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Oh, Langer's...was it just me?

Will Owen Jan 30, 2008 01:57 PM

After a somewhat annoying late-morning dealing with Koreatown traffic - YOU try framing a snapshot when there are no pullover spaces and there's a honking truck on your tail - my last address was on Bonnie Brae, just south of 8th. "A-HA!" I thought. "Time for some Pastrami Therapy!" and headed over to Langer's. I had not been there since our light-rail excusion with the parents several years ago, and after having had a couple of other examples that I thought were not bad at all, but not as good as my memory of Langer's, I figured it was time to check back in.

I have not been a well puppy lately, so I certainly should have played it safer, but I was also ravenously hungry, so I ordered a #19 with a side of potato salad, and asked that the meat be hand-sliced. When it all arrived, the pastrami certainly smelled more like the Real Deal than any other I've had, and the first bites of that and the wonderful bread had me wrapping my hands around it to keep it from flying off in every direction...and then, about halfway into this, I began to notice something: the pastrami, while flavorful, was also some of the saltiest meat I've ever eaten. I could feel my blood-pressure medication sort of go slinking away. And after picking up some of the chunks that fell out onto the plate, there was a disconcerting amount of fattiness in there as well. Fat I like; big gobs of chewy fat I don't. I also was forced to agree with the purists that while coleslaw and Russian dressing can be useful adjuncts to boring, everyday pastrami, it fits on this stuff like canned gravy on a good veal piccata.

The pickles were also disastrously salty, and chewy, not the fresh, crisp-tender whitish-green things I can get in delis, even in Nashville, that otherwise scarcely pretend to Langer's league. As for the potato salad, I was afraid my disappointment was coloring my judgment, so I decided to give it all a rerun the next day.

That was today, and having just gone for Round 2, my sad conclusions have remained intact. I've had country ham that was much less salty than this pastrami, though the fine flavor almost compensates. The pickle's not bad, but still too dull - I like a crisp bite, a mildly salty tang and a good whiff of garlic. And the potato salad is truly deplorable - unevenly cooked potatoes, a few dispirited shreds of some undefinable vegetables, a dressing of no distinct flavor or character. This is rocket science?

After I'm all recovered I'll have to hit them up for a plain-and-simple pastrami sandwich, coleslaw on the side, just to see if I caught'em on a bad day, as they did me. Happens.

  1. russkar Feb 8, 2008 06:22 PM

    Langer's is the BEST Pastrami in the Universe.
    Been going 30 yrs and never and I mean never had a bad day or sandwich there.
    After NY friends have abused me I've dragged them there and accepted their apologies later.
    If it was too salty it wasn't the Pastrami!

    4 Replies
    1. re: russkar
      w
      whatsfordinner Feb 9, 2008 06:52 AM

      Russ, I agree with you on this one! Maybe I'll give All' Angelo another chance.

      1. re: whatsfordinner
        russkar Feb 9, 2008 07:17 AM

        WFD, have you tried All Angelo's new Cichetti Menu? Small Plates and very authentic right up there with Angelini O.

        1. re: russkar
          w
          whatsfordinner Feb 9, 2008 07:31 AM

          No, but I will. One of the things I loved about Venice was its cichetti bars.

          1. re: russkar
            h
            hungerpains Feb 11, 2008 06:24 PM

            I can't agree more with Russkar. I can't recall one time in the 20 or so years that I have been going to Langer's that my sandwich hasn't been absolutely fantastic. I don't think the 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC was any better (except for the pickles). Maybe I just can't taste salt like many of the other reviewers.

      2. lottoman7210 Feb 7, 2008 11:17 AM

        Had to have been 2 bad days...Langer's is where the LORD GOD and Jesus go to nosh when they're in the McArthur Park area...they keep it simple, hand-cut on rye, with just a smidge of brown deli mustard...(sigh of ecstasy), an order of perfectly-cooked golden-brown crinkle-cut fries, and a small green salad. LOVE the salad, especially the tiny sweet gherkin pickles that adorn the top...just ask for the dressing on the side, tends to become watered-down if served on the salad.

        The best pastrami on Earth, perhaps the universe...

