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Beantown Pastrami Co.: a Taste of New York City at the Boston Public Market in Boston, Massachusetts

New York style pastami from Beantown Pastrami in Boston, Mass.
Pastrami sandwich from Beantown Pastrami Co. in Boston.

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 2/5/2018.

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Boston, Mass., has it all: a remarkable sense of history and preservation, renowned educational institutions, beloved sports teams, world-class museums and an overall urban vibe that justifies its designation as "The Hub of the Universe."

Truth be told, however, Boston had been missing one crucial element, until recently: a place to enjoy a really good New York-Style pastrami sandwich!

In the northeast United States, New York City has traditionally taken top honors for the best pastrami sandwiches -- most notably, Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. They have been around since 1888 and represent a critical part of The Big Apple's renowned pastrami culture by curing raw meat, and then seasoning, smoking and steaming it for that magical taste.

On the other hand, many Boston delis and restaurants that tried to promote their pastrami sandwiches as having that New York City taste never specialized in pastrami and often barely registered a notch or two above store-bought deli brands. Through the years, frequent conversations among locals about "finally" finding pastrami comparable to New York City in the Boston area seemed as unconvincing as the pastrami itself. Out tastes buds told us otherwise.

That all changed in August 2015 when Beantown Pastrami Co. opened in the Boston Public Market. Owner Joe Langhan -- one of the founders of The Food Network and a producer there (he created Emeril Live) -- embarked on a new career based on his passion for pastrami. He took a cue from the gold standard of New York delis like Katz's, and through a painstaking process found the ideal local supplier to make his vision come true.

"Our goal was to have people say 'You're almost as good as Katz's, or as good,'" said Langhan, 67, a Woburn native and Gloucester, Mass., resident. "We went through virtually every processor in New England and did blind taste testing until we found the best one."

Beantown Pastrami Co, at the Boston Public Market in Boston, Mass.
Beantown Pastrami Co. at the Boston Public Market in Boston.

The black pastrami -- heavy on ground coriander, mustard seed, garlic and onion -- goes though several hours of preparation unlike most other deli pastrami served in local restaurants. The final product features a smoky, juicy, tender beef flavor that is, thankfully, also served in ample portions.

"It's easier and cheaper, but nowhere as good" said Langhan, of the commonly-found deli pastrami. "If we sold it in a deli and opened at 10, we would have the pastrami ready at 9:55. Here, we prep, steam, take it out and hard carve. It's about a two-and-a-half or three hour process for us to get the pastrami ready."

Tray of mouthwatering pastrami at Beantown Pastami Co. in Boston, Mass.
Tray of pastrami from Beantown Pastrami Co.

Beantown Pastrami Co. Manager Matt Marcella gets up every morning, takes "The T" in from his native East Boston, and brings his innate hard work ethic to the counter. He prepares the food, takes orders, trades quips with surrounding food vendor staff in the Boston Public Market, and communicates like a seasoned pro with his boss, Joe. You can tell they like and respect each other with their good camaraderie, but when push comes to shove Matt is, first and foremost, laser-focused on getting the product ready. It's like he approaches his job with the precision of a world-class musician -- making sure to perfect every note of food preparation. He is a jack of all trades and a master of everything at Beantown Pastrami Co.

"What's different about this place is in a typical restaurant, you have help to work the front of a restaurant and help to work the back of a restaurant -- here, you have to find the balance to work both the front and back," said Marcella. "I enjoy my job very much and love the food!"

Matt Marcella carves partami at Beantown Pastrami Co. in the Boston Public Market, Boston, Mass.
Matt Marcella carves pastrami at Beantown Pastrami.

"This (the pastrami sandwich) is very good," said David Musselman, a repeat customer on lunch break from his state job at nearby City Hall. "The pastrami compares favorably with New York City."

Regulars return to Beantown Pastrami Co. in lines that also comprise a steady flow of newcomers on a daily basis, and, like Musselman, usually come from their workplaces in Boston, or from their nearby residences. The tourist crowd also frequents Beantown Pastrami Co. as the Boston Public Market has wonderfully evolved as a major Boston attraction in a relatively short amount of time. Located across the street from the North End of Boston and within walking distance of Faneuil Hall, the 40 vendors at the indoor, year-round Boston Public Market focus on fresh, locally-sourced food from Massachusetts and all of New England. The colors and vibrancy of the food from local farmers, fishermen and food entrepreneurs is a beautiful sight to behold and includes produce, poultry, fish, bread and baked goods. Many kids activities, cooking classes and demos, and various other events help elevate a fun food experience even that much more.

