As a favorite of presidents and politicians for 88 years, Washington D.C.’s Wagshal’s Delicatessen could have percolated on to a century with its destination-worthy brisket sandwich and meticulously curated offerings of wine and gourmet treats. Pam “The Butcher” Ginsberg’s line of cult followers spills out of Wagshal’s Market’s door eager for her expertise. But deli owner Bill Fuchs is not so easily satisfied, and last month unveiled an additional store, Wagshal’s on New Mexico, named for its location on New Mexico Avenue but with a foundation in European tradition.
Fuchs, who imports the famed $150-per-pound Iberico de Bellota ham, returned from a European jaunt with a vision to re-create one of Spain’s famed mercato food markets in D.C. A combined fresh market and dining space, a mercato concept was a natural fit for Wagshal’s, already renowned for both its premier ingredients and delicious prepared foods.
Now, from the high, terra-cotta-tiled ceiling reminiscent of the best Barcelona and Madrid markets’ design to the reclaimed wide-plank wood floors, Wagshal’s on New Mexico is a spectacular indoor local farmers’ market with an impressive 74 linear feet of pastries. Red, white and purple baby potatoes can be purchased raw for home cooking or step a few feet down and enjoy those fresh potatoes in a pre-made salad with a mustardy vinaigrette.
As a centerpiece of the 4,000-square-foot market, cases of cheese, charcuterie and meat form a ring around the kitchen, which preps food for the 100-seat casual dining space complete with a garden patio. Custom-made for Fuchs in Portugal, the cases are waist-high and allow conversation between customers and Wagshal’s specialists, ensuring even the most clueless host or hostess will be able to pull off a spectacular dinner party. The deli will even steam and crack your live lobsters for free.
If you’re not the one cooking, the restaurant transforms the dry-aged prime meats and seasonal produce into spicy pastrami, bright gazpacho and gelato (don’t miss the tangy lime-cilantro or earthy Earl Grey flavors). The already wildly popular sandwiches — with dozens of cheese, bread, meat and other ingredients from which to choose — are served with a silver-dollar latke topped with truffle oil (a welcome alternative to ho-hum fries) and are all made in house and at the original Wagshal’s location about a mile away.
Photos Courtesy of Greg Powers and Jeff Martin