Protzel's Deli Takeaway. No longer the worst St. Louis sandwich thus far. 1.9/10 pastrami sandwich. Stringy pastrami, stale bread, slow (friendly) service, so sad. Was told it was 8oz of meat, but only clocked in at 6.8oz. $13 for a large, $15.23 all in with tax and tip. Took over 10 minutes to make. Limited seating. Fun Jewish deli atmosphere with knishes and Dr. Browns. Parking is paid right outside, so go around the corner or down the road. This is how Subway stays in business.
Protzel's Deli Experience Summary
What happened here?
I had a Protzel's Deli pastrami sandwich before the pandemic in late 2019 and remembered it being very ho-hum, but three recommendations from long-time locals put it on my list to try again.
It's the objectively worst sandwich I've had in a long time.
The pastrami was somehow both stringy AND crunchy. The bread was stale around the sides. The mustard tasted like mustard; nothing wrong there. And the pickle was a 5/10.
To make matters worse, I asked the deli man about the difference between a regular and a large sandwich. He said a regular is a third of a pound, and a large is a half pound.
Unfortunately for him, I'm the only psycho who measures the weight of the meat on his sandwich, and the large came in at a very disappointing 6.8 oz of meat, which for those playing at home is less than 8 oz of meat needed for half a pound, so it felt like getting a bonus after taxes, over-promising and under-delivering.
Needless to say, I won't be using their recs again.
Besides the very friendly service, the whole experience was a dud. The service was slow, clocking in over 10 minutes to make the sandwich to the point where I thought they had forgotten about me.
Metered parking directly outside, so park down the street or around the corner.
Outside seating for the summer, limited inside seating during winter. They have additional fun Jewish deli specialties like knishes and black and white cookies, but I didn't try either on this visit.
So yeah, this was probably the worst experience I've had at a deli in a decade.
The Food At Protzel's Deli
I've been eating a lot of delicious sandwiches lately, and this was objectively awful. The bread was bland and a little bit stale around the edges. The mustard was fine.
And then there was the pastrami.
I love pastrami. If it tastes like pastrami, gonna be hard to fall below a 2, but this sandwich pushed me to the limits.
I take a bite out of this thing, and it's stringy. Somehow, the fat in the pastrami doesn't melt in your mouth like Carl's; it just stays congealed. It was tendon-like. The best analogy I can make is when you get authentic pho with tripe - it feels like chewing through beef stomach lining. My teeth couldn't cut through it without using my hands to rip it. I'm sure my real estate agent didn't appreciate the imagery.
And then, on top of the stringyness, the pastrami was crunchy. Crunchy?
Too weird for words.
The bread seemed like ordinary supermarket sandwich bread. It wasn't bad per se; it was just starting to get stale around the edge. It wasn't particularly bad rye; it wasn't particularly good rye. Like all other sandwich shops in town, it should use Union Loafers bread.
The mustard was standard deli mustard. The pickle was a totally average pickle.
$13 before tax and tip and ~$15+ all-in is on the high side for a 10.6 oz sandwich. Compare that to Gioia's where for $12 you get 24 oz of bliss or $12 at Carl's pre-tax and tip.
But the real cherry on top of this experience was measuring the meat. I was five minutes early meeting my real estate agent, so I was talking to the deli man behind the bar. He was super chatty and friendly; we talked about our favorite sandwiches, and I told him about the blog.
He explained to me the only difference between the small, regular, and large was the amount of meat - 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 pounds, respectively. So I went with the large.
And because I'm the only psycho in town measuring meat, my scale only read 6.8 ounces of meat on the sandwich. I don't think he meant to undercut me an ounce and change, but it perfectly encapsulated the experience.
To top it off, my stomach felt ill all afternoon, but that could have just been a coincidence.
I tell myself.
Protzel's Deli Atmosphere And Miscellaneous
Like I said, the deli man at Protzel's was super friendly and chatty. He discussed being there for a few years and St. Louis sandwiches.
I wanted to like it; I mean, I felt bad while I was eating and realizing it was sucking. It must be the feeling comedians have when they are bombing.
It's a cute little deli, and it feels like an old-school Jewish deli with knishes, black and white cookies, and Dr. Brown's cream soda. But this was just like I got a little sandwich on a plate with a pickle, and it wasn't any good. Boar's Head is better than this.
It was bizarre.
Ok, back to the atmosphere. There's limited seating inside, two or three small tables, and a small four to six-person bar. Outside are three or four picnic tables, which don't help much in 30-degree weather but are great in the summer.
The service was slow getting the sandwich. We were the only ones in there, and it felt like they somehow forgot about us. I actually went up to make sure the order was still in, and they were surprised we hadn't gotten food yet. It took about 15 minutes from order to plate.
The only positive to this trip was that it vindicated my Subway 5/10 sandwich - there are sandwiches worse than Subway. In fact, I had another sandwich in New Jersey I would put at a 4.3/10, so Subway at 5 isn't unreasonable considering their scale and consistency.
And now I understand how Subway stays in business.
Parking At Protzel's Deli
Parking at Protzels was a piece of cake. There is metered parking directly in front of the deli on the street, so I ended up parking down the block, maybe a two-minute walk. My realtor friend who was meeting me there ended up parking in the parking lot next door. I don't know if you can technically park there, but he didn't get arrested.
Protzel's Deli Receipt
Sandwich Size Comparisons