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Billy's Deli - Glendale - Is it any good?

r
rockhead Jun 10, 2005 02:48 AM

Have heard about a deli in Glendale for years called Billy's. What's the scoop on it? Is it a true, authentic Jewish deli? I mean in terms of a New York Jewish-style deli, not a strictly kosher deli. I've heard they have Matzo Ball soup, pastrami, etc. but does it compare AT ALL to Brent's, Jerry's, Mort's, etc.?

No offense, but Glendale isn't a particularly Jewish area, so I'm skeptical about the authenticity, quality and hamish-ness from a deli in this location.

Deli food is my weakness, having grown up on it since I was a kid. I hit Brent's at least once a week and take out from the others often as well. If I went, would I be happy with the chow from Billy's?

  1. j
    JosephEBacon Dec 21, 2012 09:59 PM

    I've been going to Billy's for 20 years, it's their sky-highs I really like. And their cole slaw is the sweet and sour variety that goes great with the corned beef.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JosephEBacon
      j
      Just Cid Jan 2, 2013 10:03 AM

      Billy's is still good, but IMHO not as good as it used to be. I can remember a time when you faced a 20-30 minute wait if you arrived after noon.

      But the last few times I've been there around lunchtime you can get seated straightaway.

      Pastrami is still their strongpoint (IMHO).

      Is it as good as Brent's? Langers? <insert name of fave deli>? That's a religious war I don't care to get into....

    2. JeMange Dec 21, 2012 10:53 AM

      If you're truly craving deli and in the area, it'll work in a pinch but I can't say that it's anything above mediocre.

      The pastrami is usually stringy and fatty and is served on flacid rye bread. Pales in comparison to Brent's, Langer's and even Solly's. As another poster said, maybe on par with Jerry's, if that.

      Decent matzoh ball soup, which is pretty hard to screw up.

      I really wanted to like this place and have eaten there more than a handful of times over the years but the last time was the last time - the day I don't finish a pastrami sandwich means that something is very, very wrong.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JeMange
        The Professor Dec 21, 2012 10:52 PM

        Ummm...pastrami _ should_ be fatty (good pastrami, anyway).
        Lean pastrami is a fail.

        1. re: The Professor
          Tripeler Dec 23, 2012 06:40 AM

          Professor,
          Your comment reminds me of when I was a 16 year-old kid going into a deli, and when my number was called I ordered a pastrami sandwich. The old guy behind the counter, who spoke with a strongly Yiddish inflected accent, asked me
          "Hey kid, you want it lean or you want it GOOD?"
          I said good, and got a sandwich I can still remember today.

          1. re: The Professor
            JeMange Dec 23, 2012 07:49 PM

            @Professor, have you had pastrami at Billy's?

            While I don't claim to be an expert, I was lucky enough to spend a long portion of my youth in NYC, where I had access to arguably the best damn pastrami in North America. There's a difference between rich with fat, like the pastrami at Katz's (my personal favorite) or Langer's, where the majority of the fat renders and liquifies during the cooking process, enriching the meat and adding juiciness and the kind of fat you find at Billy's, which has a congealed quality to it and is often accompanied by gristle. Also, the cure they use for the pastrami at Billy's is strangely sweet. To borrow your wording, I call Billy's pastrami a "FAIL."

            1. re: JeMange
              TonyC Dec 24, 2012 12:43 PM

              The pastrami sounds... like The Hat. But what of the brisket sandwich that JG spoke so fondly of?

        2. TonyC Dec 21, 2012 10:32 AM

          Looking for an updated report on the brisket sandwich.

          This is JGold's from c. 2009: http://www.laweekly.com/2009-10-29/ea...

          TIA.

          2 Replies
          1. re: TonyC
            SilverlakeGirl Dec 21, 2012 06:42 PM

            I've eaten here a lot over the years. Once, decades ago, Billy's was rumored to be on the demolition list during Glendale's rebirth.

