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Langer's Hand Cut Pastrami - Overrated!

HAHA, Just kidding, I thought it was divine. Just wanted to stir things up on the message board.

I finally made it before their 4pm closing time, and ordered the hand cut pastrami on rye, mustard only. Great great sandwich. I love the mouth-feel, the overall "lusciousness" of the meat, something very surprising. Heck, even the rye bread's toasted crust tasted great. All in all, finally worth it.

That being said, it's still easier for me to get a sandwich at Brent's.

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  1. Is there a real difference between hand-cut and machine-cut? I finally made it to Langer's last week. I didn't realize you were supposed to ask for hand-cut.

    I ordered the plain hot pastrami on rye. I was completely underwhelmed. I was shocked because after the posts on this Board, I was expecting nirvana. I found the meat kind of dry and not all that flavorful. I had to douse the meat with mustard to give it some kind of flavor.

    As I said, I had no idea you were supposed to ask for hand-cut. They had posted in the window an article from the 1980's (I think) how Langer's hand-cuts all its pastrami and if you have to ask for it hand-cut, it doesn't count. I guess times have changed.

    I did love the atmosphere of the place - the big picture windows overlooking MacArthur Park; the feeling of stepping back into the late 1940's; the great waitress. It's only the pastrami that didn't do it for me. It really didn't taste that much different to me than the mail-order Niman Ranch pastrami that I ordered recently.

    16 Replies
    1. re: omotosando

      Went two weeks ago and the #19 - hand cut was nirvana! I was trying not to eat the entire sandwich and then before I knew it, the sandwich was gone!

      1. re: misseatalot

        Yes, #19 is the way to go! I think it is fantastic!!

      2. re: omotosando

        Whaaat? No flavor? I don't know what to say to that as it goes against pretty much every Langer's pastrami experience I've ever had (and there have been far too many...!)

        The only thing I can come up with to explain your experience is perhaps you are not an experienced pastrami devourer... Langer's is very consistent (sometimes fattier than others, but that's the extent of it) and they truly dish up the best of the breed (and this is coming from a born-and-bred back easter who has eaten at many of New York's top pastrami spots... in fact one time I did a side-by-side sandwich comparison with Katz's deli in NY... that took a little doing to set up).

        I've thought of one other possibility... against the advisement of our server, my sister once decided to order her Langer's pastrami sandwich "lean cut" (for several $$ more) and it was extremely bland compared to the real thing. Did you happen to order the lean cut?

        One thing to realize is that a huge part of the reason that Langer's is so good is because of texture. Go to the Ralph's deli and get sample slice of whatever schlock they've got in the glass case, then go to Langer's. Most pastrami you'll encounter in this world is closer to Ralph's (chewy, bland, rubbery) whereas Langer's in unbelievably tender, succulent, mildly peppery and flavorful. A hint of Gulden's deli mustard really enhances the flavor (god oh god no French's yellow mustard PLEASE!). The crisp edge of the rye bread contrasts with the soft interior and the tender meat. As your teeth sink into the sandwich you get this wonderful blast of different textures, flavors and sensations.

        If you get any of the add-on monstrosity options which pile on the thousand island dressing, cole slaw, and swiss cheese (good lord! you'd think goyim were running the place!) then you are drowning out the delicate texture and flavor of the pastrami as it was meant to be loved and all the efforts of generations of Eastern European Jewish immigrants are in vain.

        Give my Ralph's experiment a try...... eat some other random jewish deli style pastrami sandwiches around town (as opposed to the Johnnie's/The Hat variety of pastrami sandwich), and then report back!

        Mr Taster
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        1. re: Mr Taster

          Speaking for the goyim, cole slaw, 1000 island dressing and ANY cheese need not apply for any pastrami sandwich I eat at the pinnacle!!!

          1. re: carter

            Praise Jesus!

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          2. re: Mr Taster

            I just didn't think the pastrami was as good as pastrami that I have had in the past, such as at the late 2nd Avenue Deli. It was dry and could have used a tad more fat. I didn't order the lean cut, but maybe that is what I go. Or maybe it was because I didn't ask for hand-cut. I dunno - is there a bad (or less good) part of the pastrami that someone has got to get?

