- Chuck Oct 28, 2004 04:33 PM
Hey Hollywood Hounds - Can you tell me something about this place? There was a post on the NY Board saying this place had better pastrami than Katz's in NYC. Now, that's saying something. Perhaps someone out there has been to both and can get into some specifics.
Is Langer's near Nate and Al's? I've been to Nate and Al's and there's no way it compare with Katz's. But, perhaps Langer's does? Thanks for any info.
As a New York deli afficionado, I am of the opinion that Langer;s pastrami is superior because after it is cured and cooked it is them steamed, so that the otherwise chewy texture and smokiness of other pastramis is alleviated resulting in a better mouth feel and subtler flavor. This being said, the Carnegie in NY still has the best corned beef.
Langer's is an LA Hound favorite...constantly mentioned as one of the highlights of the LA Chowhound scene. Nate 'n Al's serves there mediocre pastrami in Beverly Hills, while Langer's serves it's heavenly meat in MacArthur Park; it's the last vestige of an old Jewish neighborhood that is now a bustling Central American neighborhood, filled with tamale stands and paleta carts.
I lived in NYC before moving to LA and I certainly agree that Langer's is better than Katz'. Langer's pastrami is steamed for something like 10 years, giving it a luciously tender quality. It is thickly cut by hand and placed on fresh baked rye. The sandwich I eat is hot pastrami, rye, mustard, that's it. The flavor is strong, the meat is juicy and tender, the rye is crisp and fresh...the gestalt is pastrami sandwich perfection. One of our regular posters, upon his first visit, said the meat was so juicy and flavorful that he thought it tasted more like pork than beef.
Some New Yorkers who go to Langer's are disappointed in the portions. Unlike a Katz' (or Carnegie or 2nd Ave. Deli) tower of meat, Langer's gives a fairly moderate amount of meat. Personally, I like this, as the bread plays a real role in the flavor and texture of the sandwich. Katz' rye always struck me as just an afterthought...the delivery device for 5 lbs of pastrami.
A word of caution: Do not stray from pastrami on the menu. Except for the egg cream (one of the few decent ones in LA), no good has ever come to me from ordering any non-pastrami item.
As a neutral Chicagoan, I agree Langer's is best. The bread is also top notch. Sandwiches are pricey and smallish, but great.
Now, I always eat at Langer's when visiting family in LA, but I have to admit that it's a little bit of a one trick pony for me. For example, I had the chopped liver/egg salad combo and some soup a few weeks back while waiting for my takeout pastramis. As with most of the not-pastrami offerings, nothing to write home about, not by a long shot.
Also, while the place keeps it's deli-museum charm like so many Jewish holdouts (Manny's here in Chicago and Barney Greengrass, Katz etc. all share this), it lacks the vibrancy of all the places I just mentioned. The idea that I was one of maybe a half dozen patrons at such a place at 11:30 on a weekday boggles my mind. The neighborhood doesn't help business, I suppose, but it's close to downtown and is worth going out of your way for. I really like McCarthur Park, don't get me wrong, but few Salvadorans form the block are likely to come in for a 10-buck sandwich that's too good and too small to split.
I like my delis/cafeterias a little more raucous (and with a humidor).
PS, who has ever ordered the "Canned Tuna Appetizer....$8.25" at Langer's, which I just noticed on my cherished take-out menu?
I simply don't agree with your assessment of the chopped liver. It's full and rich, with a great flavor, a contrast of sweet and salty. I often get the pastrami/chopped liver combo sandwich-- they compliment each other quite well.
If you want bland chopped liver, go to Pico Kosher Deli (oddly enough!) I don't think they even use any onion at all in that.
re: Mr. Taster
Disagreement is why we're here. Langer's chopped liver seems exceedingly dense and bland to me. Maybe it would make a nice condiment with pastrami, as might Kraft cream cheese (also on the menu at Langer's), but it didn't do much for me heaped unadorned on a bagel half with some onion and a smear of mustard.
I'm a chopped liver fan, and order it even when it's no great shakes. My favorite is the kind of whipped and airy version at Barney Greengrass in New York. Never tried it in the LA mini-branch, assuming it's still there. But I have to say, here in Chicago, for example, they give away much better chopped liver than Langer's with the relish trays at Myron & Phil's and Carson's (yes, the rib place, which benefits from a certain phenomenon not unlike "Jewish-Chinese" in NYC). And it's a fantastic, little-ordered appetizer at Gibson's, the steak house. Huge scoops of gribene-studded pate with fine fixins' (capers, onion, chopped egg, cornichons, etc.) It's hit-or-miss at Manny's.
Anyway, I love Langer's. But in my humble opinion, the chopped liver doesn't deserve to share space with the terrific pastrami or the rye.
Langer's is never super-packed, though usually it's busier around lunch than what you described. Still, I don't think I've ever had to wait for a table, which is fine with me. (High turnover is part of it, a friend of mine was asked to leave for lingering too long).
You're right that the neighborhood keeps it less than packed. Most of the patrons live and/or work outside the neighborhood. I would guess most of the customers come in from downtown or mid-Wilshire; it's not a long drive, but not just down the block, either.
And because of both its history and general race/class fear, there are Angelenos who are still afraid to go the Langer's neighborhood. Even on the CH board, discussions of Langer's will often include a needless post saying "will I be mugged if I go here?" or "be careful." A NY equivalent might be Harlem or Washington Heights -- neighborhoods that were unsafe 15-20 years ago, and have changed a lot since then but still make some folks uneasy.
You wrote, "Langer's pastrami is steamed for something like 10 years."
10 years?!? Steaming the whole time?!? Whoa! Is that possible? I thought it was cured and smoked, then steamed just to heat it.
And, Langer's doesn't seem to use as many spices to make their pastrami, so you taste the meat more. I wouldn't describe it as a "strong" flavor as compared to Jerry's or Arnie's as far as spicy. Maybe more beefy?
And, Langer's makes the best rye bread I've had.
re: kc girl
Actually, Langer's uses the exact same pastrami as pretty much everyone else in Los Angeles. But they do steam it considerably longer, which renders some of the fat and water, tightens it up, and gives it that delightful, luscious texture we all like so much.
The bread comes from Fred's on S. Robertson, which is a treasure.
What do you mean by "near" Nate 'n' Al's?
If you mean geographically...well, they're both in L.A. County. Langer's is near MacArthur Park; N&A is in Beverly Hills. They're only about 8 miles apart, but at any time other than the middle of the night, they're a good 30 minutes apart.
If you mean taste, there's no comparison. Langer's has the best pastrami, period. N&A is acceptable, and is arguably one of the two best delis in the entire county not named Langer's (Brent's would be the other).
Here's a recent thread in which two of the posters who had been to Katz's thought Langer's was better. A search from the home page will yeild literally hundreds of reviews for Langers.
For what it's worth, no less heralded food critic than Jonathan Gold has favorably reviewed Langers over Katz's. Here's the link to his column at the LA Weekly:
Didn't eat at Katz's, but I did eat at 2nd Ave Deli. Prefer Langer's pastrami, because of the texture. You know how a nice piece of prime rib will easily break up into tender little filaments? Langer's pastrami kinda does that.
Brent's in Northridge is better than both of them. Better Pastrami, better bread, even great burgers. The only item Langers beats it at is the Latkes which for some reason are leaden at Brent's.
Unfortunately Brent's is in Northridge, a bit of a haul from any place except Northridge. Still, when you gotta have it you make the drive.
I think I may be risking my life here, but I've had both and prefer Katz'. Admittedly I've had Katz' many, many, many more delicious times.
First, let me admit that I grew up in NYC and ate at Katz' from the time I was a child. I acknowledge that part of what I love about it is nostalgia - the smells (ohhhh the grilling hot dogs, the pickles and please save me from the aroma of a beautiful, fat knish), the atmosphere, the salamis hanging over the counter, etc.
However, I LOVE Katz' pastrami and definitely prefer it over Langer's. I grew up in the school where pastrami is a little toothy - not soft. Also, most NY-ers prefer meat sliced on the thin side, not thick slabs, but also not paper thin. Katz' seems to have more of the pepper-y spice flavor that rims good pastrami.
Langer's may have better bread. Katz' has much better mustard (I buy it 'to go' in a washed Dannon yogurt container when in NYC).
Bottom line though is that Langer's definitely has the best pastrami in L.A. by a lot.... and no snow or sleet - lol.
Taste is a funny thing. We went to Katz's in NY a couple of years ago, and were disappointed - the food didn't nearly match the expectation. I'm sorry, I don't remember now what we had, but I'm sure my husband would have had either corned beef or pastrami. I do remember that the rye bread was more like a supermarket rye than a true Jewish corn rye. Nate & Al's has always been the gold standard as far as I'm concerned.
I used to eat at Langer's quite a bit when I worked in the area, but again, it's been a while. I can't remember details, but know I preferred N&A. But for where it is, Langer's is darned good.
Haven't been to Katz's but Langers is head and shoulders better than Stage or Carnegie deli. I slather the very hot mustard on mine. mmm....don't forget the fries
Langer's is one of LA's premier culinary institutions, and I'm pretty sure it's the only LA Deli to have won a James Beard Foundation award. Thi's write-up (linked below) deserves its own award and is a great place to continue your investigation of this restaurant.
For you out of town visitors, Langers is 1/2 block S. (I think) of the McAurther MetroRail station of the Red line.
A very 'interesting' yet safe area. At least during the day which is fine because that's when Langers is open.
I too prefer Brents. I find the pastrami (Jucy cut) taster and the bread great also. It is MUCH bigger and cost ~1.00 less too.
That having been said. You NEED to try Langers and you will not be disappointed.
Nate N Al's is ok, but I usually stick to smoked fish there.
Langers - the giblet soup is ok. But the pastrami is imho the only real reason to go.
A Manhattanite friend of mine went with me to langers a while back on a short visit to town. He was such a stickler that when he ordered a sandwich to go, he immediately removed the pastrami from the bread so that the bread wouldn't get soggy.
His take was this: he had heard from his mother about how the bread used to make the sandwiches in New york but she had said that she couldn't find that bread any longer, crisp corn rye. In any case, when he took his first bite of a langer's pastrami, he said that he finally understood what his (Late) mother had been describing.
I am not the world's biggest pastrami fan, BUT I adore Langer's pastrami. It is wonderfully seasoned, warm and moist without being greasy. It's not a potlatch of meat. It's a well-priced tasty sandwich. Another friend from out-of-town said, after his first Langers, this is definitely at least the second best pastrami I've ever eaten. I'm not sure if I've ever had better, but if I did that could only have happened once.
Given the office trade from downtown, and the metro, Langers has survived. It closes around 4:30 because it is not a neighborhood fave. But the pastrami is second to none I've had. And I loved the 2nd ave deli when I was in New York, the mushroom barley soup was peerless, the p'tcha was great and scary enough to put off new yorkers.
BUt I've never had pastrami in New York at Katz's or elsewhere that made me understand how great pastrami could be. That had to wait for Langer's. And now, yes I am a pastrami (well, a langer's pastrami) fan.
Well...First thanks to all of you. Got my education on Langer's for sure! A big thank you to Chino whose pictures really hit home; worth a 1000 words as they say. That looks like a terrific product. Hand sliced, albeit thicker than Katz's like you've all said.
I happen to love a huge sandwich so that will be a factor when I get a chance to compare. anybody know what they are charging? Two months ago, a Katz pastrami sandwich (NLT 3/4 lb) was going for $12.35. Add 3-4 slices for a one dollar tip and it's a mouthful. two months later, who knows the price. That's NYC.
No, Katz's bread is nothing special. Ordinary Jewish rye. The sour pickles are terrific though...Not that that's important in this discussion.
The fries in the picture are frozen for whatever that's worth. Erica...It sure seems from all the posts that at least both are in the same league and that in of itself is pretty amazing to me. I mean, it's LA vs the Lower East Side of NYC - The homeland of pastrami, koogle, kinishes, lox, etc.
This is obviously a place that's been in town for sometime. That's really interesting because in the late 80's my partner and I were flown out to give the Carnegie Deli owners an estimate on putting up one of their units on Rodeo Drive. That's what I did for a living.... At that time, the Carnegie was expanding and went to Atlantic City and Ft. Lauderdale - both failed - too pricey for the old timers in Fla and the gamblers in AC.
Anyway, never once in our conversations was this place ever mentioned...Only Nate and Al's. There we ate and there we were totally unimpressed. Perhaps they just never felt it was their competition? Nate and Al's was to be their direct competition...Hound Jack, that's what I was referring to...just the actual distance from Nate and Al's.
Hey, next time I get to LA, I"M THERE! And, to the second place for great pastrami mentioned as well. Didn't think you guys had it in you...So, NYC has some competition when it comes to pastrami...Who'd have thunk it....
Thanks again to all for the great posts.
While I agree that Langer's has the best rye bread, I also agree that the interior is boring and the closing hour of 4:30 sucks. Last year I did a pastrami comparison between Langer's and Canters on Fairfax, and I actually found Canter's pastrami was tastier, and I liked the consistency better. It's open almost 24 hours and a better location also. Both Langer's and Canter's are definitely better than the Stage and far better than the Carnegie (where I had pastrami last year in NYC and didn't even finish it. It was terrible. How did that place become famous?) Also hate Jerry's - tastes like something you'd get in a market's pre-packaged, processed deli case. I will try Brent's. I have passed it before but didn't realize it was a pastrami mecca. Enjoyed reading all the comments on this topic - one of my favorites (ie. great pastrami) Does anyone else order it with swiss cheese or am I the only non-purist?
Made sojourn with several people to Langer's. I had their special #19.
Observations by entire group: Super rye bread. Very good Cole slaw. OK pastrami.
Clearly I'm in the minority here, but I like the pastrami at Junior's in Westwood best. Katz's second, Langer's third, Carnegie fourth. Just my opinion. However, Langer's has the best rye bread by far.
Nate 'N' Al's for matzo ball soup and chopped liver. Good pickles.
Langer's for great pastrami on great rye. Want it lean? Tell them. Want fat left on? Tell them.
What I hate about Langer's is the odor that hits you when you walk outside.
Finally had Langer's for the first time last weekend, and as a dedicated, long-time fan of Katz's, let me say that Langer's pastrami is nirvana. Had the #19, and the proportions of the sandwich, amazing rye bread and unbelievably tender and delicious pastrami = sandwich perfection. Along with the wonderful cheese blintzes my friend ordered, I had actual tears in the corners of my eyes. There is nothing, nothing like a Langer's pastrami sandwich. Service from our vetran waitress was stellar as well. I can't wait to go back.
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Been to both several times and for me, Langers is the better of the two. Its the bread that brings it to another level. That rye bread with its crusty exterior and the soft warm insides is shear perfection. Paired with the salty,peppery,juicy pastrami,and I think Katz pastrami is on par,I dont see how a pastrami sandwich can get any better than this.......Damn, its almost 4 and I'll never make it in time, oh well, there is always tomorrow