            Tread carefully though. The deli is okay, sometimes more than okay. Love their free pickle bowls and cone water cups. My favorites, the pastrami and brisket. I get an eclair to go.

            But never cross over into actual non-deli dinner items. I've never encountered non-deli dishes that did not cause me to swear off Billy's.

            Then I go back.

            1. re: TonyC
              d
              DuckLionDog Jan 2, 2013 12:39 AM

              It is great! I had it twice last week. I am from LA, but live in San Diego now, so I always make a deli tour when I come back home: Canter's, Jerry's, Langer's etc. The brisket at Billy's is always the star of the show. My favorite way to have it is in the open faced sandwich smothered in brown gravy. The gravy at Billy's is unlike any other. I think it has puréed carrots in it, which give it a little tang and sweetness. Canter's brisket has been dry lately, Billy's is always fatty and sinful- just the way I like it!

              If you're not feeling kosher, stray into their bacon offerings. The bacon and eggs is simple, but truly delicious, and the bacon burgers are some of the best I have had.

            2. Golem Jul 26, 2007 01:26 PM

              I don't think Billy's compares at all to Brent's or Art's. It's quality is probably closer to Jerry's. It is "deli," as in Jewish deli, so, if you are in Glendale and need a quick deli fix, it'll do, but it's nothing to write home about.

              I live near Brent's, go there often, and nothing beats it, but my favorite is still Art's. It's got all the food, no decor (a must for an authentic deli, I guess), but it's location makes it a great place for people-watching.

              1. s
                SinDee Jul 26, 2007 11:59 AM

                Last week, our office had lunch brought in from Billy's in Glendale. I had the No.1 (pastrami, turkey, swiss) sandwich thinking "how could anyone mess that up?" Well, I had to extract all of the pastrami because that fat to pastrami ratio was around 75%fat. Really gross. But the turkey was ok. Potato salad was ok. Pickle was the best part.

                1. m
                  mlgb Jul 26, 2007 11:04 AM

                  Average and forgettable.

                  1. e
                    estone888 Jul 26, 2007 10:49 AM

                    Maybe I'm missing something here, but I think Billy's is one of the absolutely worst delis I've ever been to. I want to like it. I live fairly close to Glendale, parking is easy, I do like the waitress who tells the terrible jokes, it's comfortable and easy, the pickles they give you are pretty good. But everything I've had here over the years; ranging from breakfast to lunch, eggs, sandwiches, soups, has been mediocre at best and nearly inedible at worst. The idea that they have the best pastrami sandwich in town is utterly laughable. When I'm in the mood for a fairly dry, dull roast turkey sandwich, it's okay.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: estone888
                      f
                      Fru Jul 26, 2007 11:41 AM

                      I think yours was the opinion I was looking for. That being said, is there any good deli locally (Pasadena, Glendale, SFV) in your opinion?

                      1. re: Fru
                        e
                        estone888 Jul 26, 2007 12:16 PM

                        I wish I knew. Langer's is great for pastrami (in my opinion - which seems to be widely shared - the best in town, if not the world) but only pretty good for other stuff. But it's down near Macarthur Park. Brent's - the original location on Parthenia St. in Northridge - is in my opinion the best all around in town - although I haven't been there in a while and have read some disquieting things on here about it lately. I don't much care for Art's on Ventura, although a lot of people seem to like it. I loathe Jerry's. Factor's on Pico in South Beverly Hills is pretty good. Canter's is, well it's Canter's, it's an institution and good enough very late at night after I've been drinking, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. Nate 'n Al's in Beverly Hills is way too expensive, but it's pretty good. I don't know anything really, other than Langer's, at this side of town.