            1. re: omotosando

              Many times I have asked for hand cut, and many others I forget to tell them. To be honest, I've never noticed that big a difference in quality. Maybe I need to do a side by side comparison to confirm.

              But "not enough fat" has *never* been a problem... in fact it is my overwhelming experience that Langer's tends to err on the "too much fat" side, when they err at all.

              The *only* time I have had dry/less flavor pastrami is when I tasted my sister's lean cut. That's it-- in fact, in February I catered my Chinese/Jewish wedding with 5 lbs. of Langer's and so am intimately familiar with it... still washing the aroma out of my tuxedo.

              Mr Taster
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            2. re: Mr Taster

              Mr. Taster-- I am pleased to report that we did exactly the same thing a few years ago. My husband brought a large slab of pastrami back from Katz' and we had a pastrami-off. He is a good good man. Langers was deemed superior but we decided the contest was unfairly biased in favor of local product since we had to steam the Katz' meat ourselves. Still...

              1. re: JudiAU

                i was recently at 2nd ave deli, before it closed, and the pastrami there was no better than nate n al's.

                langer's is completely better, and head and shoulders above the crowd, even above katz's because katz's bread isn't as good at all.

                1. re: kevin

                  My memory of the 2nd Ave Deli is the same, but it's been about 6 years since I was there so I reserved making a comment about it.

                  And I totally agree that Katz's "bread-out-of-the-plastic bag" is really what kills it when compared to Langer's more rustic, toothy steamed toast (though I think Katz's may just barely edge out Langer's on the actual flavor of the pastrami...)

                  Mr Taster
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                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I totally agree with you, Mr Taster. I had a Katz sandwich for breakfast and a Langer's sandwich the next day just to compare the two. I preferred the Langer's sandwich because of the bread, but the Katz pastrami was a bit tastier on its own. Too similar in taste to make a big stink about how one was better than the other, though.

                    1. re: Devourer

                      I guess the good part about the bad bread is that you can easily reproduce a Katz's sandwich at home with plastic bag bread, whereas the Langer's experience is a little harder to replicate :)

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                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Bread is simply not a tall pole. Even Tommy Pastrami has excellent rye bread baked fresh daily, quite tasty and crusty but chewy inside.

                        1. re: bernardo

                          Agreed... then why does Katz's still go for the plastic bag bread?!?

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                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          You can buy Langer's bread, reheat in the oven as per their direction (wet with water first), and pile in your meat of choice. ;)

                    2. re: kevin

                      actually, imho, nate 'n als was far superior to 2nd av. deli.
                      the bread at nate 'n als was never served cold and crumbly--it was always crusty on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. the second av. deli looked at bread as an inconvenience.
                      the pastrami at nate 'n al's, too, was superior.

              2. You evil...evil.. evil... person... I agree... I don't even like Pastrami, but I'll happy scarf down a Langers Sammich anyday! YUM!! :D

                --Dommy!

                1. Nice one, you made me click :-)

                  I love love love Langer's ! Wish I could go more often (though my wife would differ -she dosen't like my love handles as it is !)

                  1. Brent's in nice but it's no LANGER'S.
                    Langer's is still the undisputed champion of HAND CUT Pastrami- Double Baked Rye in the USA.
                    Nothing is more fun then taking friends from NYC and watching them squirm as they take the first bite and having to backtrack on their previous comments about how NYC has the best Pastrami, NOT!.

                    1. Hahahaha...very cute. I like Langer's (I used to work close by), but now I have to drive a bit for a pastrami fix. Those who are Langer regulars, when is a good time (lunch and/or dinner) to beat the crowds?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: alag77

                        Dinner's never crowded

                        (they close at 4pm)

                        Mr Taster
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                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Ah, thanks :) I've only been there for lunch but assumed they might be open for dinner. Too bad. It seems like it would make a great late-night meal (the indigestion, not withstanding).

                      2. OK, Brent's is easier, but is it also No. 2 behind Langer's for pastrami on rye? If not, IYHO what would be No. 2 in the LA area (even if a distant second) to the Holy Grail?

                        Incidentally, does Brent's, Art's or Nate'N Als hand cut on request? I can't remember ever requesting it.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: bernardo

                          I think the real dilemma is that when compared to Langer's, there is no "no. 2".... or 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. in Los Angeles. It goes straight down to about no. 43.