        6 Replies
        1. re: lottoman7210
          SauceSupreme Feb 7, 2008 09:32 PM

          "The best pastram on Earth, perhaps the universe..."

          [Chowhound Report] Wrong Board. Please split Langer's discussion to Chowhound: Milky Way Galaxy Region

          Again a reminder for people, the Red Line has a stop at Macarthur Park, which puts you about half a block away from Langer's. In fact, when you emerge out of the tunnel and stare out onto the park and walk 100 feet over to the storefront, you'll wonder out loud exactly why people think this is a scary neighborhood.

          1. re: SauceSupreme
            fgrade Feb 8, 2008 03:06 PM

            try doing that at night, the pastrami might be the best in the universe, but come sunset, langer's put's up the closed sign, and they lock the doors, they've been doing that for years, and with good reason

            1. re: fgrade
              ozzygee Feb 8, 2008 03:48 PM

              There's nothing more frightening than going to Langer's and finding it closed.

              1. re: ozzygee
                JAB Feb 8, 2008 04:36 PM

                The horror!

                1. re: ozzygee
                  fgrade Feb 11, 2008 02:54 PM

                  after this weekend, i must agree, i finally had it! and it is the greatest, my baby and i split one and.........DAMN!

                  but seriously, the neighborhood can be sketchy, matter of fact, there was an incident....at the metro station, thank god there ware a couple of peace officers standing right at the corner outside of langer's...giving out jaywalking tickets to everyone, but at least we were safe and our bellies were full

                  1. re: fgrade
                    ozzygee Feb 11, 2008 03:36 PM

                    Sure, but what part of real LA isn't sketch? And besides, how convenient is it to enjoy a delicious pastrami sandwich while you wait for your new ID, right?

          2. Will Owen Feb 1, 2008 09:57 AM

            Had to come public with this, kids: it WAS me. That "not a well puppy" thing I mentioned was in fact the onset of a flu-like condition, a principal effect of which being that my mouth tissues are hypersensitive to salt and spice. This was brought home to me last night when my wife heated up the remains of my last pot of chili for her supper, and asked if I wanted some. I took a bite to make sure, and found it painfully inedible. So my earnest apologies to Langer's, its reputation and its fans, and I will...gee, I guess I'll just have to make a trip back when I can eat again!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen
              n
              ns1 Feb 1, 2008 10:02 AM

              and the plot thickens....

              1. re: ns1
                Will Owen Feb 1, 2008 10:06 AM

                Sickens.

              2. re: Will Owen
                David Kahn Feb 1, 2008 12:31 PM

                Hope you recover quickly. Funny how things like that can affect the way food tastes.

                1. re: Will Owen
                  notmartha Feb 3, 2008 07:32 PM

                  Glad to hear it wasn't Langer. That's an odd sympton. Usually when I feel sick the last thing I want is meat and fat though.

                  Now if I can just drag my husband back to that questionable neighborhood...

                  1. re: notmartha
                    j
                    jenii Feb 3, 2008 07:39 PM

                    My dad usually calls the order in, and then picks it up. He never even has to leave the car. They hand him the food through the window, he has cash ready, and it's done within a few seconds. I've never actually been inside of Langer's.

                    1. re: jenii
                      a
                      andytseng Feb 11, 2008 10:13 PM

                      You should definitely eat at the restaurant sometime. Their service is always the best. I especially like the old Irish lady. I wish she could be my grandmother.

                2. fgrade Jan 31, 2008 01:17 PM

                  pastrami can be so delicious or just down right disgusting, there is a pizza joint directly north of langer's, on sunset and alvarado, right on the corner, you can't miss it, pizza buona or pizza bozza, depending on which direction you're looking, they serve a pastrami sandwich like no one else does, it has tomatoes and lettuce ( i know i know), the cured meat is griddled if you will, to the point that all the moisture evaporates, and the only thing coating the carvings is its own fatty juices, when completed, the wich' is almost a foot long and very very mmm mmm, i took my sweetheart a short while ago and she loved it...the pizza is not too shabby either

                  1. David Kahn Jan 31, 2008 11:16 AM

                    Next time, specify that you want "new pickles."

