Bed Stuy/ Bushwick

The Brokavore’s back, with a $5 brisket sandwich to cry for

David's Brisket photos by Mark Sullivan Bernal.

Two things about the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches at David’s Brisket House are likely to raise an eyebrow. First is the locale: an otherwise generic- to sub-generic-looking deli in a predominantly Caribbean area on the Crown Heights-Bed Stuy border. In other words, not the first place you’d expect to find top-notch Jewish deli. Second, and more notable for our purposes, is the price: $5, unbeatable for honest-to-goodness, luscious, salty, fat-streaked cured meats piled on rye, an indulgence that tends to run in the double digits.

In case you fail to draw this conclusion on your own, a sign out front drives the point home: “Don’t confuse it with an $8 sandwich or a $10 or $11 sandwich, it only a $5 sandwich.” Got it?


I was first brought to David’s over a decade ago by Jim Leff, the founder of the then-nascent Chowhound site, and an intrepid eater without peer. I don’t recall how he’d discovered it exactly, but the back story he’d gotten to explain the unlikely spot was that one of the Puerto Rican countermen had logged years working at a classic (and since-shuttered) Midtown deli and learned the art of curing Jewish deli meats. I’ve heard other accounts, so I’m not certain that’s actually true, and in any case the place changed ownership a few years ago.

The pastrami, corned beef and brisket are still there, though. And a memorable comment Leff made at the time still holds up: “You could bring a 70-year-old Garment Center worker here and he’d cry tears of joy.”

For that matter, he might even shed a few extra drops in deference to the recent introduction of a $5 sandwich special, probably an effort by the new owner to drum up recession-era business. Whatever the inspiration, where the budget-minded gourmand is concerned, it’s an innovation right up there with the invention of the internal combustion engine.

It should go without saying that for $5, you’re not going to get a Katz’-style jawbreaker, piled with a pound and a half of meat. If you want to beat your arteries into submission in that fashion, opt for the large, which is still a deal at $11 for pastrami, $10 for corned beef or the namesake brisket. There’s also a medium, for $8. Someday I might do the same, but for now, the thrill of handing over a five-spot and walking out with a New York City classic is enough to bring on my own tears of joy.

David’s Brisket House, 533 Nostrand Ave., 718-789-1155

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