                          In New York you'd have more intermediary pastrami to choose from, but in LA Langer's is the only game in town for top notch Jewish deli pastrami. Everything else here (that I've found) is your standard chewy to rubber-bandy Ralph's-ish fare-- even the much lauded Brent's.

                          Mr Taster
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                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            I happen to prefer Label's Table... and I confess I have hit up Johnnies in Culver City for a late-night bite, but the last time it was a disaster. Have to try again.

                            1. re: elgordorocks

                              There's a distinction to be made here... gotta compare apples to apples.

                              Johnnie's/The Hat makes a tasty sandwich, but it's a different category of pastrami (it is of the "Socal goyim pastrami" breed-- you know, the thinly sliced, chewy, cheap kind you can get on your hot dog at Pink's)

                              The Jewish deli (kosher style) pastrami is what we're talking about here. Now I've never been to Label's Table, but can you claim that they have the same thick sliced, melt-in-your-mouth tender succulence that Langer's has? (That's why the cheap pastrami places always have such thin slices... if you sliced them as thick as Langer's, it would be the texture of shoe leather. Likewise, Langer's must be thick slices because it is so tender than a thin slice would all but disintegrate.)

                              To clarify, does Label's Table offer pastrami that has been steamed at low temperatures for so long that all the connective tissues have melted into lovely, satiny gelatin, barely able to hold the succulent strips together? Do they steam toast their bread so the crust is super crispy, the middle soft and warm?

                              As I said, I've never been to Label's but somehow I can't imagine that this is the case!

                              Mr Taster
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                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                i went to label's once on pico, same blah pastrami, nothing special. just cheaper than langer's.

                                tried nate n' als' again which i used to like back in the day (before i got around to trying langers) and yep rubbery garbarge at nate n al's, i was really surprised. i think langer's pastrami just ruined everything else for me.

                                langer's for pastrami.
                                maggee's in the farmer's market for corned beef. end of story.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  Hmmm, Langer's for pastrami, Magee's for corned, XXXX for brisket.... But since all three are presumably brisket cooked in a similar fashion -- other than spicing for pastrami and corned & especially exterior for pastrami -- wouldn't you expect similar texture for all three at one place? Maybe multiple sources if flavor rules but single source if texture rules.

                                  1. re: bernardo

                                    That's an interesting point... has anyone ever ordered corned beef at Langer's?

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                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Yes, I LOVE it... (More than the Pastrami! But I LOATHE pastrami so...) but it's a very different sammich than the one one at MaGees... Magess is much more rustic. While Langers is a bit more finished, like a Ruben. That is why I stick to plates at Magees and Sammies at Langers.

                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                  Wow, I feel like I must be living in some parallel universe, as apparently the only person in L.A. to have been served a less than "to die for" pastrami sandwich at Langer's. But I swear my pastrami was more on the thin side than thick cut and had virtually no fat. I was kicking myself for not having ordered the #19, since I think the coleslaw and Russian dressing would have helped impart a bit more flavor. I ate there at 9:30 a.m. Is it possible I got the prior afternoon's dregs?

                                  I'll have to give it another try, but this time I think I will get the #19 (and ask for hand-cut).

                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    Please note that 95% of the people here have not recommended the #19 goyim monstrosity...

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                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Seriously, omotosando-- you really should try a side by side comparison.

                                      Get a plain pastrami sandwich at any Jewish deli in LA (accented with only a bit of Gulden's brown deli mustard). Eat half and bring the other half to Langer's. Note the texture of the bread AND the pastrami.

                                      Then with the memory of the previous sandwich fresh in your mind, eat the Langer's sandwich (also accented with Gulden's-- not French's yellow, not that weird beaver mustard, not ketchup, etc.).

                                      I have no doubt you'll see the difference, which is markedly profound!

                                      Mr Taster
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                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Purity is less the LA ethic than diversity when a place like Danny's calls itself a deli yet offers chophouse favorites & steamed manila clams along with its chopped liver & matzoh ball soup:
                                        http://www.calendarlive.com/dining/cl...

