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Lester's Sports Bar And Grill: Sandwich Nirvana

On the hunt for happy hour, our food writer finds the Zen of perfect pastrami.

Lester's is an enigma. The cavernous space is tastefully decorated as opposed to beer signs covering every inch of available space. Rather than a strictly young, rowdy clientele, patrons range from young to old. And expecting merely passable bar food, I was instead served a pastrami sandwich that can compete with any pastrami sandwich anywhere.

Located at 14810 Clayton Road in Chesterfield, there's a lot to like about Lester's. There's plenty of televisions—20 in the bar area alone—all part of a half-million dollar audio/visual system, and they somehow manage to be unobtrusive while being everywhere. But during the big game you won't miss a play. Service is fast and the staff is attentive, efficient and seemingly happy to be there. 

The menu is sandwich heaven, along with some interesting appetizers, including the BBQ or Deli Slider Combos ($11.50) or BBQ Nachos ($10.95). Soups are available too; White Bean Smoked Turkey Chili for $4.95 anyone? Or the $7.95 Jewish deli necessity, Chicken Matzo Ball soup? Oh, vey, I'm feeling a little verclempt.

Eight salads from $6.95 to $11.50 for those who are eating light, or choose standards like Turkey Burgers ($7.50), Hamburgers ($6.95), Chicken Breast ($8.50) sandwiches.

What is surprising is Lester's applewood slow-smoked meats and house-made deli meats. Beef Brisket, Turkey Breast, Pulled Pork or Chicken are all smoked on the premises and available as sandwiches, as is the house-made Corned Beef and Pastrami. All cost $9.50 for a full sandwich or $14.50 for the colossal, with the one exception of the Reuben The Great sandwich at 12.95. And don't forget the Baby Back Ribs ($14.95 for half-slab; $23.95 for full).

Since this set out to be a story about happy hour, I guess I should mention it. According the Lester's website, happy hour was supposed to offer $6 appetizers. Nope. Not unless you order the Chips and Salsa ($4.95) or Bavarian Pretzels ($3.95) from the regular menu. Drink specials are $14 Buckets of beer, $4 House Wine and $4 Well Drinks. Draft beer specials, sadly, only include Anheuser-Busch products. Fortunately, one was Michelob Amber Bock, not special but better than the others, lighter than normal Bock beers but very drinkable and refreshing.

As you have guessed, I ordered the pastrami sandwich. I know my pastrami. I have supped at the world-famous Katz's Deli in N.Y.C., and lunched at the Carnegie and Stage delis, plus savored the offerings in untold hole-in-the-wall delis that somehow manage to put out remarkable sandwiches, and Lester's Pastrami sandwich can battle head to head with any of them.

The pastrami was remarkably juicy and tender with a slight pepperiness and hint of smoke. Neither too fatty or too lean. I slathered on good quality horseradish which could not overwhelm the rich, savory pastrami. Add a little brown mustard and served on fresh rye bread and this is a sandwich that will not soon be forgotten. Ah, the Umami of pastrami.

I do have one complaint. They employed the push-the-meat-to-the-middle technique. This occurs when the cook pushes all the meat to the middle of the sandwich so that when it's cut, it appears to be thicker than it really is. It's a little deceptive and insulting, and the frustrating part is it was completely unnecessary. There was plenty of meat on this sandwich. Of course, one bite into this thing of beauty and all was forgiven as I drifted into a state of bliss.

I will be back to recreate my Zen-ful experience. I leave you only with this; If a pastrami sandwich sits in the woods and no one is there to eat it, will it still taste delicious?

Lester's Sports Bar and Grill is located at 14810 Clayton Rd., Chesterfield, MO, as well as locations in Ladue and St. Louis city. Carry out are welcomed, and smoked and deli meats are available in bulk. For more information, visit the Lester's website, or call (636)230-0055.


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