You go around to any Detroit deli or restaurant worth its salt, and any corned beef or pastrami on the menu is from Sy Ginsberg. The guy, apparently, is a deli meat wunderkind. He’s been working around the stuff since he was a teenager. In ’82, he formed United Meat & Deli in Detroit and got into the meat production game, and has never looked back.

Today, he’s like the gold standard for deli meats, keeping the traditions alive in a day and age when the neighborhood deli is increasingly a relic of a bygone era. And I don’t think I’d ever tried any of his stuff. So a couple of days ago, at Russell St. Deli in Detroit’s historic Eastern Market, I finally made the plunge. I ordered the grilled pastrami special – Sy Ginsberg pastrami, Swiss, caramelized onions, and some kind of spicy mustard concoction on grilled rye.


Inside the deli.

Ginsberg is probably most famous for his corned beef. But hey, I was in the mood for pastrami. It’s a fatty meat, and I love fat. I hate watching people cut off the white and pink bits from their ham, all while they’re loading up on wine and pie. I mean, really? It practically ruins the holidays for me. It’s worse, even, than receiving festive socks or ties from your Aunt Alice.

But I digress. Back to the show. Back to the pastrami.

Pastrami, you see, is somewhat of an unusual cut, taken from the navel area of the cow.

That’s right. Put simply, you’re eating the cow’s belly button. OK, not really, but it’s direct from the underbelly of the beast. And as a cut, it’s almost the bacon of beef, with this beautiful marbling.

They take that raw meat, cure it with brine, rub it with spices like coriander, garlic, and black pepper, and then smoke it.

The end result is awe-inspiring.


And Ginsberg’s pastrami just has that special somethin’-somethin’ that you find in truly iconic food. It’s appeal is immediate, direct, and to the point. It’s a juicy, full-flavored assault on the senses. Couple that with Russell St. Deli’s commitment to quality ingredients, and you have a real winner of a sandwich. I mean, that rye. I’m not sure if Russell St. makes it or sources it from a local supplier, but it’s delicious.

So do yourself a favor next time you’re ordering a sandwich. If you see something from Sy Ginsberg on the menu, get it. Don’t repeat my mistake.

(Also: Did you hear that earlier, pastrami makers? Pastrami is the bacon of beef. I just thought up an entire marketing campaign for you. Get on it.)


3 thoughts on “Pastrami

  1. I might have to make a trip to Michigan just for the pastrami, George. You have painted the picture of a sandwich to die for. I will remember the name, Sy Ginsberg.

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