It’s not New York, but it’ll do.

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Flickr photo by tspauld

My friends know how I complain that you can’t find a REAL Jewish-style corned beef, pastrami, or Reuben sandwich in the Bay Area (like the ones you find in NYC).  It’s so damn frustrating, especially if you’ve got a real hankering for one.  But while trying to find some interesting food to eat between films at the Asian American Film Fest. in S.F. recently, my husband and I walked into Tommy’s Joint on Van Ness Ave.

First off, it was like stepping back in time.  It looked like nobody had touched the interior of the place since it opened, which was exactly 60 years ago this year.  I’ve heard many times about the great meats they serve and the fabulous sandwiches.  They’re a real S.F. institution and it shows.

Secondly, it’s cafeteria style food on one side, total dive bar on the other, so you don’t know where to go first.  It’s more of a hofbrau than anything.  My husband and I only had time to try a classic Corned Beef Sandwich and a side of pickled beets.  (He loves beets.)  It was extremely tasty!  It came with a side of au jus and hot and mild mustards at the table.  I really liked it!  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s no NYC sandwich, but it’ll suffice.  The meat was tender, moist, and flavorful, and not at all tough.  And it came on a soft sourdough roll, which made it distinctly San Franciscan.  The sides all looked tasty (I wanted the baked beans, but he loves his beets) and the pickled beets were mighty good.  They had enough vinegar to cut through the sweetness of the beets, but not so much that you were left puckering your lips.  And the red onions and parsley that they were obviously pickled with gave nice dimention to the dish.  Nicely flavored.

All in all, we can’t wait to go back.  There were so many other tasty things on the menu like Beef Burgundy Stew and classic Spaghetti and Meatballs.  The best thing about this place is that the food is authentic, they serve good portions, and the prices are right!  I like Harry’s Hofbrau in the South Bay but have always thought they were slightly overpriced for the quality of food.  Not at Tommy’s Joint.  The food was excellent and a much better value for hofbrau style food.

I still long for the Reubens I get back in NYC.  But until then, I’ll settle for a corned beef or pastrami from Tommy’s Joint.  It’s certainly better than the Mel’s Diner across the street.

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