Important Shit: Corned Beef Sandwiches | A Continuous Lean.

Important Shit: Corned Beef Sandwiches

Dec 22nd, 2010 | Categories: Food, Important Shit | by Michael Williams

Slyman's in Cleveland, Ohio.

The corned beef sandwich is a very important part of a man’s diet. The practice of eating such delectable meats dates back to Ireland in the 12th century, where the salted beef was first referenced in the poem Aislinge Meic Con Glinne. The poem tells the tale of King Cathal mac Finguine and and his desire to purge himself of his obsession with food and the “demon of gluttony.”

During his battle with gluttony King Cathal mac Finguine had a vision of a land made entirely of food (from Wikipedia):

The fort we reached was beautiful,
With works of custards thick,
Beyond the loch.
New butter was the bridge in front,
The rubble dyke was wheaten white,
Bacon the palisade.

Stately, pleasantly it sat,
A compact house and strong.
Then I went in:
The door of it was dry meat,
The threshold was bare bread,
cheese-curds the sides.

Smooth pillars of old cheese,
And sappy bacon props
Alternate ranged;
Fine beams of mellow cream,
White rafters – real curds,
Kept up the house.

Can’t say I haven’t been there myself, King.

Katz's is home to one of the most famous and most expensive corned beef sandwiches out there.

Over the past 20 or so years I have been enjoying corned beef sandwiches at places all over the country. In my mind I liken the sandwich to the southern chicken sandwich (speaking strictly in design, not taste). What I mean is, a corned beef sandwich is a very simple thing consisting only of meat and bread (and sometimes mustard or cheese), but this simplicity makes it very difficult to execute in terms of making it complex enough to taste good with just those few ingredients. It also means that when a corned beef sandwich is done well, it is the most delicious thing on the planet. My favorite corned beef sandwiches are below. In the interest of the freedom-of-cured-meat-information, join in with a comment on where you enjoy your favorite corned beef sandwich.

My top five favorite places to dine on corned beef sandwich goodness:

1. Slyman’s in Cleveland, Ohio (My favorite. No one makes them bigger.)
2. Greenblatt’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, Calif. (Soft, delicious and very very tasty. )
3. Katz’s Deli in New York, New York (Tasty but touristy. Also very expensive. Slightly overrated.)
4. Eisenberg’s in New York, New York (You either get it or you don’t.)
5. Ben’s Kosher in New York, New York (A staple of the NYC garment center.)

Ben's Kosher in New York's Garment Center c. today.

Slyman’s sandwich photo via
Comments: 75

75 Comments to “Important Shit: Corned Beef Sandwiches”

  1. Blues by Five
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 7:03 PM

    Know of any joints in VA that offer a mean corned beef sandwich?

  2. Ben
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 7:18 PM

    Wow! Slyman’s. I use to live at 38th and Lakeside. Love those guys. Haven’t been able to get there in years. They still have all the 3 stooges stuff?

  3. Ben
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 7:20 PM

    used*

  4. Paul
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 7:52 PM

    The closest thing we have to this in central Florida is Toojay’s in Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, and The Villages. They have great potato pancakes too!

  5. Marc
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 8:08 PM

    Up here in Montreal we have “smoked meat” sandwiches that definitely give Katz’s a run for its money. Schwartz’s and The Main on St-Laurent, and Lester’s on Bernard are all worth a look if you’re ever in town..

  6. Matthew
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 8:25 PM

    I think the corned beef at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, MI, might knock everyone on your list down a spot. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by the deli or Zingerman’s Roadhouse for some world-class everything. :)

  7. Michael
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 8:42 PM

    Point No. 1; Corned Beef: I have to give you crazy props for Eisenberg’s. Place feels like Popeye Doyle’s gonna kick in the door and rough you up. The best.

    Point No. 2; Beef I got with that 1st pic: Is that a cherry Coke? Get a Cel-Ray, dummy.

  8. DS
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 8:47 PM

    I’ll back the cherry coke. Cel-ray is kind of gnarly.

  9. iamamoody1
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 9:04 PM

    Carl’s Deli – St Louis Mo. Corned beef and a Fitz’s rootbeer.

  10. Luke
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 9:09 PM

    Manny’s Deli in Chicago.

  11. Jonas
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 9:29 PM

    Market Corned Beef in Seattle. Unreal sandwich. It will hurt if you eat it all.

  12. Will
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 9:59 PM

    I have to say that Montreal smoked meat (Schwartz’s) beats any corned beef. Add a side poutine for the full french Canadian treatment!

