The Jew And The Carrot

Jewish Deli Classics Get Yemeni Boost

By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby
David’s Brisket House’s Pastrami

The perfect pastrami sandwich is the New Yorker’s holy grail. It’s a relatively simple combination: Fatty, juicy pastrami spiced with a small dollop of brown mustard and contained within two slices of mild rye bread, served ideally with a pickle spear. And yet, the search for the best corner pastrami sandwich has spawned as many culinary battles as the eternal hunt for the superior slice of pizza. David’s Brisket House, a Crown Heights mainstay that has been slinging deli meats since the 1970s, has long been on the short list for the pinnacle of pastrami achievement.

David’s Brisket House was founded to serve the then-predominantly Jewish neighborhood it was situated in. The old story of gentrification lines and neighborhood change landed David’s smack in the middle of a predominantly Caribbean area. The restaurant changed hands over the years, closing for a despairingly long time in 2010 before reopening with interior improvements in 2012. The owners now are Yemeni Muslims, who serve up the spirit of the old Jewish deli along with every sandwich. It’s the zany kind of fusion that happens naturally in a place like Brooklyn: non-kosher Jewish comfort food preserved by Middle Easterners sold to Haitian immigrants.

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