of the home cured pastrami can be had for $12. The meat sports a crunchy blackened exterior that barbecue geeks like to call Mr. Brown (no relation to the abolitionist for whom the Long Island City BBQ joint is named). Sometimes I think I like John Brown’s pastrami better than its much-lauded brisket burnt ends, aka meat candy. Please, don’t tell my fellow barbecue geeks of my wavering allegiance to the meat candy brigade.
John Brown Smokehouse, 10-43 44th Dr., Long Island City, 347-617-1120