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Sammich's Melissa McMillan

Rumor has it that OPB’s Think Out Loud host Dave Miller regularly finds excuses to drive 300-plus miles south to Ashland, Oregon to devour Sammich’s New York Times-famous pastrami sandwich. We're a little behind the ball on this one, but we just tried the house-smoked pastrami for the first time, and can testify to its awesomeness. Now, Sammich is heading to Portland, with plans to open a food cart, Pastrami Zombie, by mid-June. 

Sammich’s Melissa McMillan is a true-blue Chicagoan (and a raving Bears fan) who, missing the staples of her Midwest upbringing, opened up shop in 2013. “Hot and wet—those are the characteristics of a Chicago sandwich,” jokes McMillian. “I’m not afraid to tell an 80-year-old customer ‘the wetter the better.’” Innuendo aside, her pastrami is the real-deal. Montreal-style (made from brisket), brined for four days, smoked with black oak, and sliced thick. This is not your Jewish deli pastrami. It's fatty, dark red, and deeply smoky—there’s nothing quite like it in Portland.

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The pastrami sandwich

McMillan promises mostly pastrami-centric, no-frills “blue-collar” sandwiches at her Pastrami Zombie, all anchored by Double R Ranch brisket from Washington. The heavy hitters include “Da Burg,” a burger with special sauce (extra pastrami $3), Chicago Italian Beef topped with giardiniera—a spicy relish second only to mustard in the Windy City—and a non-pastrami tuna sandwich, made with house-poached Oregon-caught albacore.

McMillan is still hunting for the perfect spot, but says her mobile cart won’t be entirely sedentary. If all goes well (and, judging by the pastrami alone, we hope it will), she has grand plans for a brick-and-mortar outpost when the time is right. Stay tuned for more details.

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