                        1. re: estone888
                          f
                          Fru Jul 26, 2007 12:36 PM

                          Well, for the atmosphere maybe I'll try Nate 'n Al's when the folks come in to town. I used to work across the street and was never impressed. I pretty much agree with your opinion on all else in the valley that you mentioned. My aunt swears by the Brents in Westlake Village and I will find out for myself soon enough. My brother loves Barney Greengrass and again, it would be a destination rather than for just a quick local bite.

                    2. justanotherpenguin Jul 25, 2007 09:30 PM

                      i like billy's - great deli. have been many times. the interesting thing, though, is that they have changed hands many times, the last being about 3-4 years ago. the owners at the time also happened to be my next-door-neighbors at the time. she ran the restaurant (she was chinese, by the way) and they moved to maine after they sold. i have been under the impression the the new (3-4 year) owner of billy's bought it for the express purpose of franchising it. jack smith would turn over in his grave.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: justanotherpenguin
                        Das Ubergeek Jul 25, 2007 09:49 PM

                        Well, he isn't moving quickly, then -- there are exactly two, the original in Glendale, which I really like, and one in Torrance.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                          j
                          Just Cid Jul 26, 2007 10:41 AM

                          Of all the places I've tried (granted, I haven't tried them all yet), Billy's has just about the best pastrami sandwich.

                          Oh, and I like the older waitress who tells the dirty jokes as well. Evelyn, is it?

                          Now, if I could only convince them to open one up in OC.....

                      2. w
                        wkl42 Jul 25, 2007 02:04 PM

                        Billy's is better than Canters & Greenblatts

                        1. b
                          Briggs Jun 11, 2005 10:35 PM

                          Purely in selfless 'houndly interests, I made a special field trip to Billy's (actually it was on the way home...), and was amply rewarded - as was my waistline.

                          Picked up a Chicken in the Pot ($13.95) for my wife, which includes matzo ball AND kreplach and comes in a half gallon(?) container. Regardless it was huge. Had a taste and it was very good.

                          My Pastrami on Rye ($8.95) was over-stuffed and terrific. As of tonight it's joined my elite for Pastrami deli sandwiches. It was tender and lean. I've only been to Brent's once and was unimpressed (maybe an off day), but I'd say this was superior. FWIW, I think Billy's may have actually improved since the ownership change.

                          As for the Salami controversy...There were salamis and a variety of meats hanging over the counter, so there doesn't seem to be a health department issue. Although they sell regular kosher salami, the hard salami is Italian only.

                          Finally, no Billy's mustard, but they do sell their own (or prepared for them) olives and blueberry preserves.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Briggs
                            c
                            Chino Wayne Jun 11, 2005 10:54 PM

                            Oh the sacrafices a dedicated 'hound will go to for the good of the pack... good field work. Makes we want to decide to influence the Mrs. to select Billy's the next time I take her to lunch.

                            Link: http://www.indefatigable-indolence.org

                          2. s
                            Steve Doggie-Dogg Jun 10, 2005 11:30 PM

                            I've been going to Billy's Delicatessen for 40 years. I'd take their sky high over anything at Jerry's or Art's. The waitresses are a lot of fun too. Great pickles.

                            See ya
                            Steve

                            Link: http://www.hotdogspot.com

                            1. e
                              eeka Jun 10, 2005 04:46 PM

                              I like Billy's a lot. I like the reuben sandwich so much I'll go once in a while even if it has/had? health dept. problems. It is one of the dirtiest looking places where I still eat. The pastrami is also good. The rye is good. The surprise that it's in Glendale is good. The bakery not so much. The walk to the restroom is bad. I always avoid looking at the kitchen.

                              1. m
                                Michelle Jun 10, 2005 04:08 PM

                                We've been going to Billy's for years and love it. I've been to a few other delis, like Brent's in Northridge (which is also very good), etc. but Billy's has the best chopped chicken liver of them all, in my opinion. We think everything there is good!

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Michelle
                                  d
                                  Das Ubergeek Jun 10, 2005 04:11 PM

                                  Location?

                                  Anything's got to be better than the Beverly Deli.