  13. TMH
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 11:33 PM

    Lipitor is def in our future

  14. William
    on Dec 22nd, 2010
    @ 11:58 PM

    Montreal smoked meat. Hands down.

  15. Dave
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 12:45 AM

    I’ve only been to Katz’s, but it was out of this world delicious and it’s my gold standard for deli sandwiches. It’s been hard to find a place near Boston, but Kelly’s is alright. I’m sure there are places near Boston I don’t know about, any tips?

  16. Robin Masters
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 2:05 AM

    Hey, excuse my neophyte question but what’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami?

  17. evencleveland
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 2:23 AM

    I used to work at a law firm on Public Square and we’d get Slyman’s corned beef on the first Wednesday of the month. Glory days.

  18. t.SC
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 5:31 AM

    Thanks for the heads up. I can’t wait to check some of these out on my next visit from the UK.

  19. Paul C.
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 6:58 AM

    Robin,

    Pastrami is smoked corned beef.

  20. Brendan
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 7:55 AM

    In Boston: Sam LaGrassa’s.

  21. Jim
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 8:40 AM

    Famous 4th Street Deli in Philly gets it done right, gotta say.

  22. aaron
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 9:35 AM

    carnegie deli is better than katz’s

  23. deusdiabolus
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 10:39 AM

    BluesByFive: There was a really great deli in the Carytown section of Richmond, VA. I believe it was New York Deli (http://www.ny-d.com/). There’s also Coppola’s Deli (http://www.coppolasdeli.com/). I think I ate at both, but I believe I went to New York Deli a little more often.

  24. Brian
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 10:57 AM

    I second LaGrassa’s in Downtown Crossing. Place is a revelation for corned beef, pastrami, and their Cuban is remarkable. If you are ever in Worcester, check out Maury’s on Main Street. They make evrrything on site. Get the Rueben with sauerkraut or the Alexander with cole slaw.

  25. Steve
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 11:04 AM

    I second Manny’s in Chicago.

  26. Conquistahore
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 11:06 AM

    The Dubliner in DC whips up a pretty nice hot corned beef sandwich.

  27. ML
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 11:38 AM

    Carnegie and Famous 4th Street for sure.

  28. Thom
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 11:49 AM

    No love for Montreal?

  29. Gina Americana
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 12:13 PM

    Nice photos! Makes me hungry as I face the Christmas table in Sweden, which consists mostly of pork & sea life.

  30. JonIndia™
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 12:34 PM

    WORD.

  31. kevin
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 12:38 PM

    Rein’s Deli in Vernon CT and Springfield MA, same types of sandwiches and delish!!!

    http://www.reinsdeli.com

  32. cam
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 1:03 PM

    you must hit langer’s in LA for pastrami.

    best in the country, according to the new yorker

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/08/19/020819fa_fact4

  33. MR
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 2:16 PM

    a montreal jewish delicatessen in brooklyn
    http://www.mileendbrooklyn.com/

  34. arthur
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 2:41 PM

    Cheese and Corned Beef? Its like only fastening the bottom button on a 3 button jacket…you can but it’s just wrong.

  35. Michael Williams
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 2:42 PM

    Arthur — I agree with you. And as you will notice, I didn’t take the top photo, nor did I eat that sandy.

  36. Andy F.
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 3:05 PM

    Agree with Marc and Will–Having grown up in Montreal, there was was nothing better than hitting up Schwartz’s right after a Canadiens hockey game. I will be there over the holidays and will be ordering a lean platter, cherry coke, and fries.
    See trailer of film by Garry Beitel about one of Montreal’s greatest institutions-http://www.chezschwartzfilm.com/frames-trailer.html
    If you can’t make it up North, Mile End in Bklyn is outstanding.

  37. Jason
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 3:13 PM

    Who the fuck goes to Katz’s and DOESN’T get pastrami? You wear your non-native non-Jewish New York badge proudly Mr. Williams.

  38. bmackintosh
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 3:21 PM

    I have only been to Katz’s as well and cannot imagine a better hot pastrami. Also I love their matzo ball soup. The place seemed mostly filled with locals.

  39. DM
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 4:19 PM

    Gotta go with the hot pastrami from Canter’s in L.A.

  40. Michael Williams
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 4:24 PM

    Jason — have you ever seen me? How do you know I don’t get both? Lord knows I look like I ate two sandwiches. And as far as being a native New Yorker, now that is something I don’t ever hope to be. I’m glad its not starting to show.

