Stachowski's PastramiStachowski’s Market and Deli has not yet celebrated its first anniversary, yet the Georgetown temple to meat radiates an old-school, no-frills cool that rightly suggests a much deeper pedigree. The deli’s namesake and talisman, Jamie Stachowski, is far from an unknown quantity in the District, having begun his career as a cook at Jean-Louis at the Watergate in the early 1980s. After stints in kitchens around D.C., L.A. and New York, Stachowski owned and operated the now-defunct K Street bistro Restaurant Kolumbia, and later developed an eponymous charcuterie line that prior to the Georgetown shop was available only at local farmers markets and specialty food shops. The guy’s been around, and judging by the meticulously presented products and tightly curated menu of behemoth sandwiches offered at the deli, his reputation as a ceaselessly driven perfectionist is well earned.

In contrast with the best examples of the sandwich form, there’s a tendency among so-called “overstuffed” varieties to become, however excellent and plentiful their ingredients, less than the sum of their parts. (See for example the heaping monstrosity of beautiful porchetta, provolone and broccoli rabe that is Bub and Pop’s roast pork.) Not so with Stachowski’s towering pastrami on rye. Beyond the sheer scale of the sandwich, the classically sparse presentation should not be mistaken for a lack of complexity.  The deliciously peppery pastrami is wet-cured for seven days, then rinsed, dried, crusted with spice and smoked for 11 hours using red oak. For my money, it’s the finest pastrami in D.C.

You will be tempted to consume the entirety of this sandwich in one sitting, but I advise strongly against it. In his piece on the recent resurgence of pastrami in D.C.Washington Post food writer David Hagedorn puts the total meat weight at a full 24 ounces—that’s a pound and a half for those of you who didn’t study units of measure in college—and I can’t imagine you’d be doing your digestive system any favors taking it down whole. Fortunately, the lack of superfluous trimmings makes the sandwich a prime candidate for what an architect might call adaptive reuse. Hagedorn’s suggestion to salvage the excess meat for deployment in a breakfast hash is a good one, but I was recently able to stretch the leftover half of a recent sandwich into three additional, generously-stacked pastrami sandwiches over the coming days. It is a gift that keeps giving, and it is not alone. The shop’s Italian meats sandwich, The Four-Meat Grinder, packs salami, coppa, mortadella and sopressata into a single package of comprable heft. There might be a select few other shops in D.C. producing sandwiches at this level, but there’s only one that sells them three at a time.

An amusing anecdote in a Washington Post profile published last year describes Stachowski cruising D.C. after work on a quest for a good pastrami sandwich and ending up 230 miles away, in Manhattan. It’s tough to say whether the sandwich menu at Stachowski’s Market and Deli plays second fiddle to the meats on which the shop’s proprietor partly made his name, but it is certainly no afterthought. He is evidently a man with very clear ideas of how things should be done, and fortunately for us, these high standards are ubiquitous at Stachowksi’s.

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March 19, 2013