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Ah, Mr. Taster, your logic is faulty. Just because the pastrami at Langer's is better than the chozzerai served at restaurant X doesn't make it a great pastrami. Each pastrami sandwich, including Langer's, must rise or fall on its own merits.

                                          I will return to Langer's (sans comparative sandwich from restaurant X). I will specify hand-cut and not too lean. And I think I will order a #19, hold the swiss. IMHO, a pastrami sandwich only descends into the land of the goy when cheese is added.

                                  2. re: elgordorocks

                                    The Label's Table in Calabasas used to be a deli called the "Nosh-O-Rama" -- a great name in and of itself. When my son, now 21, was a little fellah, he used to call it the "Wash-O-Mama," which, if anything, is even better.

                                    That's all. Just a family anecdote.

                              2. you got me. i saw that headline and was getting ready to cuss you out.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: duffyeater

                                  i used to live around the corner from langers and so i ate there quite a bit. every once in a blue moon (usually later in the day), the pastrami would be a little tired. 9 times out 10 it's heaven, but, sometimes, for whatever reason, it's not as good.

                                  1. re: 9thandBroadway

                                    Go to langers twice a month for lunch. Always half a pastrami and bowl of matzo ball soup. Highest quality pastrami I have tasted and the bread is killer. Personally I end up trimming away most of the fat, but by then it has done its job.

                                    With that said, if its a late night stop for take out or to accompany a viewing of an at home sporting event, Johnnies (who BTW uses solid quality Vienna beef) is my choice. Apples and Oranges with Langers, but both great in their own way.

                                    Also eat at Brents almost every Sunday (primarily for breakfast) of the year and their corned beef and pastrami are also top notch. I have not had Magees in several years so I will try again. Last time I tried it was solid but would not surpass the others I have mentioned.

                                2. Thanks for the report. Was going to Mama's Tamale for lunch before the Science Center Star Wars exhibit, but I think I'll go to Langer's instead as I am now challenged to see if it's indeed better than Katz. I still have 1 pound of Katz pastrami sitting in my freezer courtesy of my visiting NYC relatives. Although maybe it's not so fair a comparison of fresh versus previously frozened.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: notmartha

                                    Not entirely fair... no... But still, I'd give it a shot! ;)

                                    And what we do when faces with the Langers and Mama's dilemma, is go to Langers and then walk over to Mama's to get some Tamales to stash in the freezer. They steam up at home REALLY well. :D

                                    --Dommy!

                                    1. re: Dommy

                                      I was thinking of getting the tamales to go if time permits. I was drooling over your post in the tamales comparison a while back.

                                      Didn't know that they are within walking distances to each other though. That much better!

                                      1. re: notmartha

                                        Yes, you just cross Alvarado and you are there, literally just a few doors down. :D

                                  2. Went to Langers this weekend and got the plain old pastrami sandwich, a chopped liver sandwich, cole slaw and fries.

                                    The pastrami sandwich was good (I ordered the hand cut version, per all the recs on chowhound), but I don't know how people can compare it with Katz in NYC. They are completely 2 different beasts and they have their own merits.

                                    The Langer's version was less salty, thicker in cut, and the rye bread is just great as others mentioned. But it's meat was stacked too thin for my taste - it just doesn't seem to be a proper sandwich unless the meat is so thick that it makes it difficult to fit your mouth around it (maybe I am preconditioned for the other type). The pastrami itself also seems to be less aggressively seasoned with spices, closer to corned beef than the Katz version. I defrosted and steamed my Katz pastrami for a taste comparison at home and it definitely have more garlic and pepper than Langers. Anyway, both are good in their own way and I will happily eat either.

                                    Now the chopped liver sandwich - that's to die for. Just love the taste and texture, especially against the crunchy yet soft rye bread. Total winner and easily the best chopped liver I've tasted.

                                    Cole slaw - can live without. If I close my eyes and just it tasted blind it tasted of nothing but salt and cabbage. Not sure what that watery white stuff was but it didn't add any flavor.

                                    Fries - crinkle cut, so I suspect it's previously frozened, but's its actually surprising good. Very crunchy on the outside, puffy/starchy within. Real good.

                                    The waitress was so friendly it's like being served by your grandma.

