I’ve schmoozed with brisket sandwiches in NYC and Chicago and even in my own kitchen, but none compare with the one, or should I say half of one, that I ate last Thursday in Philly at Hershel’s East Side Deli.
As with most redirected eating plans upon which I embark ( with the diligence of a Border Collie), someone, like a husband, or something, like a brisket sandwich, derails me.
And so the derailing occurred in a perfect place: the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia. Formerly a train station for the Reading Railroad, the space now bustles with hungry humans searching for pork, honey, ice cream, Whoopie cakes, and pastrami sandwiches on marbled rye or pumpernickel.
So much for a diminution of carbs and fat! So much for cutting back on cheese and special sauces! So much for a reduction in salty pickles!
I approached the counter with the anticipation one might experience when diet restrictions die by the side of the road, when all preconceived notions of triglycerides evaporate into heavy air, when the light turns a bright green and one is behind the wheel of a high octane-burning race car—with the reckless abandon of a teenager.
The pastrami has been inhaled off the cutting board above. Pastrami or brisket?
A short-circuiting began first in my brain and then in my salivary glands, much like my Labrador Dinah waiting for her meager meal each morning.
I asked the owner, Steve, to “ take care of me.”
When he returned with a marbled rye hot brisket sandwich with the Rachel—a layering of Russian dressing, cold slaw, cheese, and other family secrets—I descended into a culinary high rarely experienced.
To be honest, that sandwich put this old cracked bell to shame.