Price Point: $8.99 for the Montreal smoked meat sandwich from Q-Tine
Let's talk about slicing pastrami. Restaurants tend to fall in one of two camps: The first tosses a hunk of smoked brisket on a deli slicer, sets the knob to the thinnest setting, and shaves the meat fine; the second cuts the beef by hand, which results in thick, uneven slices. The former results in nice, even layers that don’t mind playing with others, while the latter gives you unwieldy slabs, which refuse to cooperate but taste more freewheeling. Certain people have very definite opinions on the matter, but since you’re eating pastrami, both are perfectly acceptable.
To see hand-slicing in all its rugged, out-of-control glory, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than Q-Tine in Logan Square (2339 N. Milwaukee Ave., q-tine.com). This new show is best known for its combination of a poutine shop with barbecue, but don’t miss the sandwiches on the menu. You’ll have to order the Montreal smoked meat sandwich, which technically isn’t the exact same thing as pastrami (slightly different spices, a lot less sugar), but those differences are so tiny as to be inconsequential. The meat still comes on rye bread slathered with Dijon mustard.
For hand-slicing to work, the meat needs to be exceptionally tender, and Q-tine has no problem with that. The smoked meat provides little to no resistance, unleashing a rush of salty, smoky juice when you bite in. Honestly, it’s almost (almost!) too much, so don’t be the least bit ashamed if you can’t finish the whole thing. Plus, the fries more than hold their own. Crisp but not overly crunchy, well seasoned but not completely covered in salt. Just what you would expect from a true poutine shop.