                                    Lastly, you can get the excellent rye bread to go. Makes a great toast.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: notmartha

                                      I too have always loved the chopped liver at Langer's, despite many naysayers on the board.

                                      Example:
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/64056...

                                      I've never quite gotten why people on this board don't like the chopped liver more. It's a great example of the genre-- savory, oniony, eggy, full of flavor. Contrast that for example with Brent's overly sugary stuff (I can't stand a sweetened chopped liver) or the bland, bland, bland stuff that shows up inexplicably at Pico Kosher Deli.

                                      Incidentally, Langer's chopped liver compliments the pastrami sandwich quite well and is the only item (other than Gulden's deli mustard) that I would put on my sandwich. In fact, to get the best of both worlds what we'll often do is order the pastrami platter instead of the sandwich, which comes with a dollop of chopped liver (as well as pickles, a stack of steam toasted rye, and other goodies), and it costs about the same as 2 sandwiches.

                                      As for the size of the pastrami sandwich, yes I do miss the overstuffed sandwiches that NY delis like Katz's dishes up (which really is too much, incidentally, because I'm always full after half of one, and I'm not a small guy-- but the overstuffed sandwich does make for the quintessential NY deli experience.) However you'll notice that Katz's sandiwch is several dollars more expensive than Langer's as well. According to their websites, Langer's pastrami sandwich is $10.95 whereas Katz's $13.45.... incidentally, Katz's menu says "Ask for mayo at your own peril." Ha!! See, they understand.... imagine if someone waked up to the counter man at Katz's and asked for thousand island, cole slaw and swiss cheese! They'd plotz!

                                      I suppose on your next visit to Langer's, you could ask for $3 more pastrami layered onto your sandwich and see how that turns out.... hmm, that's not such a bad idea.

                                      As for the flavor of the pastrami itself, when I did my side by side test of Katz's, they are equal in tenderness and succulence but I agree that Katz's **slightly** edges out Langer's in flavor. However when you're talking sandwiches, Katz's loses BIG points for using cold rye out of a plastic bag. It is for that reason I have to go with Langer's for best pastrami sandwich I've ever eaten.

                                      Mr Taster
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                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Will definitely do that next time. I think if I order the regular sandwich and just pile all the meat into 1/2 of the sandwich that'll do the trick. I think the mouthfeel is different when there's more meat to bite down at once. Even juicier somehow.

                                        We weren't hungry this time, so I didn't go for the chopped liver/pastrami combo - thought it may be too much together. Actually at Katz we split 1 pastrami sandwich, and got a scoop of chopped liver to share, which was then spread onto the sandwich. Love that combo!

                                        I'll take Langers' chopped liver over Mozza's chicken liver bruschette anytime (yeah - I know Jewish deli is different than Italian food, but good food is good food). Thanks for the link to the other post. Don't know about light and airy chopped liver. It's not supposed to be a liver mousse.

                                        1. re: notmartha

                                          Just to clarify, I was referring to the pastrami platter (a build-your-own sandwich platter which happens to include chopped liver) and was *not* referring to the chopped liver/pastrami sandwich combo, which I wouldn't recommend because they give you less pastrami AND it costs more ($11.60)! Be sure to tell them to hold the Russian dressing.... I just don't understand their thinking on this.

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                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Got it, thanks for the clarification!

                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                          Agree about bread, but IOHO the sides are a quintessential part of the deli experience equation, especially the pickles (news are my fave), potato salad, slaw & of course Dr Brown's sodas. Crunchy pickled tomatoes and authentic barrel cured sauerkraut help too. I went to one Bar Mitzvah where I ODed on pickles so good that I can't remember any of the other chow. Unfortunately, yet to find any one place where the meats, breads & sides all excel. But we can dream, can't we?

                                          BTW, we special ordered brisket from Bristol during Passover that had similar consistency to Langer's pastrami, soft, tender, buttery, and fall apart in your mouth (and strangely reasonably priced below $10/lb). There must be a technique for getting Langer type consistency that's well known to those who know it well.

                                          1. re: bernardo

                                            I think the consistency isn't that hard to duplicate, it's the taste. I've steamed corned beef very gently for 1.5-2 hours and it's the same melt in your mouth almost falling apart tenderness. Much, much better than boiling the darn thing.