$13: Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen, Portland"/>
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Where: Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen, 1038 S.W. Stark St., PORTLAND G--D--- OREGON, 503-222-DELI, www.kennyandzukes.com.
When: Yesterday lunch.
What Does $13 Get You? 1 Reuben ($11.50) plus tip ($2.50) = $14 (So what? It was either cheat or undertip).
Official Tasting Notes: What kind of idiot pays $14 for a sandwich? Me. I spent Friday through Sunday afternoon in Portland "conducting research" at places like the fabulous Toro Bravo. Over dinner the first night, the woman across me started talking about Portland's newest deli. It had been open two weeks and she'd already been for lunch four times. She even claimed the pastrami sandwich was better than Langer's in LA. Better than Langer's? Claiming to best the West Coast's top deli is pretty audacious.
Maybe I was just hanging out with extra-committed foodophiles, but everywhere I went in Portland that weekend, people were talking up Kenny & Zuke's?they'd already been there or said they should have already gone but had been real slammed at work but they were definitely to go within the week.
Co-owner Ken Gordon started curing, smoking, and steaming his own pastrami at his Ken's Place, and sold it at farmers markets for a while as Pastrami King, but now he and Nick Zukin have opened a full-service deli in the Ace Hotel. (Next to the Stumptown store, BTW, not that you'll ever need to go there again since owner Duane Sorenson has decided to conquer Seattle.)
The kitchen serves pastrami (and house-cured corned beef) with eggs, on burgers, and with chicken salad in a double-decker sandwich (weird but tasty). For the Reuben, Gordon slices the meat thick and hot, griddles the rye bread lightly to crisp up the bread and any of the melted swiss cheese and meat that spill out, and uses just enough sauerkraut to counterbalance the meat, not soak the bread in pickling juices. The pastrami is peppery, smoky, meaty, impossible not to inhale... I am going to have to disagree with Mary about the pastrami being better than Langer's?but only because Gordon slices the meat thicker than I prefer, so it doesn't come out as velvety?but I do believe that if a reuben like that were within walking distance of my work, it wouldn't take long for me to make the same claim that the round-centered owner's T-shirt does: BODY BY PASTRAMI.
Insider Tip: Check the back wall, next to the deli, for the collection of small-brand root beers and sarsparillas.