Most people turn to the local grocery store for deli meat, but it’s not always the freshest or best quality, particularly if you’re trying to build the perfect sandwich. A few D.C. deli counters are simply a cut above the rest when it comes to sliced meat. To up your sandwich game, try the housemade specialties from one of these shops instead.
Straw Stick & Brick Delicatessen
5111 Georgia Ave. NW, (202) 726-0102, ssbdeli.com
This deli is obsessed with curing—from bresaola to coppa to hot soppresata. The salami masters age meats for at least six months and sometimes longer than eight. The pigs here come from local farms, and butchers use only premium cuts of meat. “We get whole hogs, and we don’t use the trim. We only use the good stuff, which is also leaner,” says co-owner Carolina Story. “You’ll notice that our salami meat is firm and less rubbery than the commercial stuff, and the flavors are much more intense.”
Red Apron Butcher
Multiple locations, redapronbutchery.com
During one of his early days selling cured meats at a farmers market, butcher Nate Anda was left with extra pork sirloin and pastrami brine. Not wanting either to go to waste, he combined the two to make porkstrami. Today, it’s a staple of Red Apron’s deli counter. First, the pork is seasoned with black pepper and coriander, then it’s brined for 14 days. The deli then smokes the meat for eight hours and slices it thin. If you call ahead, Anda says, Red Apron will pre-package porkstrami by the pound, or you can try it on their sandwich with sauerkraut and mustard for $10.
8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, (301) 585-5800, urbanbutcher.com
Each of Urban Butcher’s deli meats, which include roast beef, pastrami, and turkey, use animals from Mid-Atlantic farms, and the meats are cooked or smoked in-house. One of the more popular options is the roasted turkey, which is sweetened with molasses and pecan. Urban Butcher serves it on a sandwich topped with provolone, arugula, and roasted chipotle mayonnaise. It’s $12 at happy hour (Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and all day Sunday).
Multiple locations, wagshals.com
If there’s one sandwich meat that Wagshal’s is known for, it’s the smoked brisket. “It’s not so spicy like pastrami, and it’s not plain like corned beef,” Wagshal’s owner William Fuchs says of the meat, which takes inspiration from Montreal delis like Lester’s and Schwartz’s. It’s so popular that Wagshal’s now distributes the smoked brisket to retailers across the country. The product launched in January, and Fuchs’s son manages distribution. Each package of smoked brisket contains four ounces of meat, wrapped individually in pouches. Simply place each pouch in boiling water for 20 minutes and serve it on rye with a swipe of mustard. “It’s just like how we serve it here,” Fuchs says.
More from the Sandwich Issue: 15 Sandwiches You've Gotta Try
Illustration by Lauren Heneghan