Attman's Delicatessen


December 25, 2008|By Rob Kasper

1019 E. Lombard St., 410-563-2666. Open 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 8 a.m-5 p.m. Sundays

Good Jewish delicatessen that it is, Attman's is open today, Christmas Day, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. December is busy at the deli as exiles return to the old East Lombard Street neighborhood for the palaver and the pastrami.

There is often a line of customers stretching along the counter, all the way to the back of the narrow front room. You can sit at the few tables in the adjoining Kibbitz Room, or you can take out, but first you have to order. That can take a while, but it is a crowded, colorful wait.

The crew behind the counter jaw among themselves. They are a veteran lot with faces, and personalities, that remind you alternately of characters in a Charles Dickens novel and actors in the television series The Wire. "I need both kinds of pickles up here now, not tomorrow!" a counterman bellowed the other day. Another worker boomed out a demand for "bologna for the grill." Some Baltimore eaters like their grilled, $3.39 kosher hot dogs served with a slice of grilled bologna. Not me - I have tried this combination in prior visits and have found it too greasy. I passed this time.

Eventually, when a member of the crew looks up and asks, "Waited on?" or addresses you with a Charm City term of endearment - "Whaddya have, babe?" - lunch gets going.

These days, stylish new apartments and condos have replaced many former fixtures of the Lombard Street landscape, but the steaming pieces of corned beef still reside on Attman's ever-moving slicer, yielding a succulent $6.29 sandwich on seeded rye bread. My corned beef was tender. The bread, a key ingredient in any successful sandwich, is sold at Attman's for $3.50 a half-loaf. I usually grab some. It is baked at H&S Bakery, another East Baltimore business.

I also had a half-sour pickle, a taste of pickle and cucumber that sells for $1.29.

This is one of those places where longtime customers order "the usual." Mine is the $6.29 hot pastrami on rye with mustard. The sandwich I had the other day was very good; the pastrami was, pleasingly, smokier than normal. Satisfying as it was, it did not measure up to the pastrami sandwich I enjoyed there on Christmas Day 1980. Our first born had entered the world, and I, a new father, had wandered over to Attman's from nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital. The woman behind the counter gave me a pastrami sandwich and a "mazel tov." That son now lives outside of Baltimore and returns home every Christmas to celebrate his birthday and to have a pastrami sandwich.


Best bite: Hot pastrami sandwich, $6.29

Best bargain: Half-sour pickle, $1.29

Also tasted: Corned beef on rye sandwich, $6.29; seeded rye half-loaf, $3.50

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