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The Refuge San Carlos with The Greatest Pastrami on the Planet
What is the Refuge San Carlos in Laurel Street?
“You could be a hardcore New Yorker [and] nothing is gonna prepare you for that (pastrami).” -Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives, 2013)
The Refuge thrives in the quiet, unassuming towns of San Carlos, CA, Menlo Park, CA and San Mateo, CA where the hand-carved, ultra tender, boldly flavored navel pastrami sends shockwaves throughout the gastronomic consciousness of patrons who call it “the greatest this planet will see in some time.”
If that wasn’t enough, the REFUGE boasts the world’s best Belgian and Craft Beer on draught (18 in San Carlos, 24 in Menlo Park and 24 in San Mateo) in the Bay Area, with many more by bottle.
Since 2008, the REFUGE has been providing protection for many East Coast street food classics. But wait, just for good measure, we grind our own blend of hamburger on a daily basis as well as procure our own Ribeye Blend for our Authentic Cheese Steaks.
Not to mention, we also offer honest Old World wine, dazzling salads and eclectic appetizers, and an owner and staff crazy (and skilled) enough to pull it all off. Casual connoisseurs unite! This place is the real deal. Whether it’s a quick lunch or a raging evening, the REFUGE experience is unlike any other place at any one time.
The originality and pathos are immediately apparent. We care about every detail, and it means a lot to us when the REFUGE is chosen to spend a piece of precious time.
Michelle W. | Yelp
I’ve been looking for a quality Reuben, without having to hightail it to a NY deli, and…this is it!! A well balanced sandwich with quality meat, sauerkraut, and dressing. The meat was so flavorful and tender. I was actually shocked by how much I enjoyed it at first bite. Drove all the way from the East Bay and I’d do it again. Only downside is that the sandwich was $23. Pretty pricey. So, likely won’t make the trip too often, but at least now I know this place exists. Plus we had the short rib barbacoa nachos which were also delicious! Very composed dish that I’d get again. I liked the vibe of the restaurant as well – clean, decent bar, booth seating, and cozy outdoor seating. There were other items on the menu I’d love to try – I see you cheesteak! – I’ll be back!
Vicki S. | Yelp
Refuge has the BEST pastrami in the Bay Area and such an amazing selection of beer! I don’t say that lightly! The managers are beer experts and are always excited and willing to help you choose a beer to go with your meal. Goofy fries are a must and if you’re feeling something a little lighter, the pastrami shopped salad is perfection!
Kay D. | Yelp
This place was delicious! I am obsessed with the short rib nachos and the chili de arbol cheesesteak was something I’ve never had and it was so flavorful and delicious. Definitely worth the drive from Hayward. The staff was also so friendly and attentive and just and all around great vibe.
Jack R. | Yelp
Okay, okay, okay, you’re going to ask me how in the world I can compare this pastrami to Katz Deli in New York, but here we go…. I was expecting a mediocre sandwich, after all everyone including my own grandma can cook pastrami, but when I took a bite of this pastrami sandwich my tastebuds were hit with a “wow” punch.
This pastrami sandwich was expensive and hyped up, but man, did it pack that Tyson Fury punch of goodness. A blend of fat, spices, and lean meat all at once. This sandwich was a knock out and we’ll worth it. It reminded me of those great New York delis like Katz that I tried and loved during my travels.
The fries were hot, the service was on point and that bread pudding was legit 5 stars delicious. This place literally won me over.
Lara C. | Yelp
I’ve always been a fan of world-class pastrami, so when I got a craving, I plugged “pastrami” into the Yelp app, and it led me straight to The Refuge!
I rounded up one of my friends, and we made a date to meet there for lunch. Arriving just as they opened, we pretty much had our choice multiple tables in either their indoor or outdoor seating areas. We opted for an outdoor table, got some menus and deliberated for a bit.
Here’s what I got: Pastrami Reuben – Pastrami, sauerkraut, melted swiss, Russian dressing, on toasted rye. I took one bite and I knew we had come to the right place – the Reuben’s here are made using the best pastrami to be found West of the Hudson River!
Peppered to perfection without overdoing it and full of flavor, The Refuge’s pastrami is unquestionably world-class. Served on New York rye that’s golden brown and perfectly toasted, a single bite made me blissfully happy! Garlic Fries – One of three types of fries available at the Refuge (the other two being “Goofy” and regular fries; the former are garlic fries with chunks of Pastrami mixed in). They are perfectly cooked to a light golden brown and medium cut, served at the optimal level of crunchiness.
It turned out that The Refuge not only has amazing pastrami, they also have lots of great beers on top – they even have multiple Belgian-style ales! I ordered one of the latter and sipped it while waiting for our lunch; I got another to keep my sandwich company after it arrived 😉
After a delicious and delightfully relaxing meal, I asked our helpful and unobtrusively attentive server for the check, paid it and went away a VERY happy camper. If world-class Pastrami and/or Belgian Beers are what you’re craving, then you can’t possible go wrong with a visit to The Refuge!
