Thursday, June 23, 2011

The corned beef special (Koch's Deli)

Koch's storefront

I don't really go to places because other people tell me to. Part of that is because I don't really trust random peoples' food suggestions... different people have different tastes. I can respect that. Another part of that is simply because I hate having to respond to them if I don't like the food. You have to understand how hard it is for me to look a friend in the eye and go "yo, bro... that #{insert_type_of_food} place you suggested sucked serious donkey dick... like huge." Anyway, *this kid I knew, born and raised in West Philadelphia, recommended I try out the sandwiches at a Jewish Deli out on 43rd. "Totally gutbusting and delicious" he says. He spends most of his days playing hoops out there... so I trust he knows the area pretty well. I completely forget about our exchange until one day I found out that he got in a fight and his parents got scared. Turns out, he was being sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle out West in California or something. Anyway, he was a good guy so I took him up on his advice and went to Koch's Deli.

So West Philadelphia is pretty shitty. People often joke around about how people get mugged and shot there? Totally true. Except there's a magical force field called "gentrification" that limits this to the area West of 45th Street. Lucky for us, this keeps Koch's Deli in the "safe to walk to" area. Regardless of safety, Koch's is your standard hole-in-the-wall type Jewish deli. They slice the fuck out everything fresh, and your sandwich will take 30 minutes to make (even if the store is completely empty). That's fine and all because the people inside are super nice. Sure you're standing there awkwardly for god knows how long, but the entire time... the staff is probably handing you slices of fresh turkey, cheese, pickles... the works. Half your meal will basically occur while they're still constructing your sandwich.

Koch's menu

So their menu is pretty standard I guess. They do offer some more "adventurous" combos which are really just combinations of their deli meats, and are willing to stuff pretty much whatever the fuck you want in between bread... so your choices aren't really all that limited. You'll also notice that most of the prices are $8 and up. That totally doesn't gel with my normal purchasing scheme (since I am still currently broke as shit), but hey... Will Smith wouldn't lie to me about quality. That guy punched an alien in the face, he knows what's up.

Corned beef special

For some reason or another, I really wanted corned beef. I don't know why since I normally have unpleasant memories of my mom's fake Irish "corned beef and cabbage." Now when I looked at the menu, I had a choice to make... regular or special. Not knowing what "special" entailed, I took a $1 gamble that it really meant awesome... like the onscreen chemistry when Will Smith meets Kevin Kline for the first time in Wild Wild West. Now the upside of this sandwich is that it weighs about a pound. That's a lot of heft for a sandwich, and by all means constitutes a pretty decent meal. After weighing the size against the cost (pun-tastic), I didn't feel so bad about handing over $10+ for a sandwich.

Then I unwrapped it. The feeling I had when I realized what "special" constituted was probably not unlike the feeling Will Smith had when he stepped on set for filming and realized what a mistake signing on for Bad Boys II was. The word "special" actually meant that you got about a half pound of corn beef (great!) and another half pound of cole slaw and Russian dressing (not so great!). The sandwich was fine. It tasted like, well... a lot of Russian dressing and cole slaw. The meat was decently tender, and while there was a lot of it, it mostly gets drowned out in the overall equation by the sweetness of shredded cabbage + sauce. To say it was moist (and messy) would be an understatement. Was it disappointing? Yeah, a little bit... especially after the high praise the place has earned, but by no means is it awful. I don't think I'll be going back, but that's mostly because it's not my style...

*Disclaimer: this person does not exist... unless you actually believe I am acquainted to the character played on television by the ever effervescent Will Smith


Anonymous said...

Random question: what is your go-to comfort food?

Nicholas said...

Anonymous - in the US it would definitely be either a Boston cream doughnut or General Tso's chicken (depending on whether I want sweet or savory)

If I'm allowed to include Asia... it'd be beef noodle soup or red bean shaved ice.

Sherm said...

LMAO, that's a pretty hilarious backstory. Yeah, corned beef specials are an acquired taste, and if there's too much dressing or cole slaw it will overpower the salty, spicy flavor of the corned beef. According to the above picture, someone had an accident with the Russian dressing dispenser directly above your sandwich as it was being constructed. Tragic.

Also, the corned beef looks thin-sliced off a packaged Deitz & Watson-type deli loaf. I could be completely wrong, but for North of $10, you would expect a house-made corned beef, or at the very least a nice, thick slice on the meat. Have you tried 4th Street Deli?

Rodzilla said...

That's a shit load of corned beef, and I would still ask if you wanted some corn beef with your dressing.Prob something Uncle Phil would down on the regular.

Nicholas said...

Sherm - I didn't know what else I could say, to be honest. Jewish delis and I don't have much in common. But Will Smith and Jewish delis? Yeah 100% related.

The corned beef is probably not a prepackaged deal. I'm pretty sure they're legit when it comes to their cured meats, but you're right... I would've preferred a thicker slice.

When you say 4th Street Deli, you mean the one out in Conshohocken? If yes, then no :(

Rodzilla - Uncle Phil would fucking destroy this sandwich. Uncle Phil probably drinks Russian dressing and cole slaw mixed with whey as a protein shake. Uncle Phil is fat.

Sherm said...

In case you didn't leave Phily completely behind just yet:

mytsigns said...

I haven't been to Koch's for years, but loved it in the 80's when I used to ride my m/c down to philly, buy 6 hoagies and take'em back to NYC. Bobby and Lou Koch were really funny nice guys, and they loved that I was currying their hoagies to NYC.

My favorite was the 'Drexel Special' which was kind of a corned beef special on a hoagie roll. It was delish, the corned beef was in-house.

As far as I know, both Koch brothers have passed on. I am surprised the deli is still extant. I suggest giving it another shot, and tell the sammich maker not to go crazy with the slaw and russian.

Anonymous said...

I love corn beef specials lol you have to find the right place to get it though

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