There's no lack of pastrami or corned beef in this city, but very little of it is actually smoked where it's served, or even within the city limits. Mile End, which smokes at its Red Hook commissary, is the rare exception. Next month, Shelsky's will join that small group. Peter Shelsky says the new deli counter at his smoked fish and appetizing shop has been in the works for several months, and will finally make its debut on February 16.
He plans to serve classic pastrami, corned beef, and tongue sandwiches with meat that's cured in-house and then shuttled over to Fletcher's in Gowanus for a smoke. When it's ready, it will be sliced and served on Orwasher's rye or sold by the pound. As for the size of the sandwiches (a source of major debate among die-hard deli fans), Shelsky promises something between the gargantuan sandwiches at some Midtown delis and the more petite options available around the corner at Mile End. "I like an approachable sized sandwich... something you can wrap your mouth around, but not feel bombed out by eating a whole one."
Filling out his deli options, Shelsky and co-owner Lewis Spada plan to serve the traditional "health salad" (think coleslaw minus the mayo), knishes, kasha varnishke, stuffed cabbage, and a rotating list of hot soups including matzo ball and mushroom barley. Finally, Shelsky says he couldn't open a deli counter without the classic deli delicacy p'tcha, joking: "Why wouldn't we want to serve jellied calves feed?"