    P.S. Try not to be such an asshole.

  41. Max
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 5:57 PM

    Michael’s Deli in Boston (technically Brookline)
    Best food period.

  42. OhioHead
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 6:16 PM

    Love Slyman’s (cash only sucks though)!

    Have you ever tried Izzy’s in Cincinnati? They have great potato pancakes….

  43. Laurence
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 6:33 PM

    Cheese on corned beef? Oy vey!

  44. Billy
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 7:03 PM

    Ok guys, here’s some Montreal smoked meat love.

  45. mark
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 8:24 PM

    second ave deli ( not on 2nd ave anymore) but @ 33rd and lex or somethng gives katz a run for the money. sliced thinner and no mishugas with tickets and jockeying for a table.

    Michael u should try.

  46. JDG
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 9:42 PM

    Another shout out for Zingermann’s inn Ann Arbor.

  47. Eric S. Raymond
    on Dec 23rd, 2010
    @ 9:55 PM

    Koch’s Deli at 43rd and Locust in Philadelphia, just west of the UPenn campus. According to my Jewish friends in college it’s the best anywhere outside of Brooklyn, and their corned-beef special is astonishingly good (wash it down with ginger beer). Have since eaten at fine delis all over the U.S. and not found better, though a handful of top-flight places in New York are as good.

  48. Jacob B
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 1:57 AM

    Slyman’s is king. Thank you to Botnick for introducing me to this fine establishment last summer.

  49. lxbkr
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 2:16 AM

    Primanti Bros. Strip District Pittsburgh. A few more ingredients on this one, corned beef, stacked high with cole slaw and fresh cut fries, way better than just the greasy slab you get at Katz’s.

  50. Robin Masters
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 2:59 AM

    Deli’s are pretty rare this side of the Atlantic Ocean… what are the good spots in Europe?

  51. vmg2
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 9:51 AM

    you need to include some Chicago joints in this list: perry’s and manny’s.

    http://www.perrysdeli.com/

    http://www.mannysdeli.com/?gclid=COv06smRhaYCFQty5Qod7X1aAg

  52. Ian
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 10:14 AM

    Montreal, QC

    http://www.schwartzsdeli.com/

  53. xcubbies
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 12:31 PM

    Disagree. Katz’s fits meets its reputation. The handcut sandwiches are in their own category.

  54. brad
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 1:11 PM

    The New York Deli in Seattle (close to University District?) is fantastic..

    I even let the disgusting sour pickles go – bc their sandwhiches are terrific. Anyone have top-of-mind insight on where it is the sour pickles orginated? versus dill? And did anyone think they were about to get food poisoning after trying one (when, like me, they didnt realize there was such a thing as sour pickle )

  55. Jason
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 4:04 PM

    I went to Schwartz’s during my bachelor up in MTL a few months ago and while the food was really good by regular standards, it just felt like a bad Xerox of a Katz’s meal (smoked meat < Katz' pastrami, fries = meh, wack ass fake black cherry soda doesn't hold a candle to Dr Browns).

  56. Kevin
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 5:59 PM

    Shapiros in Indianapolis. Been here since before the Great War (thats ww1 for you younger folks). Looks like the other great sandwiches you have pictured. I like the combo myself. 1/2 corned beef, half pastrami. Also, their reuben is to die for.

  57. Eli
    on Dec 24th, 2010
    @ 11:11 PM

    Ha, who knew one of the most commented posts would be on a sandwich? I love it!

  58. Kenyan
    on Dec 25th, 2010
    @ 11:21 AM

    Sadly I’m a pulled pork type of guy….

  59. Wesley Verhoeve
    on Dec 26th, 2010
    @ 11:51 AM

    I will second Mile End in Brooklyn, which in my humble opinion destroys Katz, especially if you take into account the pricing and original flavors.

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-05-25/restaurants/mile-end-brings-montreal-to-brooklyn/

  60. Hallock
    on Dec 26th, 2010
    @ 3:38 PM

    Another shout for ZIngerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor.

  61. Shane
    on Dec 26th, 2010
    @ 9:14 PM

    please do not put greenblatt’s in top 5 Michael! Have you been to Langer’s? If not hold out on next years list until you have.

  62. barry
    on Dec 27th, 2010
    @ 11:39 AM

    I eat at greenblatt’s once a week. It is damn good. I think it is the combo of the meat and their double baked rye that makes it awesome

  63. Bill
    on Dec 27th, 2010
    @ 12:14 PM

    Langer’s is a sad excuse for a deli. West coast people have no idea about this kind of stuff.

