Wagshal’s has been serving Spring Valley since 1925 (although the current owners have “only” been around since 1990). It was a beautiful day for an al fresco lunch, and Wagshal’s had only one table left on a Thursday afternoon.
I felt like I was in The Italian Store because there were people standing around, waiting and waiting for their orders – total wait time was about fifteen minutes.
This article by David Hagedorn (and this corresponding flowchart) goes into great detail about Bill Fuchs’ vaunted smoked brisket, and hangs proudly on Wagshal’s wall – it was more than enough to get me to order the Smoked Brisket Sandwich ($7.99) with light mustard on rye, while my friend ordered a Cuban Sandwich ($6.99) with roast pork, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo on a kaiser roll. I grabbed a Boylan’s Sugar Cane Cola from the cooler, and a bag of Kettle chips from the rack.
The smoked brisket is unique and extraordinary, and while the sandwich is alarmingly small, the meat is so assertive and rich that it outperforms its size. The Cuban, on the other hand, is bland enough where it’s almost boring next to the Brisket, and needs the Kettle chips for flavor – this, despite its honorable roast pork which is thick and wavy.
While I can’t rave about the Cuban, the Brisket is worth a crosstown journey as long as you’re prepared for a strong, salty, aggressive smoked meat.