The novel concept of the Boston Pastrami Co. fits in quite well with the Boston Public Market theme.
Beantown Pastrami Co. makes sure that its food offerings tap into New England sourcing with as much local meats and other ingredients as possible from New England farms, some beef from Maine, some turkey from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, mustards from Raye's Mustard Mills in Eastport, Maine, and fresh bread baked daily from Malden.

"Vendors at the Boston Public Market sell a lot of specialty products and are very passionate about what they do," said Langhan. "The market itself is always friendly and welcoming, not rushed and impersonal. The location is perfect, too, with first-timers and repeat customers coming all the time from work, the North End, Beacon Hill, other parts of Boston. We feel so fortunate to be here."

Boston Public Market in Boston, Massachuetts
Boston Public Market.

Unlike delis and restaurants that sometimes have menus seemingly as long as a Tolstoy or Milton novel, Beantown Pastrami Co. centers in on pastrami and a few close food cousins like corned beef, hot dogs, fresh local roasted turkey, sour pickles, potato salad and baked beans. Of course, rye bread and mustard (deli, yellow and dijon) and Swiss and American cheeses accompany the pastrami, as well as the other selections, at Beantown Pastrami. The availability of Ipswich Ale Brewery or various soda pop flavors doesn't hurt the overall experience one bit!

Beantown Pastrami Co. menu at the Boston Public Market, Boston, Mass.

Greg Bigelow, 44, of Brookline, Mass., considers himself a regular and true believer in Beantown Pastrami Co., dating back to fall 2015.

I'd consider myself a regular—I typically go once a week, regularly unless I'm traveling," said Bigelow. "When the Public Market opened, I tried out a number of places for lunch. I loved that first pastrami sandwich and started coming back more frequently as I weeded out other places. I experimented with different bread/mustard/cheese options before finding my personal favorite: marble rye, dijon, Swiss. Part of the reason I keep coming back is the deliciousness of the pastrami itself: thick cut, juicy, intensely flavored. Part is the presentation: fresh bread never soggy, cheese and mustard perfectly proportioned, pickle if you want it. Part is the staff: friendly and clearly happy bringing pastrami to their customers."

Bigelow doesn't relegate himself to a basic pastrami sandwich, however.

"Beantown Pastrami creates special sandwiches every couple months which are great fun to try," said Bigelow. "I'll often alternate special with my regular... for one of my favorite special sandwiches (North East by South West), I switched to the special for its duration; it was pastrami topped with diced jalapeño and cheddar and there was something beautifully complementary between the jalapeño and pastrami that I couldn't get enough of -- the sweet pastrami and heat of the jalapeño was a magical combination."

Sandwiches can be made as a single or double size (the amply-served single should suffice for most). Besides pastrami, other favorites, in order of popularity include The Rachel (pastrami, cole slaw, baby Swiss, Russian dressing), The Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, baby Swiss and Russian Dressing), the Thanksgiving (roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish and mayo) and plain corned beef sandwich.

Pastrami sandwich with cheddar cheese, onions and horseradish sauce on rustic bread from Beantown Pastrami Co. in Boston.
Grilled reuben, made with corned beef, baby Swiss cheese, homemade pickled cabbage, Russian dressing on light rye.

Specials on this writer's visit included a pastrami grilled cheese sandwich, white bean and pastrami soup and a pastrami dog. The "no chemical" hot dog is steamed in with pastrami juice and stuffed with pastrami! Peppers, onions and cheese help the mouthwatering cause that much more...

Beantown pastrami dog from Beantown Pastrami Co. in the Boston Public Market, Boston MA.
Pastrami Dog from Beantown Pastrami Co.

Reuben Sandwich from Beantown Pastrami in Boston MA.
The Rachel from Beantown Pastrami Co.

Ultimately, the Boston food scene has clearly become more complete with the presence of Beantown Pastrami Co.

"For most customers, it is an evolving process," said Langhan. "They start with pastrami and then something else. The clientèle is looking for something way above average and we strive to do just that... I go to places myself that have big menus and say to friends, 'This is the only thing you should get.' Here, we focus on just a few things and customers love them all."

Beantown Pastrami Co. is located at 100 Hanover St., Boston MA. Tel. 617-943--0705. Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Web site: Facebook fan page: Twitter page: http://www.twitter/BtownPastrami

Boston Public Market web site:

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New York City is not the only place for a great pastrami sandwich. Boston, Mass., has it, too, like at Beantown Pastrami Co. in the Boston Public Market.

Related article: Discovering wonderful homemade Italian foods at Oliva's Market in Milford, Mass.

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