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Hot pastrami report

  • t

I have just returned from a 5-day visit to LA, during which I ate a pastrami sandwich, cole slaw, and chicken soup with kreplach at three restaurants (on three consecutive days...).

The one I consider best is Art's Deli, on Ventura Bvd. in Studio City. A busy, bustling room, no-nonsense friendly service, extensive/complete menu of Jewish deli specialties. The pastrami was moist, aromatic, with appropriate traces of fat, thinly sliced, piled high. The default seeded rye bread was fresh, crusty, fragrant. The soup was properly chickeny, the kreplachs well filled. A hot pastrami sandwich is an eternal verity, and Art's is a worthy keeper of that faith.

The second prize goes to Nate'n Al, on North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. Also busy... etc., but the pastrami was unpleasantly dry: I found it difficult to get through a mouthful without some assistance from the pickle and cole slaw, and could not detect the aroma I expect from pastrami because of the dryness.The rye bread was also dryer and less tasty than Art's. The soup and kreplach were excellent. The fact that Beverly Drive is one block away and parallel to Rodeo Drive, and that the restaurant is surrounded by UPUPUPscale shops may or may not explain the absence of the minimal fat content required by a genuine pastrami sandwich. As it stands, I had the impression of a back lot staging for a Jewish deli, compared to the genuine atmosphere at Art's.

I am sad to say that the last in line is Canter's on Fairfax, a few blocks away from the Farmer's Market, in an older section of LA. Sad because it is the most authentic of the three, surrounded by other business catering to an older Jewish clientele. Unfortunately, it has grown ungraciously old itself: second rate meat, bouillon cube soup, badly cooked and barely filled kreplach. It survives on its past glory, and for that alone, it was worth being there.

P.S. The suggestion I received on this board for Cicada proved to be very good. The setting is superb, Lalique glass all over, original Art-Deco; the food is first class, careful preparation, elegant presentation, polished service. Thankyou.

P.P.S. Anyone planning a visit to LA should take an extra day to visit the Getty Museum. World-class setting, magnificent architecture, exquisitely mounted exhibits.

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  1. Too bad we didn't discuss your deli here first. Canter's caters to late night hipsters and club types. Since it's not a kosher deli, not many of the neighborhood potential clientele would patronize the place. For pastrami, I (and most others I believe) would have told you to go to Langers at 7th and Alvarado. Art's specialty is the corned beef and the tongue, but Langers has the pastrami. IMO, that's all that Langers has as I find the rest of the menu pretty mediocre. But the pastrami is the reason to go. Next time.

    7 Replies
    1. re: jerome

      another deli i would like to throw into the mix here is Brent's in Northridge. while not exactly L.A.-close (i live in the south bay), i wouldn't hesitate to stop by again if i were headed up north...

      excellent rye bread, decent potato salad (not sweet, bleh), good pickles, extensive menu.

      however, spending seven years in NYC has damaged several preconceived notions of deli. i'm a HUGE fan of Katz's, and i now believe that all pastrami should be hand-cut, not sent through a machine!

      1. re: Joe Blowe

        langer's is hand-cut, just make sure and specify it. because i think you have both options available.

        1. re: kevin

          Where have you all been? I guess to Langer's. I'd like to put my vote in for Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City. That's their specialty, and it's been there since the early fifties. A favorite of the old MGM/now Soni Studios crowd. Great Kosher dills, too. We always come away with a huge jarful.

          And, just across the parking lot is Tito's Tacos. There are people who will travel miles to go to Tito's.

      2. re: jerome

        Agreed with Langer's. They also make their own cream soda, which as a bit more of a bite than Dr. Brown's. Another plus about eating at Langer's is, you can get any documentation you want close by. Driver's license, green card, social security card, etc. The last time I was in the area, someone was even selling restaurant "A" rating signs.

        1. re: jerome

          Try the pastrami and chopped chicken liver. WOW!!!

          1. re: jerome

            The Langer's neighborhood isn't the greatest, but you can call ahead to Langer's, drive up to the curb and they will bring the food to you. Brent's is good, but Northridge is on the other side of the world, Brent's used to advertise that they would deliver anywhere in southern California. Anyone tried Brent's pancakes? If I am there for breakfast I have to get the smoked fish platter (it is in my genes), but the aroma of their pancakes at other tables evokes the orignal Du-Pars pancakes.

            1. re: Chino Wayne

              Go for lunch instead of dinner. The neighborhood is very interesting. The people walking the streets in that neighborhood are probably the same one sitting next to you at Guelagetza. It is a Salvadorian area now. Part of the Langer's experience is eating there.

          2. m
            michael (mea culpa)

            Sort of useless info to file away. Cicada is located in the Oviatt Building which used to house a haberdasher way back when. Some of the original drawers where shirts, etc. were stored are still there. The current restaurant is run by lyricist Bernie Taupin's wife. It actually housed a better (Italian) restaurant in its prior life, namely, Rex. Still, a great space.

            1. Yeah. Yeah. "Nate n Al's"..."Art's"..."Canter's"... Guess you never made it to "Label's Table"...did ya?

              1 Reply
              1. re: 2chez mike

                [Guess you never made it to "Label's Table"...did ya?]

                No, it'll have to wait for the next LA visit.