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: David Kahn
                      ipsedixit Jan 31, 2008 11:20 AM

                      Are those like "new potatoes" ...

                      :-)

                    2. bigtums Jan 31, 2008 08:21 AM

                      I had Langer's for the first time a few weeks ago and thought the pastrami was a tad salty. But the bread was really good. I can see the #19 going well with the pastrami for the salty sweet contrast. I got the regular ol' pastrami with a bowl of soup. It was good. Really good. I don't know why, but I had Billy's in Glendale also for the first time a few weeks ago and their pastrami left a better impression.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: bigtums
                        w
                        Wolfgang Jan 31, 2008 09:40 AM

                        I had Langer's on Tuesday, 1/29. I had my usual--pastrami on rye, mustard on the side, and potato salad.
                        I started a thread a month or two ago about some disappointing recent Langer's experiences. This one was no different. The pastrami had fat, which I like, but the meat part was dried out, as if they are cooking it a shorter amount of time at a higher temperature. And the bread, always a winner, was slightly stale whereas it's usually tender and moist with a perfectly crispy crust. The bread tasted like it was a day old. The pastrami is always salty, which is fine by me, and leads to an afternoon of chugging water as my stomach gets fuller and fuller. The potato salad is never great, but I enjoy eating it with the sandwich. The pickles change all the time, both in flavour and crispness. These were terrible on both accounts.
                        The sandwich is no longer a heavenly experience. I want it to be again, but they are doing something differently and it's not working.

                        1. re: Wolfgang
                          n
                          ns1 Jan 31, 2008 09:47 AM

                          wow, this is bad. I gotta go back to langer's and re-experience this for myself.

                          1. re: Wolfgang
                            bigtums Jan 31, 2008 09:57 AM

                            So when I went I also went with a friend and his sandwich had almost no meat in it. Really. He can be a bit of a complainer so I just rolled my eyes when he called the waitress over. But when he pulled back the bread he was right. There was seriously like three pieces, small pieces. The waitress when to ask the kitchen to put more on and they refused to. So then she went over to her manager and she made them put more because I overheard her saying, "What?! Those are just end pieces!" She made it happen, but I was surprised it was such an ordeal. It wasn't like he had a full sandwich and was asking for more. My half sandwich had, literally, at least 5 times more meat. Really.

                            1. re: bigtums
                              choctastic Feb 8, 2008 03:46 PM

                              I've had extremely skimpy sandwiches there before. Your friend's sandwich sounds like half the ones I've gotten here.

                        2. Bon Vivant Jan 30, 2008 07:15 PM

                          Weird! My boss went there for lunch today and she was very disappointed: she said that the pastrami was way too salty.

                          http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot.com

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Bon Vivant
                            n
                            ns1 Jan 30, 2008 07:25 PM

                            hm, interesting. maybe they pulled an "i love lucy"?

                            "i can't remember if i salted these eggs yet..."

                            1. re: Bon Vivant
                              Bon Vivant Feb 1, 2008 04:30 PM

                              Well, my ex-boss took me there for lunch today and I ordered what current boss ordered on Weds (the #19 - pastrami on rye with coleslaw and swiss) and it was really, really good! So, in short, I don't think it was you, I think that they were having an off day.

                              http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot.com

                            2. w
                              Wes Jan 30, 2008 04:27 PM

                              This is one of the places I have wanted to like for many years. Although always disappointing I return every few years in hopes of the pastrami heaven touted here and by others. Must be me.

                              I have finally given up. I'll stick with Brent's

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Wes
                                s
                                Sam D. Jan 31, 2008 07:46 AM

                                It may seem incomprehensible to to a lot of hounds here, but not everyone is a fan of Langer's pastrami. I much prefer Billy's over Langer's for the pastrami and their pickles. One thing I admit that Langer's excels in is the rye bread they use in the sandwiches.

                                1. re: Sam D.
                                  n
                                  ns1 Jan 31, 2008 08:14 AM

                                  error. does not compute.

                                  divide by zero.

