Cheap Eats

Killer Pastrami Sandwiches at Blue Willy's Barbecue, But Only on Thursdays

Most Texans will tell you the secret to blue-ribbon brisket is hours and hours of slow, smoky, moist heat. It's what helps transform the meat's connective tissue (all that collagen) to a gelatinous, tender state. Most barbecue places take a hunk of flat cut beef to undergo the process; rarely do you see a place that takes the navel plate end of the brisket to make pastrami.

Lucky for us, Blue Willy's in Pompano Beach is one of them.

It's not every day you get to sample something so decadently delicious. Which is probably why owner Will Banks doesn't serve it every day.

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A thing of beauty, it's nothing like the lean cuts of round you find at the grocery store or deli, injected with brine and nitrites, and sliced thin.

To truly appreciate this glorious, fat-ribboned meat, you should understand what makes good pastrami. At Blue Willy's, Banks has been preparing his pastrami the "old school" way since forever. That means finding a place that will sell him the same cut as the one used by the NYC butcher shops of the 1940s, a vestige of the Romanian Jews who started the process of to recreate their pastrome in the 1890s.

Banks begins with a 1,100-pound lot, portioned out and prepared 200-pounds at a time after a rigorous 5-week curing and smoking process. The entire ordeal is so labor intensive, Banks only sells the stuff on Thursday. Thick-cut and stacked sky-high, it's served on the restaurant's signature onion bun (or plain rye bread, if you prefer) with a dollop of house cole slaw.

Six months ago, the pastrami would last for a few days. Now, Banks is lucky if it lasts for two hours thanks to a non-stop line out the door, dishing out as many as 350 sandwiches. Around 3 p.m., Banks takes down the paper sign behind the order counter, and it's over. At least until next week.

Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna