By Joe Duffy
“Katz’s Deli Syndrome” is a term of no-so-endearment I coined years ago. Once upon a time, in a cyberland a long time ago (meaning before crowdsourcing sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor overtook the regular guy review existence), restaurant posting boards were the place where food nerds confabulated on cross-referencing endorsements concerning area restaurants.
Be it to impress fellow nerds with one’s worldliness or simply spewing genuinely unrealistic expectations, a common damning-with-faint-praise synopsis would include something akin to, “It’s good for Atlanta, but not nearly as great as the top-rated places in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles” etc. The most common fill-in-the-blank paragon mentioned was New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen for corned beef and pastrami. And hence the origin of the phrase.
Oh, I’ve thoroughly rejoiced in both corned beef and pastrami at Katz’s, not to mention Hershel’s East Side Deli in the foodie promised land that is Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. Add to that several other rightfully touted in-house meat Nirvanas in the northeast. Expecting every sandwich to be the peer of the bellwethers of Manhattan isn’t a realistic yardstick. Be that as it may, this area has a flourishing number of corned beef and pastrami vendors who gratify those who can’t eat at the Manhattan deli they love, so they love the corned beef sandwich they are with.
Sans pleasuring those wreaked with Katz’s Deli Syndrome, here is an impressive catalog of corned beef or pastrami sandwich outfitters.
Golden Reuben, Chipper’s Club, Roswell
The pastrami gets smoked in-house (as are their other meats) and parallels the Big Apple’s most exceptional much more than New York apologists would like to acknowledge. Yes, I did correctly affirm in the Roswell Restaurant Week article last month that nearby Gracious Plenty was Roswell’s most outstanding new restaurant, but newcomer Chipper’s Club, in the location best known as previously home to the Roswell Kitchen is also a worthy Rookie-of-the-Year entrant. Chipper’s Club.
Corned beef (or pastrami) on rye, Mitch’s Meat’s & Fish, Roswell
Dear Yankee expats, Roswell’s soup and sandwich thaumaturge* Mitch Manoloff proves variety is the spice of life. Most northeasterners favor said meats on a Reuben, or with brown mustard, or perhaps supplemented with coleslaw and Russian dressing. All the above are great elsewhere but Mitch’s ensures getting out of one’s comfort zone is worthwhile. You will cherish corned beef topped with his homemade creamy bacon and sweet onion dressing. Both his corned beef and pastrami are leaner than conventional while still exuding flavor. Mitch’s Meats & Fish
*If you stumbled on this 25-dollar word, as I did, a thaumaturge is a worker of wonders and performer of miracles; a magician. –Ed.
Pastrami Reuben, Barleygarden Kitchen, Alpharetta
The meats are creations by co-owner, famous charcuterie The Spotted Trotter. Avalon’s top rooftop bar and restaurant finalize their interpre-tation with gruyere cheese. A little more meat would make their somewhat bantamweight sandwiches better. Stick around for the best beer selection this side of Decatur. Barleygarden Kitchen
Pastrami Reuben, Bite Bistro & Bar, Alpharetta (photo at top of page)
Possibly still Alpharetta’s best restaurant, Bite also deviates from the usual Mid-Atlantic formula, rounding out house-smoked brisket with their house-made kimchi, smoked gouda, and signature “krussian sauce,” which is essentially Russian dressing.
Bite remains Alpharetta’s answer to Roswell’s Foundation Social Eatery. Both have addresses that predate the alluring Avalon and downtown nexuses Each remains perched high atop any casebook of the premier restaurants in the AlphaRoz environs. Bite Bistro & Bar
The Garr-O, Peach & the Pork Chop, Roswell
Another house-made corned beef provider, ironically the most traditional Reuben with Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing, and sauerkraut can’t just be named a Reuben. Despite curtailing portions in recent years, this is the second largest rendition on the list behind Mitch’s. Or better yet, get the 50/50 with half pastrami. Owner and Pittsburgh native Chuck Staley incorporates said staple meats into other laudable creations as well. Peach & the Pork Chop
The Reuben, Coalition Food and Beverage, Alpharetta
Ryan Pernice, owner of Canton’s Street’s top two restaurants, Osteria Mattone and Table & Main, has expanded into Alpharetta’s flourishing downtown, as anchor of Teasley Place, one of the latest walkable communities. Also made with house-smoked pastrami, add Coalition to the gruyere cheese bandwagon. Coalition Food and Beverage
Southern Reuben, The Fickle Pickle, Roswell
Fickle Pickle was putting out excellent food on Canton Street long before it became the area’s first synergistic destination stretch. “Southern” because it is topped off with coleslaw rather than kraut. The Fickle Pickle
Reuben, Fancy Pantry, Alpharetta
“Senator” John Kennedy has packed them in forever at this lunch-only cafe. Accordingly, his recipe is the classic with Swiss cheese. Fancy Pantry
The Underwood, Butcher and Brew, Alpharetta
B&B was at the forefront of the house-made meats explosion in the area. The pastrami has unique accompaniments—giardiniera and remoulade. Butcher and Brew
The influx of New York emigrants has undoubtedly had a positive effect on area dining. No cuisine has advanced further in the last six to ten years than pizza. In the even shorter range, the lunchmeat fortes of corned beef and pastrami have erupted onto the dining scene. Hopefully, intown big wig Todd Ginsberg will eventually be enticed to expand his Jewish deli concept the General Muir (corned beef) or sandwich king Fred’s Meats & Breads (pastrami) a few miles to the north. Regardless, the options are plentiful. Now if only the Empire State can export us an NHL team.
When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts.