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Johnnie’s Pastrami – Culver City (Los Angeles)

s
Sweet Willie Mar 16, 2004 09:53 AM

This was a wandering trip during my personal time in LA for me this past week and as usual wandering pays off.

I was looking for a hearty lunch, not chili or stew hearty, but sandwich or burrito hearty. I’m driving down Sepulveda from the LAX airport hotels where I normally stay when I spy Johnnie’s Pastrami. Definitely looked like it had been there a long time, turns out since 1952.

There is a small outdoor seating area around a gas firepit, but it is packed, so being a single diner, I head into Johnnie’s and sit at one of the counter stools. Inside is not large either; I guess 6-8 booths and 6 counter stools.

As soon as I sit down I’m greeted by “hey honey, can I get you something to drink?” Sure ice tea it is.

The cook is going nuts stacking large tins of thinly sliced pastrami & corned beef over the steam vents to keep it warm and moist.

When an order comes up, he would take the bun off the grill, and stuff tong full after tong full of pastrami or corned beef into a sliced 6” hoagie roll.

Looked too good so I order the pastrami.

A bowl of big chunks of pickles is served while you wait for your meal. Not bad, not overly sweet.

My lunch plate comes with fries and the sandwich. Fries are ok, sandwich is very good and I say this after being at Katz’ in New York City the weekend before. Sure Katz’ is better, but Johnnie’s was a really good sandwich, very different from a New York City pastrami.

My “hey honey” waitress is proceeding to make a young boy blush by pinching his cheek saying how cute he is, the husband and wife are laughing and ribbing their son. I lean over to the husband and say, “I wish I would get that kind of attention” he laughs and asks if I’m enjoying the sandwich. Sure I am. He states that this is a local icon and everytime his family is in town they eat at Johnnie’s. We chat some more about local BBQ joints. A nice way to end the meal.

Johnnie’s Pastrami
4017 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA
310.397.6654

  1. g
    gj Mar 16, 2004 10:47 AM

    Some swear that the affliiated Johnnie's on Adams just east of Crenshaw is even better. Since I'm not so hot on pastrami I don't have an opinion. That location has also been open around half a century or so, same ownership.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gj
      l
      LuluTheMagnificent Feb 20, 2010 05:08 AM

      I didn't know this, thank you. I go to the one on adams all the time, since I live relatively close by. I have never tried the one in west LA, but I see it every time I go to tito's and have wondered.

    2. m
      mike g Mar 16, 2004 11:57 AM

      I'm a So Cal native, but only recently was turned on to this place. I've been once so far and agree with your positive review.

      Next time, be sure and get the "au jus" dipping sauce (amazingly hot, greasy and delish) and ask for the spicy brown mustard - you have to ask for it, they don't bring it automatically.

      1. b
        Bruce Mar 16, 2004 03:07 PM

        Their onion rings are great too.

        1. e
          EAO Mar 16, 2004 03:19 PM

          LOVE THIS PLACE! its one of those -ughh- the 405 FWY is backed up and is officially at parking lot status,so get off at the Venice/Washington exits head towards Washington Place and turn on to Sepulveda - its right there... stop and eat kind of place.

          sit near the fire pits or if you sit inside - each of the booths have little tabletop juke boxes... such a throw back.

          i love their corned beef sandwiches with a slice of cheese and their fried shrimp sandwich (comes with lettuce leaves and tomatoes) on a french roll - is absolutely my fav... gotta ask for the mayo on the side though - something about the fried shrimps (crispy on the outside and tender on the inside) and mayo- so decadent. I always get a friend to split the sandwiches and trade...so i can have both tastes and go home happy!

          split some onion rings and chili cheese fries and get your self a coke float to finish...

          1. d
            Dommy! Mar 16, 2004 03:28 PM

            LOVE it too and I have to mention, they are one of the few OPEN LATE great places in L.A.!

            --Dommy!

            1. w
              woo! Mar 16, 2004 06:12 PM

              Johnnies is a fantastic place for pastrami in LA. You've also got to try their chili dogs... pretty good, and don't miss their chocolate malt/shakes... excellent.

              But I would have to say that Johnnies is the second best pastrami in LA... the title of the best has to be at Langer's. Truly magnificent pastrami. I would even say that it is at least as good (possibly better) than Katz's in NYC... and I used to live on the east coast, and commuted weekly to NYC from LA for nearly six months several years ago. I love Katz's. But I truly love Langer's... got to try it out. It would be fun to do a head to head with Langer's vs. Johnnies, but I'd put big money on Langer's to win...

              6 Replies
              1. re: woo!
                j
                Just Larry Mar 16, 2004 08:52 PM

                I guess it must be hit and miss at Johnnie's. My last visit, the pastrami was tasteless and all gristle and fat. I would not even put in the top 20 based on that experience. Years ago Johnathan Gold said that Johnnie's was a good example of bad pastrami. He must have been served a sandwich like mine. I used to really like it but would still never call it great. Langer's is great but I think it is largely due to the rye bread. The combination is in a league by itself. Put their pastrami on some store bought rye and then let's talk.

                1. re: Just Larry
                  m
                  malibumike Feb 19, 2010 07:28 AM

                  Just Larry is right on, last time I went to Johnnie's the pastrami was tough and tastless.

                2. re: woo!
                  e
                  Eric Eto Mar 16, 2004 11:42 PM

                  I was at Johnnie's a few weeks ago for a late-night feeding. The people are indeed friendly and the atmosphere is just hip enough without trying to be. I think the pastrami is OK, and better with that hot mustard, but I don't put this stuff in the same category of Langers and Katz's. I find it to be a better version of a fast food pastrami sandwich, like the ones you find at the all-purpose fast-food joints around town, kind of like the difference between a fast food burger and a restaurant burger made to order. I usually go for their version of a chili size (the Johnnie size?) or a chili dog and let my buddies get the pastrami. The few bites of the pastrami were enough to reveal that I've tasted better, and that I made the right choice to go with the chili.

                  1. re: Eric Eto
                    w
                    WLA Mar 17, 2004 08:49 AM

                    You have described my feelings about their pastrami to a tee, Eric. What sort of dog do they serve? Is it one with a natural casing so there is a snap? Any other choices like spicy polish? Thanks for any further info as I have been looking for a good chili cheese dog in the West LA area ever since El Patio on Wilshire closed.

                    1. re: WLA
                      w
                      WLA Mar 17, 2004 05:20 PM

                      Never mind, I went and had two for lunch today. They were okay, but for the price, ($13.25 for two dog's and a small coke) I will keep looking for something to replace El Patio, (as well as Nuway's) chili cheese dog's in my affections. Thanks for the rec in any case.

                      1. re: WLA
                        m
                        malibumike Feb 19, 2010 07:26 AM

                        WLA boy do I remember the Nuway, on the NE corner of pico and bundy, best chili dog around, nothing like it any more.

                3. o
                  oldusedcop Mar 17, 2004 03:47 PM

                  Maybe the group has been going to a different Johnnie's, but every time I've been there Iv'e found the pastrami to be steamed to the point of tastelesness, and the sandwiches overall are small. Virtually any Greek owned fast food place in the LA area has better, and at significantly less cost. As for the Johnnies on Adams, as my name will tell you, I know something about the neighborhood including a number of shootings and robberies, not to mention a major drug area a few blocks farther west on Adams. Enter at your own risk.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: oldusedcop
                    c
                    Chris G. Mar 17, 2004 04:25 PM

                    Judging from the swarms of cops who hover around the Hat in Alhambra 24-7, I will agree that one thing cops know is their pastrami. (When I lived in that neighborhood, my friends and I would always say "Let's get some cop pastrami" when we hungered for the Hat.)

                    As for the rest, life is full of risks - you are probably more likely to get run over by an OXY-fied Courtney Love in front of the Ivy than you are to get caught in a drive-by in West Adams. The odds are you'll probably choke on your Langer's pastrami sammich from eating it too fast a la Mama Cass before someone outside will beat you for your money.

                    I'll take pastrami over paranoia any day.

                    1. re: Chris G.
                      Phurstluv Feb 18, 2010 06:50 PM

                      I found the Hat pastrami to be sooooo salty, it was practically inedible. Notice, I said practically.....

                    2. re: oldusedcop
                      j
                      Just Larry Mar 18, 2004 06:29 PM

                      Tasteless for sure. Size was plenty big for me and I didn't even get fries.

