Erik Black and Joe Marcos didn’t pick an appetizing brand name for the lean and tender, feathery and moist smoked meat they’re serving this month at Mendocino Farms. “The name ‘Ugly Drum’ came from when we were at The Spice Table. We’d been using an old steel drum as our smoker,” explained Black, who co-owns the pastrami and smoked meats concept with Marcos. Before stints at Mozza, Campanile, and Rustic Canyon, the pair used to work with chef Judy Han, who’s now executive chef at Mendocino Farms. They asked her to give their new product a taste. “I love these guys. They’re like brothers to me, and we’d been thinking that we needed to do something with pastrami at Mendo,” says Han of the partnership, “so the timing was right.”
After The Spice Table closed at the end of last year, Black and Marcos got together to work on their smoked meat game. At some point, Nancy Silverton—for whom they had both worked at one time or another—tasted it and ordered a big platter for a private party. “She said, ‘This is really good stuff, guys.’ It’s nice to know she’s a fan,” says Marcos.
“As soon as we tasted it—me and Mario [del Pero, co-owner of Mendocino Farms]—we knew we had to put it in a sandwich,” says Han. “But for me, it’s not enough to have a meat sandwich. There has to be another component, there has to be the right kind of bread. So we had our bakery, Dulce Forno, create this soft caraway rye, and then Marcos came up with this great green apple coleslaw recipe with celery seeds.”
The sandwich is tall and broad, like most of what’s on the menu at Mendocino Farms, and the balance of thickly hand-sliced sweet and smoky meat, mellow Swiss cheese, crisp and sour slaw, and seeded rye rivals L.A.’s reigning pastrami sandwich, Langer’s number 19. A side of South Carolina-inspired vinegar and mustard-based barbecue sauce comes with the sandwich. At $12.95 (excluding cheese, which is extra), it’s among the more expensive items on Mendocino Farms’s menu. “Because of the way it’s produced, and that only so much can be produced each day, we can’t have it on the menu at all locations at the same time,” explains Han. Mendocino Farms is hosting Ugly Drum pastrami this month and into next. Each week for a limited time a different location will serve a set number of pastrami sandwiches. “And when we run out, we run out,” says Black.
Here’s where and when to get a taste of Ugly Drum.
Mendocino Farms Sherman Oaks, 4/21, 4/22 from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Mendocino Farms West Hollywood 4/24, 4/25 from 12 p.m until 3 p.m.
Mendocino Farms Fig@7th 4/28, 4/29 from 1 until 4 p.m.
Mendocino Farms 5th & Flower 5/1, 5/2 from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Mendocino Farms 300 S. Grand 5/5, 5/6 from 1 until 3 p.m.
Mendocino Farms 3rd & Fairfax 5/8 through 5/17, All day
Ugly Drum at Mendocino Farms, various locations uglydrum.com or mendocinofarms.com.