                                  ;)

                              2. h
                                hpcat Jan 30, 2008 04:03 PM

                                I went a couple of weeks ago. I ordered the hand-cut pastrami sandwich, LEAN, a NEW dill, sides of chopped liver and cole slaw (this was a to-go order). The sandwich, which I spread the chopped liver over, was divine. I didn't notice any difference in taste from when I last had this sandwich, last spring. Even though lean, this meat was very tender. I loved this sandwich. The pickle was also good, perhaps because I requested new. The only disappointment was the cole slaw. There was chopped green pepper in it, which completely took over the flavor of the slaw. Why would anyone put green pepper in cole slaw? I couldn't eat it...

                                1. f
                                  FortyDeuce Jan 30, 2008 02:37 PM

                                  I've been waiting until I am remotely close to downtown to try Langers. I've read all of the reviews on this board for a long time but maybe I should wait until they get their act together.

                                  I actually came on today to search if there was any mention of Nosh in Beverly Hills. Again I will say that I have not had Langers yet. But I love the Pastrami at Nosh. Its the best I have had. I like my pastrami lean.
                                  Whats everyone else's opinion?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: FortyDeuce
                                    n
                                    ns1 Jan 30, 2008 02:45 PM

                                    It's been some what, 50 years for them to get their act together?

                                    I have not been disappointed yet.

                                    #19 + fries crispy + coke = heaven

                                    1. re: ns1
                                      Will Owen Jan 30, 2008 03:36 PM

                                      It may have taken them some time to get their act together, but a lttle carelessness can make it fall apart. I was reading with some interest an old interview with Al Langer, in which he points out that only Langer's and one NY deli have hand-cut pastrami. The interviewer protests that he's had hand-cut at many other places. Al says, "Did you have to ask?" "Ummm, yes I did..." Al says, "Well, if you have to ask, that isn't really hand-cut!" How long's it been since that was the case here?

                                      I ain't giving up - I'm just SAYin'...

                                      1. re: Will Owen
                                        n
                                        ns1 Jan 30, 2008 04:34 PM

                                        fair enough. I'm just saying I haven't been disappointed yet ;)

                                        It's okay though, I wasn't overwhelmed by sushi gen either. heh

                                  2. a
                                    aventinus Jan 30, 2008 02:34 PM

                                    Don't eat pastrami but their bagels with smoked fish have always disappointed me. I like Nate & Als much better.

                                    1. n
                                      nosh Jan 30, 2008 02:23 PM

                                      Look, we are talking about pastrami! Pastrami is beef brisket that has been corned and then seasoned even more -- saltiness is not just a seasoning, but an essence. And much of the criticism of the plain hand-cut pastrami on rye at Langer's is that it can be a bit too lean and thus dry -- I order mine untrimmed so I don't lose the texture and moisture from the crusty fat layer. On the side, potato salad may not be Langer's strength -- I prefer a cup of the matzoh ball soup as a starter or a plate of their crinkle cut fries, ordered well, to share on the side.

                                      I can't recall ordering it, but I've seen a coworker order Langer's brisket and it looked tender and good. If it is slow-roasted and then steamed like the pastrami, it could provide a lot of the same bite and unctuousness without the saltiness -- wonder if they'd do a half'n'half?

                                      1. n
                                        nimo Jan 30, 2008 02:16 PM

                                        Had the 19 last week. Perfect as always.

                                        Although, yes, the potato salad and pickles are awful.

                                        1. a
                                          andytseng Jan 30, 2008 02:09 PM

                                          Sorry to hear about your disappointing trip to Langer's, but that might just be a good thing. God's way of telling you to slow down a little bit on the fatty, salty food? I think your doctor might agree as he jots down another prescription for diovan and adds some lipitor just in case.

                                          1. ipsedixit Jan 30, 2008 02:08 PM

                                            Man, there's nothing worse than a chewy pickle.

                                            1. n
                                              ns1 Jan 30, 2008 01:58 PM

                                              Sounds like a bad day, which is unfortunate.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: ns1
                                                notmartha Jan 30, 2008 02:12 PM

                                                But sounds like 2 bad days. Hum. I don't mind fat, but I don't recall the pastrami being salty before. Can't comment on the potato salad or cole slaw - never ordered there.

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