Deli-cious fare on corned beef row: Getting a comfort food fix to go with new exhibit

Written by on October 26, 2011 in Baltimore Bites, Featured - 2 Comments

As a sidebar to this week’s feature about the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s story on Jewish food, we decided to go have a little Jewish food for ourselves, so we headed over to Corned Beef Row, which just happens to be across Lombard Street from the museum.

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Joe Burstyn, owner of Weiss Deli, at the slicer. (Inset): His masterpiece.

And since everybody has been to Attman’s, the mecca of Corned Beef Row, we went to Weiss Deli, which is a little up the street and not nearly as crowded and frenetic.

It should be, though. Weiss Deli serves the best corned beef on Corned Beef Row, in my (admittedly goyish) opinion.

Weiss’ corned beef is deeper in color, juicier and more tender. It’s not as salty as the corned beef elsewhere. And the sauerkraut, should you order a Reuben as I did, tastes sharper and fresher.

The rye bread? Same rye bread as everyone else serves, good old H&S Bakery’s Harvest Pride.

So what’s the secret of Weiss Deli’s corned beef?

“You have to know how to cook it,” says owner Joe Burstyn.


“Weiss was three owners ago,” laughs Joe. “Back in the 40s and 50s.”

Burstyn gets his corned beef from New York. “Nobody makes their own,” he says. “You either get it from New York or you get it from Saval (a local distributor).”

And then what?

“You gotta know how to cook it. If you don’t cook it enough it will taste like rubber. Cooking shrinks it, and the distributor doesn’t want to cook it enough.”

That’s quite a lot of shrinkage. “Twenty pounds will get you 10 if you’re lucky,” says Joe.

Nevertheless, Weiss Deli’s corned beef gets another turn in the cooker, for quite a long time, before serving.

“I’d rather not sell it than sell something that’s not right,” he declares.

My Reuben ($6.99) was absolutely right—a thick pile of corned beef, the star ingredient, with a supporting cast of sharp, crisp sauerkraut, a couple slices of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, served on toast. Yum.

With it I had a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda (99 cents), which is the only thing to have with a Reuben sandwich unless you happen to have beer on hand, which Weiss Deli does not—no liquor license, and besides it was lunchtime.

Mary Helen’s order of liverwurst on white bread drew a little look from Joe, but the sandwich came out as ordered. The liverwurst was quite tasty, the serving was lavish and the cost was only $2.50. She added a can of Dr. Brown’s diet cream soda, also 99 cents, and we picked up a big bag of chips ($1.29) to share.

And of course we had to try a pickle, which was large, crisp, salty and satisfying for 95 cents.

A very tasty and filling lunch cost us only $14.48 including tax, we didn’t have to stand in line, we didn’t get yelled at, and we left happy.

Weiss Deli is open 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. daily except Sunday. Repeat after me: Reuben, please.

And if you’re not into Reubens: Corned beef, rye, mustard, please.

But you can even get liverwurst on white if you ask for it.

by Jacqueline Watts

2 Comments on "Deli-cious fare on corned beef row: Getting a comfort food fix to go with new exhibit"

  1. Sam December 4, 2011 at 9:25 am · Reply

    You described his Corned Beef perfect…It’s not overly salty like all the others. Always hot, fresh and juicy from the steam box behind him…Personally, I usually order my Corned Beef with just a little Russian dressing on rye…The kicker is, you can ask him to large it and it’s still priced cheaper than all the other regular sized sandwiches at the other deli’s around him…Warning! It’s nothing special to look at when you walk in, but trust me, after you bite into one of his sandwiches, all of a sudden your saying the decor is part of it’s nostalgic charm.

  2. Craig Ey October 29, 2011 at 8:06 am · Reply

    I’ve never had better corned beef anywhere in the country … and I love the people there …. even when they’re cranky!

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