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Johnnie's Pastrami (review+pics)

Having heard off and on about Johnnie's Pastrami for awhile now, I decided to check it out for lunch since I just happened to be in the neighborhood. I've definitely heard mixed reviews about Johnnie's pastrami sandwich, everything from "tasteless", "gristly", "cold" to "lean", "juicy" and "tasty." There didn't seem to be a middle ground, but than that can be said about how we all tend to view food in general. We either like something or we don't.

Even before looking at the menu, I liked the feeling of Johnnie's as I walked inside. It was a classic diner to the max. There were brown vinyl booths, green vinyl counter seats, a jukebox you could feed quarters to and I even liked how the pies were stacked in this cylindrical glass container. A pie for every taste, whether it be Mom's apple pie, blueberry pie, cherry pie or peach pie!

Once I ordered at the counter, I opted to sit at one of their outside patios, specifically where the fire pit was blazing away. Upon sitting down, I was served with a silver bowl of chunky pickle slices. Generally, I like pickles, but I didn't care for these too much. They weren't very crunchy and tasted bland.

Soon, the Johnnie's Deluxe Pastrami Plate I ordered was placed in front of me. For a minute, I stared. Don't get me wrong. I was hungry, but there's no way I would have been able to finish everything on that plate. I didn't even try. Half of the sandwich ended up going home, but the other half I enjoyed there.

When I took my first bite, I honestly felt like I was eating air. Sounds funny, huh? In comparison to the pastrami I've had in the past at Langer's, The Hat's and other noted pastrami restaurants, which tend to be meatier, denser, more chewy, more peppery, Johnnie's pastrami was definitely lighter and leaner than I'm used to. Johnnie's pastrami was also more moist as opposed to how oily pastrami meat can get sometimes. The moistness is probably due to the fact that Johnnie's pastrami is steamed. It took a couple more bites before I realized that I was actually enjoying the sandwich.

What I noticed about Johnnie's pastrami is that it's just a different eating experience from a Langer's or The Hat's pastrami sandwich. While I think Johnnie's pastrami lacked a much needed peppery/zingy flavor, I was quite taken with the lean, tender and moist quality of the meat and I liked how the half sandwich I ate didn't leave me with a heavy feeling, that sometimes happens when you eat a sandwich with greasier meat.

Now would I choose a Johnnie's pastrami over a Langer's or The Hat's pastrami? Not necessarily. It just depends on what my tastebuds are craving and when they're craving flavor, sometimes only Langer's or The Hat will do, but if I want something lighter and leaner and am willing to make the trek Westside, than Johnnie's may just have to come on top.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

Johnnie's Pastrami
4017 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 397-6654

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  1. Nice review, but I'm having a hard time getting my head around the repeated use of "Langer's and The Hat" as some kind of natural pair. That's like saying "Mozza and Pizza Hut", or "Pann's and KFC". Which is not to deride either Langer's or The Hat, as I know how one can be in the mood for cheap and chewy instead of expensive and blissful. And it does sound a bit as though Johnnie's pastrami falls somewhere in between these two. I'll just have to give it a visit - thanks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Will Owen

      Langer's is awesome, and The Hat is a notch above.

      Go to both now.

    2. I find Johnnies and the hat to be very similar with my nod Johnnies.

      1. Wow, that is a thick stack of pastrami, particularly if it continues on to the back of the sandwich rather than being a baseball-shaped portion that immediately thins out. But $13.75 for the plate?!? that is as dear as Langer's.

        For better value sandwiches in that area, I'd consider:

        Markie D's for philly cheesesteaks or pastrami, Washington just east of Sepulveda.

        Ham sandwich at Honeybaked, on Sepulveda near Slauson. Maybe its just me, but I think they prepare and serve a superior product.

        Pastrami or beef sandwich at Harvey's, on Palms at Motor. Solid neighborhood family-run place, which also has delicious-looking asian rice and meat plates.

        Hot pastrami or roast beef at Togo's, north side of Venice across from Wendy's. I'm a big Togo's fan -- half the price of Johnnie's and beats Subway or Quizno's handily.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          I have to confess, I'm a sucker for the pastrami at Togo's, too...

          1. re: a_and_w

            I love Togo's too, but I have been going to them for over 20 years. I think their first one was in Long Beach and we use to go there after class (CSULB) for our fix.

          2. re: nosh

            Harvey's also has veggige pastrami that pretty good. When i was eating meat I always thought Johnnies was ok but way overpriced. good burgers though

          3. I like your close-up picture of the meat in the sandwich. Nice shot. :)

            1. My memories of Johnnie's include sitting outside around the fire pit on warm summer nights, as well as cold winter nights. If I recall correctly, the restaurant had sliding glass panels that they would open on the warmer nights. This place used to be a staple for me in high school as well as my early college years but I haven't eaten here since the mid-90's, for to do so now would ensure a cardiac arrest. I used to get the pastrami dip with a slice of swiss, fries with ketchup and hot mustard, and occasionally an order of onion rings on top of that. I would always be amazed at how much pastrami the chef could stuff into that french roll, and how this same guy worked behing that counter for decades. The pickles would give one the illusion that these would be the vegetable-part of the meal, while the little hot peppers were a great palate cleanser between bites. No one walked away hungry from this place, and the beer was always cold. Yeah, one could find a better or different pastrami at a handful of delis around LA, but to be able to have that experience of pulling in late at night, filling one's gullet and shooting the breeze with the CHP guys while my favorite 70s music was playing off of those tabletop jukeboxes was a great time that can't be replicated elsewhere in the Westside.

              6 Replies
              1. re: bulavinaka

                Same here! Johnnie's is a classic. I haven't been there in years and years but I loved looking at the pictures from the OP - nothing has changed there! The pics of the pastrami made me drool. Well I guess one thing has changed - it sure was a whole lot cheaper when I used to frequent that place but I guess you could say that about pretty much everywhere.

                1. re: monkuboy

                  I've been wanting to give Johnnie's a try, it is a lot nearer than The Hot or Langers (but Markie D's is even closer for me).

                  Chili-cheese frys at Johnnie's??? (I love them at the Hat)

                  1. re: monkuboy

                    I think the higher prices are worth it for those of us who have racked up alot of time there. For me, it's once in a blue moon now (the last time was the mid-90s) as my metabolism is but a fraction of what it was when I used to eat there at least a couple of times a month. It's kind of a strange place too, as it is the only place that I could actually sip a beer while talking with the cops and CHPers!

                  2. re: bulavinaka

                    Haha! Same here as well!! I even hauled everybody over there at 4 a.m. for breakfast at the tail-end of my bachelor party in 1982! The CHP's laughed their asses off when I pulled the no parking sign outta the curb and tossed it into the middle of Sepulveda! Johnnie's was the second place I ever ate solid food... First one was the old Jefferson Bowl Coffee Shop.

                    1. re: guu

                      Were the cops lauging their asses off before or after the arrested you for drunk & disorderly? :)

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        1982 was a different world in LA. Cops had a lot more discretion back then. Some times, this was good, some times, not so good. Typically though, they didn't bust your nuts for every little thing like they do now, by decree.