                                  PLEASE save me from the Beverly Deli!

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                    m
                                    Michelle Jun 10, 2005 04:29 PM

                                    Billy's is at 216 Orange Ave. in Glendale. We come from the Pasadena area, so we exit the 134 fwy at Brand, drive a few blocks and then cut over on one of the side streets to Orange, which is a block away and is runs parallel to Brand. They're across the street from a large Sears (furniture store?) parking lot and have a convenient parking structure right next door to them.

                                    1. re: Michelle
                                      d
                                      Das Ubergeek Jun 10, 2005 06:17 PM

                                      You're kidding... I work at the top of Orange and I walk past Billy's (when we have an Islands run, don't laugh!) all the time!

                                      I'll have to stop in, we've been wondering.

                                      Have you tried the Great White Hut?

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                        m
                                        Michelle Jun 10, 2005 07:38 PM

                                        No, but have always been curious about it as we see it every time we go to Billy's (duh!) Is it any good?

                                        1. re: Michelle
                                          d
                                          Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2005 11:32 AM

                                          It's not rave-about-it-drooling good but it's a damn sight better than the chains nearby, and it's cheaper too.

                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                          s
                                          Steve Doggie-Dogg Jun 10, 2005 11:32 PM

                                          Great White Hut isn't quite the same as when I was a kid, but they still make a decent burger.

                                          See ya
                                          Steve

                                          Link: http://www.hotdogspot.com

                                      2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                        w
                                        Wes Jul 25, 2007 08:05 PM

                                        There is a sister location, more like a granddaughter location I guess.

                                        Billy's Deli & Cafe
                                        5160 W 190th Street, Torrance, CA
                                        (310) 371-0168

                                        Not quite up to the original yet but getting better. See the Goggle maps reviews.

                                    2. c
                                      Chino Wayne Jun 10, 2005 03:34 AM

                                      Billy's is not bad, not bad at all. The Mrs. works nearby so I have been there a few times for breakfast and lunch. They have all of the standard Jewish deli fare. I don't get exactly the same vibe I do from some of the other Jewish deli's, but the food is the real thing.

                                      Almost took the wife there for lunch yesterday, we opted for Clandcy's Crab Broiler instead.

                                      Link: http://www.indefatigable-indolence.org

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Chino Wayne
                                        b
                                        Briggs Jun 10, 2005 03:42 AM

                                        "we opted for Clancy's Crab Broiler instead"

                                        Is it my imagination or has Clancy's gone downhill in the last buncha years? Seemed tired the last couple of times over a couple of years. (Although the zeppoli-like bread still seems great).

                                        1. re: Briggs
                                          c
                                          Chino Wayne Jun 10, 2005 04:22 AM

                                          Bread was some sort of sourdough (not in the same league as the sourdough at Arroyo Chop House), and having been deprived of bread and butter for the past three or four months, I did scarf a couple of slices, but nothing to write home about.

                                          Link: http://www.indefatigable-indolence.org

                                          1. re: Chino Wayne
                                            b
                                            Briggs Jun 10, 2005 09:03 AM

                                            Just to finish this topic - they have a yummy fried bread dipped in powdered suger.

                                            1. re: Briggs
                                              c
                                              Chino Wayne Jun 10, 2005 10:54 AM

                                              Duoh, "zeppoli", just got it. (I haven't been around sugar much lately.)

                                              Link: http://www.indefatigable-indolence.org

                                      2. b
                                        Briggs Jun 10, 2005 03:08 AM

                                        Billy's makes an excellent Pastrami sandwich, and they sell a pretty decent (and huge) chicken in a pot soup. The atmosphere is true old-style deli and while some here favor it, there are also some who don't. My one quibble is that when they went through an ownership change a couple fo years ago they lost two things: the cute little paper cone cups and Kosher Hard Salami. Apart from that they've been great. They also mail out discount newsletter coupons from time to time.

