The Miracle of David's Brisket House in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
David's hyperbolically good $10 roast brisket sandwich, in this case on rye with gravy.
The history of David's Brisket House is lost in the murk of time. Surprisingly, it's a Jewish-style deli in the commercial heart of Bed-Stuy. Does it date from the days early in the last century when the neighborhood's population was evenly divided between Eastern European Jews, Italians, and African-Americans?
The $8 pastrami sandwich is only slightly less overstuffed than the $10 roast brisket.
The place was one of the earliest "finds" of Jim Leff, the founder of Chowhound. In his 1999 book The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Greater New York City, he expresses doubt about the original Jewishness of the place: "To all appearances, it's a no-frills luncheonette with Caribbean staff and clientele, counter seating, and steam tables in the window -- exactly like a thousand other such joints. If this was ever actually a Jewish deli, there are no visible traces left."
To me, even the way the meat is handled and the sandwiches are made suggest that it represents a lovingly preserved Jewish deli, one with a short Formica lunch counter little used today. In general layout, the place resembes the ancient, no-frills kosher delis that one can still stumble on in Midwood and Borough Park.
David's -- a purveyor of huge roast brisket sandwiches smothered in gravy or merely smeared with mustard -- closed about a year ago, and it seemed as if it would never reopen. But then, a couple of months ago, like a re-animated corpse in a movie, David's sprung back to life. This time the proprietors are Muslim, a pair of guys named Sultan and Waleed. The great news is that their dedication to hot sliced brisket-based meats remains undiminished from the previous owners. In fact, if anything, they seem more enthusiastic, and the meat itself is better than ever.
The $5 sandwich, in this case the corned beef option, is also a darn good deal.
From a choice of roast brisket, corned beef, and pastrami (in declining order of my preference), one can choose a $5, $8, or $10 sandwich, with the carefully weighed meat heaped in proportion to the amount spent. The bigger sandwiches can be $1 more sometimes if you pick a bigger type of bread. I chose to compare and contrast a $5 corned beef, an $8 pastrami, and a $10 brisket with gravy.
The partners close the place on Friday from 12:30 to 2:30 for Friday midday prayers, when they presumably make a beeline for one of the neighborhood's mosques. David's Brisket House happily exploits the dietary laws that unite devout Jews and devout Muslims, creating something of an interfaith culinary miracle. Only in Brooklyn! 533 Nostrand Avenue, 718-789-1155
Sandwich seekers wait patiently for the place to reopen after Friday afternoon prayers.
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