ADDRESS: 1308 East Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley, CA 93065
I’ll be honest, a fast-casual concept that revolves around pastrami sandwiches is a pretty smart idea. In a foodspace that is occupied by the likes of Chipotle or In-N-Out, The Hat offers up something different for people that want to switch it up from burrito bowls or burgers. And, not to mention, they’ve been doing it for almost 70 years.
My brother Kevin and his fiancée Alina took me over to one of the locations when I got an opportunity to head down to the Camarillo area over the weekend. The interior definitely has an old school vibe, with tile and cream-colored formica dining booths. Similar to how In-N-Out retains that “classic” element of its décor from when the restaurant was first opened, The Hat appears to do the same.
While the pastrami is the specialty that the restaurant is most known for, they also do offer other deli sandwiches, hamburgers, and also hot dogs on the menu. Of course, none of those types of sandwiches would be complete without French fries or onion rings a well.
Naturally, I had to sample what the restaurant is best known for: the pastrami. My brother also recommended the onion rings over the fries, since he said that their onion rings were some of the better ones he’s eaten. The guys behind the counter turned out the food in no time, and we were taking the brown paper bag full of food back over to the table to dig in.
You open up the wrapper for the sandwich and, no joke, the pastrami really is loaded up and overflowing from the bread. Before I was even able to start picking up the sandwich to eat, I had to grab a fork to dig it out from the pile of thinly sliced beef first. After clearing the road a little bit, it was time for the first bite in.
Plenty of pastrami, complemented by mustard and pickles on the bread side, each bite had great balance. The savory flavor comes through strong from the pastrami, and the mustard and pickles really provide that acidic punch to back it up. Meanwhile, the bread itself isn’t too stiff (think of a soft hoagie roll) and helps to soak up some of those flavors.
There’s a reason that The Hat will be celebrating its seventh decade milestone pretty soon. My impression of the food was good, and I’m sure that the consistent quality is what’s been getting customers to come back and support the business over the years. Like I mentioned before, pastrami sandwiches don’t usually come immediately to mind when I think of a quick bite, but The Hat has helped to change that mindset.
Let’s now take a look at The Hat Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for The Hat:
Food: 4.25 / 5
Despite being thin sliced, the pastrami didn’t taste dried out at all, and had some really prominent flavor to it. Mix that in with the tanginess from the mustard and pickles and it was a well-balanced combination.
Atmosphere: 4 / 5
I thought there was definitely a classic theme to the restaurant, drawing inspiration from around the time the first locations opened. The placement of the booths in the middle of the dining area, however, made the walking pattern a little awkward. You’d need to walk all the way around the “U” or cut through an empty booth just to get to the restrooms or soda fountain.
Service: 4.25 / 5
Ordering food up at the counter was pretty straightforward, and the people on the “food assembly line” worked methodically to put together your order. Depending on how slammed they are, my brother mentioned that sometimes it could be a bit of a wait. But we were fortunate that they seemed to crank out the food relatively quickly during our visit.
Price: 4.25 / 5
For the amount of food received, I thought the pricing was relatively on point. Pastrami was overflowing out of the sandwich and the bag of onion rings was loaded up pretty good, too.