DGS Delicatessen: D.C.’s Modern Take on Jewish Cuisine

Ten hours. That’s the sweet spot for pastrami perfection at DGS Delicatessen, a modern Jewish cookery and a Foodable Top 25 restaurant in Washington, D.C.

DGS is not your typical deli. In fact, it’s so much more.

“We are a Jewish-style restaurant and delicatessen,” says Chef Brian Robinson. “We do sandwiches and entrees, as well, and everything here is cured and smoked and brined in-house.”

Aside from its sandwiches, DGS offers specialty drinks (like Mexican coke), as well as a full bar and a sit-down dinner menu. Dishes on the dinner menu include things like duck fat matzo balls, chicken schnitzel (braised red cabbage, celery root, and house-made apple mustard), and mushroom pierogis served with caramelized onion crema.

Now, about that pastrami. “We use a thicker slice than normal,” says Robinson. The 10-hour process consists of six hours of smoking and then four hours after that of steaming. As you’ll see up close in this “Table 42” vignette, double backed rye bread is smeared with house-made mustard and met with 8 ounces of pastrami. Guests have the option to add chopped liver, swiss or provolone, and/or coleslaw or sauerkraut. Without extras, the sandwich will run a guest $13.50.

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DGS' take on a traditional pastrami sandwich

DGS' take on a traditional pastrami sandwich

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Chef Brian Robinson cold smoking salmon | Instagram

Chef Brian Robinson cold smoking salmon | Instagram

DGS stands for District Grocery Store. “It’s an homage to Nick and Dave Wiseman, the [restaurant’s] owners,” Robinson says. “Their grandparents owned a district grocery store back in the day.”

District grocery stores were kind of like little Jewish bodegas that sold anything and everything, he explains.

Robinson initially took a job at DGS as a sous chef, where he did all the brining and smoking, and made the pickles and mustard every day for about a year and a half. “And then the chef left and I got bumped up and become The Chef after that,” he says.

What separates DGS from other delis in D.C.? Robinson attributes its differentiation to the quality of the product.

“It’s the fact that we do everything here in-house and the fact that nothing is bought — we buy the raw product, but everything is done by us, for us,” he says. “And so, it shows in the product.”

Watch the full episode above as we give viewers a closer look at the delicatessen that’s driving D.C. diners to come back for more.