                    3. j
                      JustLoveSM Mar 19, 2004 04:10 PM

                      I love Johnnie's Pastrami. It is way too expensive, but they have a really good French Dip Pastrami Sandwich there. I think it is the best you can find on the Westside.

                      Of course, Tito's Tacos is on the same block, so I end up there a lot more often. Tito's is both good and cheap - a nice combo.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: JustLoveSM
                        p
                        pearlyvictoria Feb 18, 2010 04:45 PM

                        You are so right, JustLoveSM, I discovered Johnnie's last night and it was wonderful. The pastrami was so large, I had to have a doggie bag. I couldn't wait to get at the leftovers! My friend also mentioned Tito's and said there is a line on weekends. Can't wait to try them too. But I couldn't get enough of Johnnie's pickles! Ooooooh, Yummy!

                        -----
                        Johnnie's Pastrami
                        4017 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                        1. re: pearlyvictoria
                          cagey Feb 18, 2010 08:09 PM

                          Welcome to the neighborhood..... I liked the 6 year gap in the thread-reply as well. Nice to see change. (But a doggie bag for Johnnie's? woof ...!)

                          1. re: pearlyvictoria
                            mariacarmen Feb 18, 2010 09:23 PM

                            I just discovered Johnnie's today! I'm here from San Francisco and just stumbled upon it. I ate my WHOLE french dip pastrami sandwich in one seating (slathered in hot mustart, chilis, and extra dip) at noon today, but I will admit that I am only now getting an inkling of an appetite back - it was that filling. I loved it!! I may not know much about pastrami, but I loved it - i LIKE a fatty (aka juicy) pastrami. Liked it better than Kaplan's, I have to say. Never been to Langers. I loved the whole place, such a great feel to it. I may be in the area again this weekend, and I may try Tito's, but i'll be really torn . . . .

                            1. re: mariacarmen
                              monku Feb 18, 2010 09:38 PM

                              Just out of curiosity, how much is the pastrami sandwich these days? Last time I went about few years ago it was $7.95.
                              If you like Johnnie's you'd probably like The Hat, another slicer pastrami joint.

                              1. re: monku
                                k
                                kevin Feb 18, 2010 09:42 PM

                                The hat is much much much better in my most humblest of opinions than johnnie's (also anyone know if there is a relationship between the jonnie's in culver city and the one on adams, near crenshaw?)

                                1. re: kevin
                                  monku Feb 18, 2010 09:45 PM

                                  I frequent The Hat for pastrami more than I do Johnnie's- price at Johnnie's is out of sight for that kind of sandwich.

                                2. re: monku
                                  mariacarmen Feb 19, 2010 11:00 PM

                                  I think it was $10.95. On some reflection, I do agree that it is more like a "fast-food" pastrami - but i still like it. a lot.

                                  But too bad I'm not in L.A. anymore this trip, and since I'm moving my parents up north next week, I am probably not going to get to try Langers or The Hat.

                                  1. re: mariacarmen
                                    monku Feb 23, 2010 02:03 PM

                                    You can get a great pastrami sandwich at Canter's for $11.25.

                                    1. re: monku
                                      mariacarmen Feb 23, 2010 10:54 PM

                                      Yep, had theirs too.

                                3. re: mariacarmen
                                  cagey Feb 19, 2010 06:25 AM

                                  I would have to agree with posts above that The Hat's pastrami is better than Johnnie's (different suppliers. Johnnie's uses Vienna Beef I believe, and not sure what The Hat uses but it has better flavor - I go out of my way for The Hat). Both are sort of on the "street level" of pastrami sandos. Johnnie's crinkle fries are a plus and the pickles are wonderful. But... if you like a "fatty, juicy pastrami," the Hat takes it, hands down.

                                  As far as noting Langer's above, that's like the gold standard for pastrami in LA. (Not to take away from Oinkster in Eagle Rock, which is a distant 2nd, imho). Langer's hand-cut pastrami is the most sublime and rewarding sandwich in town.

                                  Lastly, when trying Tito's - have an open mind. This place is very polarizing on this board. If you can get over the "Hey, Tito's is gringo mex food, not autentico!" then you'll be fine. (OK OK, we get it...jeez. Leeme alone and let me eat my day glo taco!) I happen to be among the "guilty pleasure" supporters when it comes to their tacos. "Utah, gimme 2!"

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