Lucky Nak Sandwiches Are the Perfect Handheld Hanukkah Meal

Opened on the Upper East Side in 1965 by a gentleman of the same name, PJ Bernstein’s has had its fair share of famous regulars over the decades, all of whom have favorite menu items. Sharon Stone prefers chicken soup with her turkey sandwich. Lucille Ball opted for a kosher hot dog. Howard Cosell once ordered PJ Bernstein’s open-faced Reuben sandwich, but like most people, had a hard time finishing it.

PJ Bernstein is now owned by Steve Slobodski, who runs the famous Jewish deli with his son, Eugene. Two hash browns paired with a half pound of pastrami and a fried hash brown as a bun make a sandwich.

According to Eugene, Jack often ordered the potato and pastrami combo, and eventually the deli started making it for him and put a version on the menu that was also available with brisket. The Lucky Latke, served with coleslaw and pickles, has been on menus since, along with other specialty sandwiches like the Kosher Whopper (fried potato chips stuffed with pastrami and sauerkraut) and the Abe Vigoda (pastrami, turkey and chopped liver). It has been popular ever since, especially among tourists who use it to taste two PJ Bernstein staples in one dish.

At $25, Lucky Latke isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for, just save a few bucks and buy some TUMS. “It’s a bigger sandwich and very filling,” Eugene said. “You don’t need a soup and you don’t need an appetizer. This is a one-off, professional classic. It’s hearty and will definitely give you a little heartburn.”

Made entirely from scratch in-house, Lucky Latke, like the rest of PJ Bernstein’s offerings, is an example of Slobodski’s ongoing efforts to update the menu, constantly introducing new items without straying too far from the beaten path. “If you’re like me and eat at a deli almost every day, it can get too repetitive, so it’s good to try new variations,” says Eugene. “Variations like Lucky Latke are really popular. When you combine the fat from the pastrami with the sweet onions and potatoes from the potato, it makes it really tasty. It really does some damage.”

Unfortunately for Eugene, this was more than just hyperbole. “I actually don’t eat any red meat or anything fried anymore,” he said. “I’m only 25, but my cholesterol levels are really high from eating pastrami sandwiches all the time, so I really have to be wary of that stuff. I think I’ve had a lucky potato pancake once or twice in my life because of my health.”

If your doctor allows it, here’s a recipe for making your own lucky latkes.

PJ Bernsteins Lucky Latte

raw material
  • 2-4 lbs. grated potatoes (adjust as needed)
  • 2-4 chopped onions
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp.Salt
  • 1 pepper
  • 12 eggs
  • .5 pounds pastrami

    1. In a mixing bowl, combine the grated potatoes and chopped onions. Add flour, salt, pepper and eggs and stir into batter. The flour should be enough to bind the mixture, and the salt and pepper should be just enough.

    2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Pour potato mixture into skillet and form into small pancakes. Flatten them with a spatula to ensure even cooking.

    3. Fry the hash browns for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy. Adjust the heat to prevent burning while making sure they are cooked through.

    4. While the hash browns cook, heat the pastrami.

    5. Once the hash browns are golden and crispy, place one portion of the hash browns on a plate. Spread the hot pastrami evenly over the first hash brown. Place the second hash brown on top of the pastrami and serve the sandwich warm.

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