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Standing Room Only: Pastrami Perfection at Fumare Meats

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[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Well, hello there handsome. For the unacquainted, this is what the pastrami from Fumare Meats looks like. I'll give you a minute to take it all in. What's that? You'd like more gratuitous pictures of the fat streaked, ruby red, pepper-laden smoked brisket? Don't worry, I have you covered.

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You are welcome. I could go on like this for awhile. I'm not sure what kind of power this meat holds, but it must be nearly impossible to take a bad picture of the stuff. And I'll cut right to the chase: it tastes as good as it looks. Instead of machine sliced like most places in town, this pastrami is hand-cut and thick, with a glorious red hue, streaks of white fat, and patches black from the peppercorns. Brined, smoked, and then steamed, the meat is absurdly tender, yet sturdy enough to avoid being mush. It is wonderful.

So who do we have to thank for importing this fine delicacy to our city? Not New York. Heck, not even Los Angeles. As advertised proudly, this is Montreal-style smoked meat. Thank you, Canada.

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Of course, I'm not the only one to fall in love with Fumare. As has been mentioned on this site before, it trounces the pastrami competition in town. Sure, Chicago has never really been a pastrami town (corned beef, is another thing), but if Fumare really is the best in town, why is Manny's still the politicians' deli of choice? Well, Manny's potato pancakes have something to do with that, plus there is no denying the corned beef sandwich. But Fumare is also a glorified stand, as it occupies a couple stalls in the Chicago French Market underneath the Ogilvie train station in the West Loop. If you want to sit, you'll have to make due with the food court in the back of the market. Otherwise, you'll have to get your food to go.

Luckily, that means I can write about it here.

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I should note that as Blake discovered, Fumare sells more than just pastrami. In fact, there is a sandwich on the menu that Fumare has the gall to call "Our Signature Sandwich" ($6.99), even though there is absolutely zero pastrami involved in its creation. Instead of a celebration of cured beef, the #2 (as it is also labeled on the menu) is a trifecta of pork, featuring ham, along with two kinds of bacon: Gypsy and Danish. (From what I can tell from a quick Google search, Gypsy bacon is a specialty of Hungary, where the pork belly is roasted and then sprinkled with paprika, while Danish bacon is made from the loin. Please let me know if that doesn't sound right.)

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The three meats are thinly sliced and served cold on a roll with lettuce. I'll admit that eating what looks like uncooked bacon is strange at first, but the three meats combine to form one smoky, salty, and creamy bite, which is quite good (especially with the addition of some sharp mustard).

But if you only have one sandwich to eat, you should still go with the pastrami ($8.99). I think I've detailed its allure enough already, so I'll just leave you with another picture.

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It's the least I could do.

Fumare Meats

131 North Clinton Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (map)
312-930-4220
frenchmarketchicago.com/vendor/fumare

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