Not-So Starving Artists: Katie Boyts and Chris Attenborough Go to Attman’s Deli
I know what you’re thinking. As you drive down Lombard St, otherwise known as Corned Beef Row, you just keep driving. I know. You think – “Gah, I should really stop and eat some corned beef. I hear it’s really good, like legendary good.”
But you don’t stop. Never. You just keep driving. Because there’s always next time. Because you’re watching your calories. Because you hear the line is just too long and you’re just too busy.
Let me be the alternative thought in your head: You should stop. You have time. You’re not that busy. And yes, you definitely need corned beef.
Chris and I made the stop on Corned Beef Row, a stretch of East Lombard that was once more of a bustling street with markets, stores, delis but now consists of three Jewish-style delis: Attmans, Weiss Deli, and Lenny’s. We chose Attmans, purely on instinct.
Sidenote: There’s free parking on the side of the building. Let that also be a reason to stop.
Stepping into Attman’s is like stepping into a time capsule, not in that twee vintage-chic sort of way where everything looks like it costs $2.95 but actually costs $599. It’s an authentic nostalgia kind of way. The walls are lined with picture frames that may not have been straightened since the early 80s. Signs advertise corned beef sandwiches for 25 cents. Attman’s has been around since 1915 and is still operated by the Attman family, opened by Harry, now run by Marc. It has survived an evolution of the neighborhood that I can barely imagine – the building of high rise housing projects, the 1968 riots, the destruction of said housing projects, to name just a few. The brining of the Attman’s corned beef moved to New York when they no longer had the space to do it in-house, but the boiling of beef still happens in their Baltimore kitchen each day.
The lovely and enthusiastic gentleman who served us at Attman’s counter won me over when he told me I looked like Taylor Swift. Which is a flat-out lie but whatever… I’ll take it. As I ordered our chosen sandwiches, I adored his reaction. “We’ll have the Whopper, the Cloak & Dagger, and a pickle,” I said. “Yeah, awesome. Allright!” he said, nodding his head in agreement. I felt so affirmed. I felt great. I felt like a nervous Taylor Swift nailing it at the Jewish deli. I asked for bread recommendations. I always ask for recommendations. I am no expert in Jewish delis, (or really anything for that matter).
Let’s just this out of the way – Attman’s gets their bread from H&S bakery, that gigantic wholesaler in Fells Point that, for artisan bread bakers, is the nemesis of the entire craft. When I first got to Baltimore, I heard a rumor that H&S baked for every single McDonald’s in America, which obviously is untrue because that is physically impossible. Still… the message somehow stuck, and I admit that the foodie snob in me turned my nose up at even entering their outlet store. Sitting down with the Cloak & Dagger (corned beef, coleslaw and russian dressing) on Jewish Rye and the Whopper (corned beef, roast brisket, salami, swiss, coleslaw, russian dressing) on Pumpernickel, my heart softened a bit to the giant of H&S.
The pumpernickel is soft and fragile and delicious. The Jewish Rye, toasted, holds its own with the swells of meat. The caraway seeds and mild dill, a slight sweetness and peppery aroma – they all come together in a lovely marriage that balances out the saltiness of all the brined beef perfectly.
It’s not the bread that steals the show in the Kibitz Room though. Like any good bread in a sandwich, it offers itself up as supporting actor for the real star – the meat. The corned beef was perfectly seasoned, deliciously salty without being puckering. The roast beef in the Whopper was juicy, and the salami was unpretentiously present.
Absolutely get the pickle. Because it’s enormous and crisp and goes way better with these sandwiches than fries every would. Splurge for the noodle pudding that’s topped with cornflakes and then let me know how it is because I just didn’t have room.
We didn’t think we’d finish the sandwiches. There was just so much meat. So much Russian Dressing. Did I mention so much meat? Then we finished them. Predictably, about an hour later I went into a corn beef coma and was freakishly thirsty. Which is not really a complaint as much as an observation. Attman’s is completely worth the meat sweats every few months. So stop. Park. And eat corned beef.
Do go here if:
You like meat.
You like caraway.
You like pickles.
You like being compared to Taylor Swift.
You want a dose of old Baltimore, real Baltimore, not-so-trendy Baltimore.
You are on a date and want to test out your date’s ability to ingest corned beef in large quantities without puking or grumbling.
Don’t go here if:
You have a big meeting right after lunch in which you’ll be required to be articulate or even awake for that matter.
You are vegetarian.
You are gluten-free.
Hell, if you have any dietary restrictions at all.
You are on a date in which you anticipate a sexy ending.
Attman’s is at 1019 E. Lombard St.
Open Monday-Saturday: 8am to 6:30pm and Sunday: 8am to 5pm
Author Katie Boyts is a pastry chef with a love of affordable carbs and the host of the Baltimore chapter of CreativeMornings.
All photos by Chris Attenborough.