Price Point: $12 for pastrami at Boeufhaus
It’s hard to prepare for the pastrami sandwich on the lunch menu at Boeufhaus (1012 N. Western Ave., 773-661-2116; boeufhaus.com). The smell hits first. A wave of smoke wafts past your nostrils, followed closely by a lingering aroma of sharp black peppercorn and musky coriander. But that’s nothing compared to the first bite, which hits first with the heavy spice rub and then follows with the juiciness of the meat. It’s almost too confrontational, like pastrami after a bender, but it pulls back before the point of no return, just begging you to dive back in. If it sounds like a ride, that’s about right.
It all adds up to something of a new frontier for pastrami in Chicago. Not only is it extraordinarily juicy and flavorful, but it’s a completely unique style of the meat. And I’ve done my research, including a visit to all the usual suspects in Chicago (Manny’s, Eleven City Diner, Fumare), a pilgrimage to Langer’s in Los Angeles, and repeated visits to Katz’s in New York. (That’s not to mention the very good smoked meat sandwich I sampled recently at Q-Tine.) Boeufhaus’s distinctive version may not be for everyone, but any serious pastrami fan deserves to make a visit.