Uncommon stack: Speak’s pastrami sandwich needs no frills to be great

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I’ll cop to a defensive eye roll whenever someone suggests that New York cuisine can’t be replicated for the landlocked set. I’m squinting at you, bagel-water truthers, pastrami purists and protectors of the OG foldable slice of grease-poached pizza.

So I hustled to Speak Sandwiches, the rookie deli and brainchild of Genessee Royale owners Todd Schulte and Tracy Zinn, as soon as I learned pastrami was on the menu. “Pastrami” being one of those words — like “free” and “gin” — that can instantly make my heart swell with happiness (and sodium nitrate).

Speak’s offering is absolutely worth the calories.

The $13 sandwich is a simple, satisfying take on the classic pastrami on WheatFields rye — which means no cheese, no coleslaw or kraut to compete with the brisket. The focus is on the main event: stout slices of tender pastrami fanned over lightly toasted, grainy rye bread. 

The sandwich I tried was stuffed with flavorful, well-marbled (but not over-fatty) pastrami, each slice trimmed with a velvety rind of spices. Cumin and coriander stood out, with hints of smoke and astringency from paprika and mustard seed. The result was some of the finest thick-cut pastrami I’ve had. (Yes, I’ve eaten it on the East Coast. Yes, I’ve eaten a hand-sliced roast. On Jewish, true-ish, thick-rye toast.)

A greedy little part of me still longs for a good Rachel — or, frankly, a soup cup of Russian dressing — but Speak’s monklike restraint pays off. The pastrami is well-complemented by a sharp and slightly sweet scraping of coarse-ground mustard, a few sprigs of peppery watercress and a wild knob of radish as a garnish. Each sandwich at Speak comes with a bag of sea-salt kettle chips, but I was full before I remembered to open them. 

For now, your best bet is to order your sandwich to go if you don’t want to take your time. Seating at Speak is limited to a few bar stools and a large communal wooden table in the kitchen it shares with sister business Uncommon Stock. Still, it’s not a bad place to wait. The pristine subway-tile backsplash and whitewashed wood counter make the small space feel airy and open. And you can’t expect a deli called Speak to stay quiet for long.

Speak Sandwiches

1000 West 25th Street, 816-888-9474, speakkcmo.com

10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sat.

Categories: Food & Drink