Mum Foods owners Geoffrey Ellis and Mattison Bills made their name over the last several years selling exceptional pastrami (and Wagyu brisket) at farmers markets around town. You buy the brined and smoked pastrami by the pound, if you’re wise enough to make it to one of the three markets before they sell out. The jiggly meat at the farmers market, rubbed with a generous amount of black pepper and enough coriander to leave a floral tingle, has for years longed for a place to lay its head. Until now.
The business partners recently opened Mum Foods Deli in the shoebox space formerly home to Elaine’s Pork & Pies on the Eastside Cafe lot. The pastrami comes stacked on lithe sourdough bread, its slightly sour pop woven through the supple mellow loaves baked at the revamped Swedish Hill Bakery using a recipe Mum helped design with James Brown over at Barton Springs Mill. Mum, named after their sourdough starter (Mum), eventually plans to bake their own bread, but given their limited space, they’re relying on the pros at the highly anticipated reboot from McGuire Moorman Hospitality.
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Yes, the space is small. You might find yourself queuing outside in the heat or in a line that wraps around the short deli counter, and a crowd could push you to the partially shaded patio for lunch. But the tight squeeze is worth it for some of the best new sandwiches in town. The pastrami — the slices I got were a blend of fatty and lean, the color of bubblegum — comes at you with salt and smoke, the aromatics and tang of a thinly applied yellow mustard as gentle as the bread’s sour bite. Order a plate of pickles ($3, small) — electric green beans, clever bread-and-butter daikon radishes, spicy radishes and the lash of sauerkraut on the day I went — to help cut the savory blast of the pastrami.
While the pastrami sandwich (called the O.G., half for $8 or a whole for $16) might be the thing that gets you in the door, the other sandwiches will get you coming back. Mum smokes turkey for a creamy salad jazzed by Mexican oregano and zipped with pickled jalapenos, with some purple cabbage for crunch ($10). The pimento cheese sandwich ($9) arrived with more accoutrements that almost any I’ve had, and the idea behind the layering was brilliant. The super wet pimento cheese was stacked with a juicy bright red tomato beautiful enough to be photographed, some dark greens that carried a perfumed florality and yellow discs of turmeric-spiced pickled radish that offered a snappy counter-textural component to the creaminess of the cheese blend. The menu, like the space, is tight, but Mum does a lot with the little they have.
FYI: Mum Foods still sells their pastrami and brisket at the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller and Lakeline, and the Barton Creek Farmers Market on weekends. They sell brisket by the pound at the deli, as well, though it was sold out the day I visited. Your best bet on brisket is probably still the markets.