Corned beef is pretty good any way you slice it, but we're defining "killer" as the kind made in-house at restaurants, delis, and butchers. They've pickled and braised the beef themselves, which deserves a little extra respect. Whether in sandwich form or paired with boiled cabbage or cut by the deli slicer, here is the serious beef.
Marlow and Daughters
Butcher Tom Mylan calls his approach a "simple, pre-Industrial style." That translates as cured with rock salt and black pepper for 20 days. He actually has the beef, sourced from different farms like Slope Farms, in the back all the time as an outside-the-glass-case secret, but is hyping it up this week.
Price: $10.50 a pound
After the beef brines for ten days, it gets sandwiched between two pressed halves of Tom Cat Bakery's semolina strata with raclette cheese and choucroute-inspired sauerkraut. Then they go one step further, throwing on pickles before dipping the panini-esque sandwich into Russian dressing.
Price: $12, on the regular lunch and dinner menu
For 61 years, Ben's Best has been making batches of corned beef the same way, which brining lord Marty behind the counter will explain to you, goes something like this: "You take the beef, you pickle it for 21 days, you take it out, you boil it with some spices for a few hours, you eat it." On an average day, they cook about 182 pounds of corned beef, but this week, it could be triple that, especially with a special order that came in from Aer Lingus.
Price: $26 a pound, $10.80 for a sandwich on rye (both available year-round), $18 for a plate of corned beef, cabbage, boiled potato, cole slaw, pickles, and bread
This is a really good sandwich, but not one your Irish kin, or even Jewish bubbie, would recognize as an authentic corned beef. The grass-fed Wagyu eye rounds are a leaner cut that don't resemble the familiar fatty pink brisket. In fact, it looks and tastes more like roast beef. But on a crunchy, grainy mustard seed bread with horseradish and melted aged cheddar, who cares.
Price: $13.75 at the café or $10.75 at the retail counter (available through the spring)
Artisanal and Picholine
It's not normally on the two French menus, but chef Terrance Brennan says he'll be Irish tonight. A sinus-clearing horseradish mustard foam sits around corned beef (braised in foie gras stock, no big deal) that's wrapped in leafy green cabbage. And we're talking straight-up emerald green, not the pale, lifeless boiled cabbage color that is also fine, but whoa, this one is green. Served with new potatoes (the younger, baby-sized ones) and carrots. At Picholine, it's a similar deal except wait, this is Pichonline—they throw on black truffles and foie gras.
Price: $18.50 at Artisanal, or part of Picholine's $92 three-course pre fixe
2nd Avenue Deli
The deli royalty probably doesn't have leprechaun lineage, but they know corned beef. Fresh brisket pickles for ten days, and more importantly, you get to eat it in a really special New York institution.
Price: $13.75 for a sandwich ("for you, and don't tell anyone this or you'll get me fired"), or $29 a pound
Now that's what my Irish cousins would consider authentic (eh, maybe minus the fancy cabbage fan). Strips of pink, tender meat braised in Guinness, served with cabbage (the pale kind, sorry Picholine), new potatoes, and a spicy dijon mustard spiked with the house barbecue sauce. Available from opening until close on Tuesday, then it's back to all cued meats all the time.
Price: $16.95 for the plate (the one pictured is closer to two servings)
Another case of Irish by way of Jewish butcher. In business for five years, Josh Applestone, who was actually a vegan for 17 years, brines grass-fed beef for a week in sea salt, juniper berries, and organic herbs. When he and his wife Jessica cook the beef, they like to wash it down with Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. If you can't trek up to Kingston, they'll be making New York City, and some Brooklyn, deliveries on Tuesday.
Price: $8.99 per pound
307 Wall Street, Kingston NY 12401 (map); 845-338-6666; grassfedmeat.net/index.html. Order by phone, or email them at [email protected]yahoo.com. Will deliver for $100 minimum order, or ship meat (flash frozen) overnight for no minimum price