Bed Stuy Brisket in Adjustable Sizes
Sometimes great food can be found in unlikely places. DAVID’S BRISKET HOUSE & DELI is buried amidst a sea of random storefronts on a bustling commercial block in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. This is a busy spot less than a block from Fulton Street, on the outskirts of a residential community that is largely West Indian, African, and African American. This is an odd place for a Jewish deli, and this is an odd Jewish deli.
DAVID’S basically does three things and does them well…Brisket, Pastrami and Corned Beef (pictured below). Sure, you can get a burger or an omelet, or um, crab salad, but this place’s entire raison d’etre, is these three sandwiches. Rest assured, they are very good. Without any fanfare, these sandwiches contain warm, juicy, thinly sliced meat with just enough fat, that melts in your mouth. Get some nice cole slaw or potato salad, or an order of steak fries and a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda, and you’ve got an unexpected Jewish soul food feast in the heart of Brooklyn.
So what makes David’s so odd aside from its location? For starters, this a Jewish deli operated by Muslims. As it states on the front of the menu, David’s is open seven days a week, but closed from 12:30 until 2:00pm on Fridays for Muslim prayer service, after which the store re-opens until 9pm, and throughout the Jewish sabbath on Saturday, when a Kosher deli would ordinarily be closed. The truth is that Kosher and Halal dietary laws are quite similar, so as long as there’s no pork on the fork, Muslims and pastrami go together like Jews and falafel. The other advantage to a Halal deli is that David’s will make a Reuben by melting cheese on any sandwich, if you are into that sort of thing. This is decidedly not Kosher, but acceptable under Halal guidelines. Actually, it is worth noting that KATZ’S DELI also makes Reuben sandwiches, as Katz’s is neither Kosher nor Halal.
The other thing that makes David’s unusual for a deli of this variety is that the sandwiches can be ordered in three sizes, a feature that is unheard of in the realm of oversized and overstuffed Jewish delis, where the sandwiches are usually designed to bust your belly and your wallet. At David’s, any of the three meats can be ordered in a small, regular or large sandwich, and the only difference is volume. A regular sandwich contains about a half pound of meat, and costs $10 (the corned beef sandwich pictured is a ‘regular’). You can upsize that to 3/4 of a pound for $13 or you can order a dainty quarter pound sandwich for a mere $7. Combinations of any two meats will set you back $16, and the whopping “3 The Hard Way” is exactly what it sounds like, a combo of the three on one sandwich. Yes, the sandwich costs $23, but if you can successfully devour the entire thing in 9 minutes or less, your photo goes up on the David’s Brisket House Hall of Fame wall. As of this post, there only seem to be three members, so you could be the fourth inductee into this very elite club if you act fast and eat quickly.
This is certainly the best deli sandwich available in this neighborhood, but DAVID’S HOUSE OF BRISKET is not so much about the decor. Aside from the dangling cork board with photos of the nine minute sandwich hall of fame gluttons, there is a partially obscured view out the front window of other neighborhood storefronts and signage, the highlights of which are “100% Human Hair Wigs,” the “59 cent store,” “All Occasions Karaoke,” and ATM’s offering “$10 bills for 99 cents.” However, the only decorative item that really matters here is the banner listing the holy trinity of available sandwiches.
DAVID’S BRISKET HOUSE opened a second location in Bay Ridge about a year ago with a slightly larger and more attractive seating area. Bay Ridge is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, where people from all walks of life can enjoy plentiful deli sandwiches in threes sizes. Nevertheless, Jewish or Muslim, Kosher or Halal, Bed Stuy or Bay Ridge…none of it matters except Brisket, Pastrami or Corned Beef; small, regular or large. All you really need is an appetite and some sense of how to find your way around Brooklyn. Vegetarians need not apply. Shalom and Assalamu alaikum from THE BROOKLYN GLUTTON!
DAVID’S BRISKET HOUSE is at 533 Nostrand Avenue in Bed Stuy; and at 7721 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.