Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.
Between the toasty rye bread and the heaping helping of meat, the Triple Smoked Pastrami at Kenny & Ziggy’s is a sandwich-lover’s dream. The pastrami comes from the plate, a section of beef right next to the brisket. Kenny & Ziggy’s smokes it in-house.
“We really want to intensify the flavors,” said chef and co-owner Ziggy Gruber. First, the plates are cured for 45 days in a brine that includes both salt and sugar. Next, the meat is rolled in spices that include cracked pepper and juniper berries. Then, it’s smoking time.
The first round is only for a few hours. The meat is cooled, smoked again, then the process is repeated a third and final time. “With the smokiness, the sugar and the salt cure, it balances everything out. It gets that ‘more’ factor. You want to eat more and more of it,” says Gruber. We couldn’t agree more. Half a sandwich alone is filling, but it’s hard not to just plow through the whole thing. It's piled so high with sliced meat, it's hard to fit into your mouth (not that that stops anyone from trying).
The stellar rye bread is also part of why the sandwich is so satisfying. The inside is tender and the outside sturdy and crunchy. “Our bread is gorgeous as it is,” said Gruber, “but we put [the baked loaf] in a 500 degree oven. It caramelizes it and gives it a crunch on the outside. When you eat that bread and get that crunch, and it’s warm and soft and steaming — our pastrami was good to begin with, but when you eat it all together as a combination — it just takes it to another level. It’s very Zen.”
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As if the sandwich weren’t filling enough on its own, it even comes with a side of coleslaw, potato salad or macaroni salad. Those who don’t have an affinity for rye can have the pastrami on a club roll, Kaiser roll or bagel instead.
Authentic Jewish delis like Kenny & Ziggy’s are rapidly disappearing from America’s landscape. To learn more about the effort to preserve these institutions, watch the documentary Deli Man , in which Ziggy Gruber has a prominent role.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co.
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies