I’d read several positive reviews of Wagshal’s Delicatessen in Spring Valley, particularly about its brisket sandwich. The Washington Post described it as “so packed with complex, intense flavor that the result is one of the best sandwiches” in the city. The article went on to describe the painstaking process that Bill Fuchs, the owner since 1990, goes through to prepare his famous brisket: seven weeks of dry-aging, curing, and smoking to procure a mere five pounds of that magnificent meat.
After reading positive reviews like that, sometimes my expectations get set way too high and I end up disappointed with the actual dish. But that wasn’t the case at Wagshal’s; the sandwich ($7.00) more than lived up to the hype. It is a thing of beauty: simultaneously simple and sophisticated. Thin slices of that tender brisket are sandwiched between rye bread, generously spread with yellow mustard. Layers of bold flavors emerge from every bite: smoky, salty, briny, meaty, peppery, tangy–a symphony of sensations that leave your taste buds wanting more. Wash it all down with a bottle of Boylans root beer and trust me, you’ve got yourself a match made in heaven.
I couldn’t resist the delectable dessert case filled with tempting treats such as mini key lime pies, fruit tarts topped with berries and kiwis, and dainty cakes of all flavors. I decided to go with an apricot hamantaschen (the triangular pastry in the far upper right corner of the photo), one of my favorite Jewish pastries. Wagshal’s version was sweet and doughy–not as flaky as my favorite one from Canters in Los Angeles, but still tasty.
Wagshal’s has been a Washington institution for more than 80 years. It’s definitely a local place, where servers know customers’ names and sandwich orders by heart. The deli offers a ton of other hot food and sandwiches as well, including a TBLT (marinated tilapia with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American, and Caribbean mayo on grilled sourdough) and a Sicilian Sandwich (Italian sausage, parmesan and mozzarella, herbs, marinara, sauteed mushrooms) that both sound delicious. The shop also stocks a variety of gourmet goodies, such as tiny jars of jam from France, locally made cookies, and a well-stocked wine section. I had fun poking around the store and perusing the inventory while waiting for my sandwich.
But even with the wealth of other options, I’d still go back to Wagshal’s just for that brisket sandwich.
4855 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016