Dynaton T. | Yelp
Amazing Reuben sandwich. I would definitely say its comparable to the infamous Katz Deli Reuben in New York City. 5/5 for Reuben Sandwich Their tomato bisque was also amazing. Definitely recommend the soup and sandwich combo with the two items above. U will not be disappointed. 5/5 for tomato bisque. They also have a huge variety of beers and wine. Highly recommend this place for San Carlos.
Lessie J. | Yelp
Went here with kids because I wanted pastrami, a la NYC style. Ended up not even ordering the pastrami sandwich. Go figure. Actually was not that hungry. It was a mind craving not a stomach craving.
Instead, got the philly cheesesteak with grilled onions. a pastrami chopped salad (I never ever order salad as a meal. This show how really NOT hungry I was but had to feed the kids.) and goofy fries. Figured I’m getting the pastrami in the salad and fries.
As the waiter explained, the pastrami was moist and good. Now, I’m a bit biased as I hold NYC’s Katz’s deli pastrami as the gold standard and that’s pretty hard to beat. Refuge’s pastrami was close enough just by the virtue of the fact that it was tender and moist (chopped up). Regardless, the cheesesteak was also moist and chewy in the right way. The bread was right as well! Typically the bread makes or breaks the philly cheesesteak. The ‘refuge cheese sauce’ in the goofy fries was excellent.
The salad with the chopped up pastrami bits (i assume they use the end bits) was as good as any salad goes, but it was the dessert that makes it addictive. I like bread pudding and when I see it I almost always order it. It one of the ways I judge restaurants. If they have it on the menu, then they better do it well, or else! It was phenomenal! It was spectacular!
Remember I said i was not hungry when I went? Well, by the end of the meal the food was poking out of my throat, but I just had to order the bread pudding. My pan was just have a couple of bites and call it a night, but I just had to keep taking more bites. It was that good. Kudos to the chef and team at Refuge!
Christopher S. | Yelp
Really enjoyed this place for lunch. They have an extensive beer list and the food was also great. I had a Reuben and shared the pastrami (goofy) fries. The pastrami is really good here I definitely recommend it. I must have missed it on the menu but they had a big banner for tripel karmeliet but I didn’t see it on the menu. Didn’t see it until walking out of the restaurant so failed to ask.
Shirley A. | Yelp
Had lunch with two friends here this week and it was a great find! We had pastrami sandwiches and a ‘french onion dip’ sandwich and everything was fresh and delicious! They have a number of great offerings to eat, and a great selection of beers on tap including a number from Belgium. We didn’t try them but we will when we come back after work!
Michael Morrongiello | Google
Had heard about this place many times and decided to pay a visit to the San Carlos area. Their location in more towards one end of the business district and they have a nice outdoor parklet area as well. We ordered the Pastrami Salad which had a LOT of Pastrami to it along with a tangy lemon based dressing and of course a Pastrami Sandwich (with non-melted Swiss Cheese and their coleslaw).
You could tell their slaw and various dressings including their mole are all scratch made. The Sandwich was TREMENDOUS! – the right balance of bread, slaw and of course the STAR of the show; their fantastic Pastrami. Also enjoyed a nice imported Pilsner with the meal. Great Place, AWESOME Pastrami
Randal Pettyjohn |Google
Best pastrami sandwich ever, the slaw and mustard sauce just blends perfect. Also had the Garlic fries that were amazing as well as Barbacoa nachos. Service is top notch, never been checked on so many times ever to make sure everything is to your expectations. In town for a jujitsu tournament in Palo Alto and this place was recommended. They feature Belgian beers and have a huge selection. I’m very positive this place was featured on triple DDD. Enjoy the pics and out this on your bucket list of Places to eat! #refugesc
Chris | Google
Got myself their Ruben Sandwich, there is an option to get half. It was great! Really tasty, lots of meat and good sauce. Comes with a sliced pickle and onions(?). Food came quick and everyone was nice. They have a sheltered outdoors area for lunch. It’s priced at $21.45, so a bit steep for a lunch. I wouldn’t mind the price so much if it came with some fries. I also got myself a stout beer from Jamaica for $7, bottled. They have lots of Belgian beers but were just out of my price range for a lunch.I’d recommend this place for beer and Ruben lovers. I’d only come here for special “treat myself” days.
Kelly Hirano | Google
Pastrami isn’t one of my go to foods, but given what I had heard about the pastrami here, I had to get it. I ordered a Ruben and it was extraordinary. The pastrami was extremely tender, had the right balance of flavor, and the rye bread was mild and perfectly toasted. I’m not a pastrami, rye bread, or Ruben connoisseur to judge how well the sandwich ranks in those categories, but on my foods I enjoy rank, this sandwich is tops. Still something I think about. Service was excellent so the my glass of ice tea never empty and the wait staff was very friendly.
Ken Wong | Google
12-19-21:Love this place! First time trying this place and really enjoyed the pastrami sandwich! Served with a pickle and pickled onions. The pastrami was very tender and spiced perfectly! Will definitely come back for more pastrami!Completed my meal with an order of fries .Surprised by their extensive selection. Got a hoppy taster which included 4 oz of a Revision Brewing IPA, a Barebottle Brewing hazy IPA, and an Alvarado Brewery Double IPA . All were really great. Nice job of combining three great .Will definitely be back again for more delicious food!
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