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The Brick Market and Deli – Pomona, California

By way of introduction, one must take note of what is really a dismal food scene in the Pomona Valley:  there are no genuine French bistros or Italian trattorias, just as there are no really first-class Chinese restaurants, also serving a wide array of dim sum on the weekends.  Want a real Kosher deli where you can get, say, a genuine pastrami on rye … you know … the kind of thing that really prospers at the likes of Langer’s in L.A. or the 2nd Avenue Deli in New York?  Not a chance.  Years back, there was a place in Pomona called Green’s Deli, with another location in Claremont … both long gone, alas.  They weren’t Langer’s-great, but they always had the right idea.  So … when one hears that a new deli has opened in this gustatorily destitute region, the hope that has been so often dashed over the years continues to spring eternal, but warily.

A friend had alerted me to the arrival of something called The Brick Market and Deli in Pomona, more or less on the northeast corner of Arrow Highway and Garey Ave.  My wife and I dropped in this noon to hope, to see, and to taste.  This is, first of all, a tiny operation whose brick front face accounts for its distinctive name.  The “market” part is similarly small, and definitely not the kind of place you’d drop into on your way home to pick up some standard item you’d somehow forgotten for dinner.

The Brick Deli is Open

The Brick Deli is Open

The dominant theme is organic, with a veneer of the southern and eastern Mediterranean to be met on several shelves.  Bottles and jars of marinated and pickled things from the rarefied eastern European label of Zer Güt are well-represented, as are labels on cereals and grains that offer gluten-free and organic virtues, along with the futuristic promise of cereals that have been made with “renewable wind energy.”  Sounds like one of my old college lectures.  To find mayonnaise from “The Ojai Cook” alongside the pedestrian dressings of Girard seems a tad confusing. Given the very modest size of the place, everything I have mentioned, whatever ii might be, is in short supply, so a trip to the market side of the Brick Market is more an act of curiosity than a deliberate and informed visit.

As for the deli section, it has some interesting offerings like a “Greek Cucumber and Feta Salad,” which is what the Greeks call a Choriatiki Salata, a national summertime dish with some of the crucial elements missing.  Nonetheless, for the Pomona Valley, it’s a welcome sight.  There is a rather short menu featuring freshly made soups, sandwiches and salads.  My wife and I ordered, respectively, an Italian sub and a pastrami and Havarti sandwich on a two-toned “marble rye.”  The meats are drawn from a small selection of Boar’s Head products, and the sandwiches are generously provisioned at very reasonable prices.  The Italian sub was pretty much standard stuff, except that it was partially dressed with mayonnaise.  How non-Italic can you get?  Still, it was tasty enough, but those in the market for the real thing would be well-advised to go to Claro’s in Upland.  My pastrami was sliced thin and warmed and arrayed thickly, and it too was pleasant to eat.  But it was by no means Langer’s.  You can eat your choices right there in the The Brick on some pleasant outdoor tables in the rear of the store, or take them home, if you prefer.

Still, in short and with yet another disappointed sigh, I have to conclude that the Brick Market and Deli, while I’m pleased with its unusual location, is yet just another food purveyor in a long line of local shrugs…and no replacement for the authentic Jewish or Italian variety.

The famous Langer's #19

Pastrami

Three weeks ago I was in New York City with my wife.  And as with all our trips, they generally revolve around food.  And let’s face it…NYC is a pretty good place to be if you want your trip to revolve around food!

Gregorys

Some of our stops included the Chelsea Market (as I had a quick meeting with Food Network for business), Eataly (the crazy Italian market/restaurant mall from the B&B boys) and, of course, Katz’s Deli.  Now, when it comes to pastrami, I take my meat pretty seriously (oh, that didn’t sound right did it?!).  And, being a 3rd generation SoCal native, I’m partial to the Los Angeles version of the species.  I’ve been lucky enough to actually go to the factory here in L.A. where some of the world’s finest Pastrami comes from – and trimming the ‘navals’, creating the rub and smoking the meat is a true art form.

Here in L.A., I’m partial to Langer’s Deli at 7th and Alvarado.  If you haven’t been there, GO!  I call it ‘meat butter’.  The way they steam it and hand-cut it, it absolutely melts in your mouth.  In fact, if you are lucky enough to know someone (and I am!), just get a bowl of ‘burnt ends’ – the trimmings off the end of each naval – and eat until you’re comatose!  But then again, the rye bread – twice baked – at Langer’s is so damn good that you sort of HAVE to get a sandwich.  The #19 is their signature version – but I usually go #10 – no cole slaw, more meat!

The Katz's Deli Pastrami on Rye

The Katz’s Deli Pastrami on Rye

Back to NYC – and Katz’s deli.  It was time to decide if I’m still at Langer’s devotee, or in the famed NYC peppery rub was more to my liking.  First, Katz’s deli is a pain in the ass – the standing in line at the counter, the unhappy NYers, cash only, blah blah blah.  Why does it have to be so hard?  Second, the rye bread at Katz’s doesn’t hold a candle to Langer’s – although you can, as I did, go for the Italian roll…and that makes a heck of a sandwich!  Katz’s pastrami?…damn good!  Juicy, hand-cut and melt in your mouth.  Well worth the hassle!

Bottom line?…I’m still a Langer’s man.  Get down to downtown L.A. and see Norm Langer and tell him Greg Glass sent you.  It may just get you insulted, but eventually you’ll get  table and a sandwich – and all will be right with the world!