    Slyman’s, however, destroys. This is the one thing that NYC doesn’t have on CLE.

  64. Stanley
    on Dec 28th, 2010
    @ 2:18 PM

    I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life and have never been to Perry’s. Very excited about going now. Manny’s is solid. I still think it is second to Katz. Just for kicks, gotta throw two Italian delis out there. Bari on Grand Ave and Fontano’s on Taylor. Sub style but are great places to get sandwiches. Both are old school Italian style grocers with delis in back and old men hanging out.

  65. cam
    on Dec 29th, 2010
    @ 9:22 PM

    if the new yorker prints langer’s as the best sandwich in the country, i’m pretty sure they’re doing something right.

    i grew up on manny’s and langer’s is the dividing line between my mother and i.

    sure, save the deli’s is all up on their jock but with good reason. LA is a pastrami town my friend. canter’s, not so much but if okie dog sells it with hotdogs and cheese in a tortilla, LA is pastrami king.

  66. andrew
    on Dec 30th, 2010
    @ 10:44 AM

    I live in Chicago, have tried the pastrami sandwiches here and in NYC, but I dream about Montreal smoked meat. The best.

  67. Omdroparebop
    on Dec 31st, 2010
    @ 12:39 AM

    Well, Slyman’s of course. And don’t hold up the line.
    You belly up to the counter and say “one SMURF please.” Then keep moving.
    And never, ever go there on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s for amateurs.

  68. Grant Gorton
    on Jan 3rd, 2011
    @ 10:32 AM

    If you’re in Pittsburgh, this is the place to go:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/sammys-famous-corned-beef-pittsburgh

  69. léo
    on Jan 4th, 2011
    @ 6:44 AM

    putain c’est crade.

  70. paanta
    on Jan 4th, 2011
    @ 2:15 PM

    Zingerman’s’ absence from your list is a damn shame.

    Zings is overrated, of course. It’s not the greatest restaurant in the world. It is, however, the greatest *deli* in the world. :)

  71. jj
    on Jan 4th, 2011
    @ 4:36 PM

    That shit looks good. I wish I had some money and a way down town.

  72. MichiganMike
    on Jan 10th, 2011
    @ 9:04 PM

    Living in lower Michigan, and dating a girl from the Big City of Detroit in 1970, I stumbled across a GREAT corned beef sandwich at a small deli in the ‘burbs and would occasionally look it up every few years. Someone said to try Zingermans in AnnArbor….It’s half as far away, and the day I walked in, I was looking at the HUGE hand written menu on the wall,looking slightly confused. They asked what I was looking for ..I said, Corned Beef on Rye, coleslaw and thousand Island dressing????? Oh, he said, that’s the “Mike’s Special”
    WOW. that’s MY name ! It was great, just as good as the other place.
    Now that I’m thinking of it, I’ve gotta make the drive over there.

  73. david himel
    on Jan 17th, 2011
    @ 3:13 AM

    Probably a bit late to weigh in on this conversation but a few points: To be a deli …technically kosher…therefore no milk with meat…i.e. at a deli there is no cheese. That would be a dairy (blintz latke etc..) ok that point aside. I have travelled the world in search of deli’s because since the 1970s they have been in decline. The first test you have to ask is: do they make their own meat. Many delis are just sad remnants of the original owners and are goyish mass meat sellers of commercial grocery store product. So if they make the meat then they can be rated. Second…you really cant compare corned beef, pastrami and smoked meat…each is its own…third…you have to throw in pickled tongue if you are a good jew. Forth…the rye bread and mustard are a huge difference…few cities have a good rye bread bakery left…So that being said…Carnagies is big..Katz is good, Canters is cool, langers is better…Schwartz’ is the canadian dream of smoked meat (fat of course) as for cleveland I have never been but I am sure they make more then old warehouses there…toronto has Panzers..(the only old one left) and caplansky (new one he makes smoked meat…went to high school with him). A real deli should be very plain..smallish menu…I would say Scwartz’s is extreme because they really only care to serve smoked meat…Canters is over the top…and once you put milk products in your deli you aint a deli.

  74. david himel
    on Jan 17th, 2011
    @ 3:14 AM

    oops slip of the brain…pancers…lol not panzers

  75. J David Petruno
    on Jan 17th, 2011
    @ 2:59 PM

    Everyone knows the best sandwiches are at DEFONTE’S in Red Hook (Brooklyn). I heard they opened at store in Manhattan, but I’d only go the original