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In This Corner, Weighing 14 Oz... 

Cleveland's Finest Corned Beef Sandwiches Battle For The Title

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In a town like Cleveland, where corned beef seems to grow on trees, loyalty to a particular sandwich provider can be fierce. Ask a CB fan for a recommendation and the answer invariably will sound something like this: "Trust me, I have eaten corned beef all over the world, and X is the very best. End of story."

In an attempt to separate fact from bluster, I ordered specimens at some of the most highly regarded vendors. To keep things as fair as possible, all sandwiches were ordered during peak lunch or dinner times, weighed and measured immediately (with bread), and sampled within two minutes of preparation. Sandwiches were ordered plain, with no special requests (e.g. lean).

So, what makes a good corned beef sandwich? For starters, it should be very warm to the touch. Regardless how it is sliced, the beef should be tender and yielding. Fat is flavor, as we know, but too much will ruin a sandwich, as will too much or too little salt. Most of all, the sandwich should be moist, luscious and taste great.

Six pounds of corned beef later, here are my findings:

CORKY & LENNY'S

27091 Chagrin Blvd., Beachwood, 216.464.3838

Price: $8.25

Height: 3.25 inches

Weight: 11 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.75

Warmth: 3 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Corky's corned-beef sandwiches rank near the top of the heap, but they fall short. The texture and temperature of the thin-sliced beef, coupled with soft, fresh rye bread, make the sandwiches a pleasure to eat. The only problem is that the meat lacks flavor. In fact, it is downright bland. And that is surprising considering that the meat also is some of the fattiest encountered.

Bonus: You can snag the best potato knish in town.

 

GOODMAN'S SANDWICH INN

5164 Pearl Rd., Parma, 216.398.6885

Price: $8.20

Height: 3.5 inches

Weight: 14 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.59

Warmth: 5 out of 5

Tasting Notes: To pull off a sandwich composed of thick, hand-sliced corned beef, as Goodman's has been doing for decades, you have to start with ultra-tender meat. Goodman's does. Each sandwich is piled high with succulent, juicy and intensely flavored beef. Thanks to the perfect mix of lean and well-marbled slices, these gut-busters are an absolute joy to eat. In fact, I had to force myself to leave room for the next stop. Best of all, the meat is so steamy-warm that it fogs up the window above the slicing station.

Bonus: A wise-cracking waitress with a sharp tongue.

 

JACK'S DELI

14490 Cedar Rd., University Hts. 216.382.5350

Price: $9.25

Height: 3 inches

Weight: 12 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.77

Warmth: 2 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Jack's delivers a very tasty product. The sandwich is juicy, tender and flavorful. Unfortunately, much of that flavor comes from fat. Sadly, Jack's delivered the fattiest product in the entire group. Compounding matters is the fact that the meat was barely above room temperature. Nobody likes cold fat. Jack's also sells the second-most expensive (per ounce) sandwich of the pack, something to consider.

Bonus: The East Side deli is clean, modern and comfortable.

 

MISTER BRISKET

2156 S. Taylor Rd., Cleveland Hts. 216.932.8620

Price: $7.50

Height: 2.50 inches

Weight: 10 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.75

Warmth: 5 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Mister Brisket is nothing if not unconventional. And so it makes perfect sense that he bucks the trend when it comes to corned-beef preparation. While most places boil theirs, Mister B slow roasts the beef in the oven, which normally results in a lush, tender and savory product. I stress "normally" because the test sample came in a little on the dry side, lowering its placement on the list. And at $0.75 per ounce, the sandwich is in the upper levels of the price index.

Bonus: You can pick up a grill full of USDA Prime steaks before heading home.

 

SLYMAN'S DELI

3106 St. Clair Ave. 216.621.3760

Price: $8.50

Height: 3.75 inches

Weight: 15 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.57

Warmth: 4 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Slyman's is the acknowledged champion of the brined-beef arts, and the deli proves why busy and good go hand in hand. An unremitting stream of customers means the slicer never sleeps. Regardless how long that line gets, these folks refuse to pre-slice, ensuring fresh, hot and buttery corned beef. By stacking multiple briskets on the slicer, employees generate sandwiches with the ideal mix of lean and fatty meat. And the numbers verify that the legend's sandwiches are indeed heavy, tall and fairly priced.

Bonus: Who needs a bonus when your name is Slyman's?

 

SPORTSMAN'S DELI

101 St. ClairAve. 216.861.5168

Price: $8

Height: 2.25 inches

Weight: 8 oz.

Price per ounce: $1

Warmth: 5 out of 5

Tasting Notes: I didn't have much confidence when I walked into an empty restaurant at noon on a weekday. Things turned out worse than I expected. Sportsman's is the only deli in the entire group where I did not see the slicer move an inch. Instead, a staffer reached into a bin of pre-sliced meat and retrieved a handful. She then placed it on a plate and unceremoniously tossed it in the microwave to reheat. No surprise then when the meat was delivered tough, grey and dry.

Bonus: The sandwich is only 8 ounces in weight.

 

SUPERIOR RESTAURANT

3000 Superior Ave. 216.621.5899

Price: $8.50

Height: 3.75 inches

Weight: 15 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.57

Warmth: 2 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Superior was the biggest surprise of the bunch. The corned beef sandwiches here are an ounce shy of a pound and a quarter-inch short of a dislocated jaw. Machine-sliced thin and tender as a baby's bum, the beef ranks up there with the best in town. This sandwich would have claimed a higher place in the standings had it been served hot rather than tepid. Ostensibly in preparation for a lunch rush that never materialized, the deli had a half-dozen half-built sammies sitting in limbo.

Bonus: Unlike nearby Slyman's, Superior is open on Saturdays.

 

TAL'S BERVERAGE AND DELI

5747 Ridge Rd., Parma 440.885.0905

Price: $8

Height: 3 inches

Weight: 16 oz.

Price per ounce: $0.50

Warmth: 4 out of 5

Tasting Notes: Based on prior reports about this place, I expected a monster-sized sandwich. And that is precisely what I got. At a full pound, Tal's beast bests every other contender on the list. It is also happens to be the least expensive (per ounce), and the second hottest. Too bad it is also lean, dry, stringy and tough. Making matters worse is the fact that sandwiches here are served on thick-sliced crusty rye, which makes them a chore to consume.

Bonus: Tal's is also a liquor store, so you can grab a bottle of rye to complement the bread.

Best Corned Beef Sandwich: Goodman's Sandwich Inn

Runner Up: Slyman's Deli

Honorable Mention: Superior Restaurant 

Best methods for reheating leftover corned beef: According to Hank Kornblut at Mister Brisket, the best way to reheat leftover corned beef is to place it in a steamer just until it gets hot. "Too long, however, and you can overdo it," he says. Another good way is to place the cold beef inside a plastic cooking bag, seal it up tight and drop it in a pot of boiling water for about five minutes. Similarly, the beef can be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil for storage in the freezer. To reheat, simply drop the bundles in boiling water for about 10 minutes. "I don't advise using a microwave to reheat corned beef," advises Kornblut.Ê"It just doesn't do well in the nuker."

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