                                        I was last there a month or so ago, so in the interests of reseach I'll force myself to have a Pastrami on rye tomorrow and report back.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Briggs
                                          s
                                          Steve Doggie-Dogg Jun 10, 2005 11:35 PM

                                          I asked them about the paper cone cups. They told me the health department won't let them put pitchers of water on tables any more, and the little cones don't hold enough.

                                          They also changed their mustard which was a real sin. It's Gulden's now. But I forgive them that because the pickles and pastrami are the same.

                                          See ya
                                          Steve

                                          Link: http://www.hotdogspot.com

                                          1. re: Briggs
                                            g
                                            Griller141 Jun 10, 2005 11:40 PM

                                            Look forward to it.

                                            1. re: Griller141
                                              b
                                              Briggs Jun 11, 2005 05:21 AM

                                              Sorry to disappoint - on a deadline so it was the Chicken Club Salad from Jack in the Box instead (which is actually pretty okay).
                                              Perhaps a visit to Billy's next week if the waist line permits. I expect it to be as good as ever.

                                            2. re: Briggs
                                              v
                                              video louis Jun 11, 2005 03:03 AM

                                              I think the" Hard Salami"
                                              [ salamis that were hung up to air dry in the deli ]
                                              were ruled out by the L.A. Co. Health a while back.
                                              That is County wide; you dry it at home, I suppose.
                                              Louis

                                              1. re: video louis
                                                b
                                                Briggs Jun 11, 2005 05:38 AM

                                                "salamis that were hung up to air dry in the deli ]
                                                were ruled out by the L.A. That is County wide; you dry it at home, I suppose."

                                                It's maybe kinda, sorta true. And then again, it may not be. This is also what the original Billy's owners said 13 years ago only it was about Glendale regulations. And then a couple of years later, there they were hanging from the ceiling (the salamis, not the owners). BTW, I could swear that they're hanging at Canter's (again, the salamis, not the...).

                                                In any case, according to the owner (the son) of Langer's, most, if not all, L.A. delis buy their Kosher Hard salami from a company that dries it in huge dehydrating rooms for them - Langer's included. Sorta like Sabrett supplying all the hot dog joints in NYC (both Kosher & non).

                                                Nope, the kosher hard salami issue at Billy's has nothing to do with Health Dept. regs. I just assumed it was the new owners not understanding the difference between Kosher & Italian hard salami. And as everyone in civilized society knows, there IS a difference (g).

                                                1. re: Briggs
                                                  d
                                                  Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2005 11:33 AM

                                                  It's funny you should mention that, because the salamis (and prosciutti) disappeared from the hooks at Monte Carlo Deli too... but the provolone is still there.

                                                  I appreciate that LA Public Health are trying to keep people from getting sick but between this and the wild-mushroom vendors at the farmers' markets they seem overly cautious.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                    The Chowhound Team Jun 11, 2005 11:58 AM

                                                    Hi Folks-

                                                    This is not specifically directed at you DUG. You are all making good points, but please take any further discussion about the county Health Department or other local government agency's actions in relation to food handling to the Not About Food board so that we can concentrate on the delicious aspects of eating deli in our local epicurian emporiums.

                                                    Thanks. Now back to the virtues of matzo ball soup, pastrami and salami.

                                              2. re: Briggs
                                                f
                                                Fru Jul 25, 2007 09:18 PM

                                                Is this the 2nd ownership change in a number of years? I understood it changed hands about 15 years ago? Is the current owner really the son of Langers? I tried the matzo ball soup some years back and found it to taste strongly of bullion. Yick! Very unappetizing. Haven't been back since. Living in Pasadena it would be so convenient but we schlep out to Jr's when the folks are in town and that isn't as good as it used to be. I'm reading a lot of opinions in favor of Billy's but I am highly skeptical although I'm not impressed by anything I've had in the SFV as of late. Is it truly a good "Jewish Deli"?

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