You can smell Chester's Smokehouse in Albany before you can see it.
In most circumstances, one should take that as a warning. In this instance, I urge you to proceed with haste. That is, go immediately. Once the intoxicating smell of hardwood smoke draws you in, your eyes are treated to yards-long display of meat and cheese, the beneficiaries of all that smoke.
Of course, if you are a vegetarian, this place might not be for you (that smoked cheese, though...), but for the omnivores among us, the sight of all that meat -- from classic Kielbasa to custom takes on Slim-Jims and jerky -- is enough to have you whimper in pleasure. At least that was my reaction.
Needless to say, once I laid eyes on that pastrami sandwich, the cartoon AH-OOO-GA horn in my mind went off and my jaw went slack.
If ever there were a sandwich, this was it.
The truth is, I've never been much of a pastrami fan. Many versions seem so heavily spiced, it becomes tough and hard to decipher as a piece of meat.
Chester's Smokehouse gets pastrami right. Tender to the point of near-melting, the meat is delicate while still retaining those classic qualities of pastrami: Smoky and laced with black pepper, allspice, and coriander. Subtle hints of mustard add a little bite.
Served up on Polish rye with Russian dressing and Swiss cheese (what a cosmopolitan wonder!), one has to nearly unhinge the mandible in order to eat the sandwich ($9). The thin slicing of the meat means that it doesn't take all day to chew each bite, but the sandwich itself could easily serve two. It was enough to turn me into a pastrami fan in the end. (The sandwich can also be served grilled for $11.95.)
I also ordered the grilled kielbasa ($9.95) on a roll with sauerkraut which, much like the pastrami sandwich, is a herculean feat of eating. A huge link of the sausage, made in house, is grilled up and served with a side of mustard.
The potato and cheddar pierogi ($7.95 for 6), served with sour cream, were an exemplary version of the dish. The cheese-to-potato ratio is on-point. And Chester's lets you choose if you want them steamed or sauteed. (Sauteed is the way to go, with onions.)
My only complaint with Chester's is that there's no place to dine-in -- the Albany location is purely a take-out eatery and small grocery. But the planned Chester's Smokehouse Restaurant near Hudson Valley Community College in Troy will solve that issue.
Polish food seems to be on the surge in the Capital District. Muza, Euro Deli, Dnipro, and now Chester's all offer Polish and Eastern Europe favorites. But few can make pastrami quite like that from Chester's. Cured in-house and smoked to perfection, pastrami is a sandwich classic, and the sandwich I had proved why.
15 Watervliet Ave
Albany, NY 12206
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.