Monday, May 28, 2018

New York State of Mind at Tommy Pastrami

Tommy Pastrami New York Delicatessen
25461 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

My friend Frank retired after close to 50 years in the grocery business. In that time, he witnessed a bunch of innovations. He went from punching in the prices manually to being able to scan them instead, he went from paper bags to plastic ones and then having customers bringing in their own bags or having to cough up a dime per bag. He was also around when the meat department stopped selling dinosaur meat. Okay, that last one was not real, but my point is that Frank is a really old guy.

I bring Frank up because he now has a lot of spare time now that he's retired. He likes keeping up with the gossip and goings on in his former workplace, so we have lunch once a week to catch him up to speed. We have our usual spots we like to haunt, but when something new opens up we like to go check them out. Frank doesn't seem to mind trying new places, so when I heard that a new sandwich place had opened up nearby, we headed to Tommy Pastrami for my one-hour lunch break.

Tommy Pastrami has three locations, one in Arizona, one in Santa Ana, and this one in Laguna Hills, which shares space with Bagel Me. Still, no clue where this location is? It's on the corner of Paseo de Valencia and Alicia, behind the Mobil gas station and Pizza Hut, right next door to a tae kwon do studio and Yogurtland. That should give you a good shot to find this hidden spot. I think I had eaten at Tomy Pastrami way back when they were located right next to the courthouse in Santa Ana, but that location has since closed.

The Tommy of Tommy Pastrami is actually Tommy Cassella, who worked in a Brooklyn deli over four decades ago. Learning from his mentor, Irving, his quest was to learn everything about the restaurant business. After Irving's passing, Tommy moved west with all the knowledge he gleaned from Irving and opened a full-service restaurant in Phoenix. This is the basis for the Tommy Pastrami of today.

I had never been to Bagel Me before, as I have no love for the bagel, which I call a poor man's donut. I was pretty impressed with the size of the Bagel Me menu though and made a mental note to maybe come back and try their stuff sometime. The Tommy Pastrami menu is pushed into the far corner of the restaurant, where you order at the register. The menu is a little smaller at this south county location than its sister restaurant in Santa Ana. Missing are the burgers, cheesesteak sandwich, and Italian sandwiches, but your probably not going to miss them, this is a restaurant for pastrami. They also feature brisket, corned beef, Nathan's hot dogs, turkey, tuna, egg salad, and a couple of side items, including chili cheese fries and a potato knish. Since we only had an hour, Frank and I made our selections rather quickly, found a seat, and waited about ten minutes for our food to arrive at our table. Let's see our take on this new sandwich joint in town.

Frank was a little intimidated by the pictures of the big sandwiches at Tommy Pastrami, so he ordered this Half Pastrami Sandwich ($7.95) on a french roll. This did not really look like a half a sandwich, but it ended up being just the right size for the lighter eating Frank. The sandwiches here come with just the pastrami and a pickle on the side. There are deli mustard and hot sauce on the tables, which Frank used liberally. He liked the softness of the bread and felt the pastrami was one of the better ones he has had in OC. High praise for tough to please Frank.

I went big here, even though I knew I had another four hours left of work, but I decided I'd take one for the team to give you a good grasp of this place. I'm just giving like that. This NY Reuben ($13.95) was filled with plenty of pastrami, sliced swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on toasted rye. I really enjoyed this sandwich. The toasted rye had a great crunch to it, the pastrami was flavored nicely and very tender, while the sauerkraut kind of overpowered a bit, the cheese mellowed things out. I'd probably see if they could substitute coleslaw for the sauerkraut next time to make a Rachel sandwich, which is something that I prefer over a Reuben. As if the sandwich was not enough to fill me up, I also got a side of Potato Salad ($2.75) as well. This was a very solid version of one of my favorite salads. Creamy, yet firm potatoes were mixed with plenty of red onion and sliced olives. Thick and satisfying, this salad was a good counterpart to the saltiness of the sandwich. A nice yin and yang thing going on between the two.

I liked the pastrami here, and Tommy Pastrami will definitely become part of our lunch rotation every month or so. One of the better pastrami sandwich spots in pastrami starved south OC, but not quite as good as my favorites I have had north of the El Toro Y, which include; Katella Deli, Benjie's, and Bronx Sandwich Co. The best I've had to date is a little farther north in LA county, Langer's and Brent's Deli in Northridge, which are both out of this world great. Tommy Pastrami will definitely do the trick when I don't feel like driving too far. Service was smooth and there was plenty of seating, which I think won't last long once word gets out that they are open in this awkward location. Speaking of awkward, it was another great lunch with Frank, and I can't wait to see where we end up next week.

Out of five hawks, (because the mascot for nearby Laguna Hills High School is the hawks, and I can only imagine that hawks love pastrami as well), five being best to zero being worst, Tommy Pastrami gets 3 hawks.

For more information about Tommy Pastrami New York Delicatessen, had to their website here:

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