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May 7, 2010 11:57 AM

Fresser's hot pastrami truck is going away

Pretty sad. Their product was superior (their "Langer's lite" steam toasted sandwiches were certainly leaps and bounds above the current mealy, bland and dry pastrami sandwiches that the Canter's truck serves up (but sadly, name recognition gets you everywhere in this town.)

I sense that Fresser's real problem was not the product itself, but the management. Remember the weirdness as they started up? The "industrial mashed potatoes"? The two menus with different items/prices/no prices? Plus, I only ever saw them once at the Miracle Mile food truck mecca.

I'm sad to see them go. Perhaps their experience can serve as a cautionary tale to those who think a superior product is all they need to have a successful business. Without organization, good business acumen, and a sprinkling of luck and timing, even the best products fail.

Mr Taster

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  1. So, what are your faves (if any) outside of downtown (Westside, SM, South Bay, OC) for decent or passable pastrami? Thanx for sharing.

    12 Replies
    1. re: bernardo

      Langer's really has spoiled me for any of the other Jewish delis in LA. I really am shocked that Fresser's was their only real competition. And it's really for no reason-- if LA Big Deli™ cared, they could produce a superior product too... after all it's pastrami we're talking about, not nuclear uranium enriching secrets. But I guess if LA Big Deli™ is already making money hand over fist, charging for their inferior sandwiches the same price (or more) that Langers does, then what is their incentive to change?

      I really think that the problem is that too many people in LA have forgotten (or have never experienced) what excellent pastrami really tastes like. I certainly didn't realize what I was missing until I really started paying attention to these kinds of things, and now that I've turned that page I ain't looking back.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        i stand by Marv's in Studio City on Magnolia west of Whitsett. Quality, juicy pastrami, fun owner. be warned, though, that they're not open after 6.

      2. re: bernardo

        Have you tried the pastrami at Brent's in Northridge (or it's sister location out in Westlake Village)? Excellent (and they have a Reuben featuring a type of pastrami that they term "black" which is one of the great sandwiches in LA if you like Reuben's).

        Brent's Deli
        19565 Parthenia St, Northridge, CA 91324

        Brent's Deli
        2799 Townsgate Rd, Westlake Village, CA 91361

        1. re: Servorg

          Brent's is great. Worth a trip to Northridge.

          1. re: Servorg

            I just had Brent's Black Pastrami Reuben the other day - that pastrami is really good. Brent's doesn't hold back on the pastrami - like a great reuben, they put loads in there. And like a well made sandwich meat, it doesn't rely only on salt for flavor. Truly enjoyed this sandwich.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I actually liked their Reuben for the fact that it's not one of those enormous, stacked sandwiches in which the meat component completely overwhelms the other elements. Brent's rye is so good (even grilled it shines) and their Reuben is easily manageable to eat as a sandwich (without deconstructing the sandwich to eat it). It's a nice balance of meat to kraut to cheese. Even the amount of dressing was right. The only draw back to Brent's is their popularity. The wait seems unavoidable if you don't want to be eating your Reuben at 7 AM.

              1. re: Servorg

                >>The only draw back to Brent's is their popularity. The wait seems unavoidable if you don't want to be eating your Reuben at 7 AM.<<

                7AM is lunch hour for you! Yeah, I can see why Brent's is so popular - it is for all the right reasons. The mornings are starting to warm up a bit - hope your ride was pleasant. :)

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  I don't mind eating some things that might not be considered typical breakfast fare in the 6 to 7 am time frame, but sauerkraut isn't normally one of them. On the other hand Brent's has one of the best corned beef hash breakfasts anywhere - so it's all good.

                  What day/time were you there? How was the wait? (I'm taking it you went to the original location in Northridge)

                  1. re: Servorg

                    My wife picked up an order to go for me. She and some business associates had lunch around 1PM on Monday out at the Northridge location and she said the wait was about 10-15 minutes. The sandwich arrived still warm. The rye bread had lost some of its vitality from sitting in the clamshell, but everything else was sublime. I'm planning on going out there some time soon. And I love a good corned beef in any way shape or form so thanks for the rec.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      Brent's corned beef hash is my favorite hash in LA. Crunchy on the out side and moist and tender in the inside, Comes with potato pancakes. Yum.

              2. re: Servorg

                Yeah, second Brent's a mere 50 miles from my adobe. And truth be told, we find Nate N'Al's pastrami edible and new pickles addictive but the bread could be better. Having said that, pickins so slim south of the 10 both frustrates and perplexes this one bloke.

                1. re: Servorg

                  I had a black pastrami reuben at Brent's Westlake Village store last Wed., before seeing Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain at the 1000 Oaks Performing Arts Center. It was a very good sandwich, but the pastrami itself does not hold a candle to Langer's.

              3. sad to see but that is just business.

                I saw them at UniqueLA and heard that they were having problems with their employees. I guess the problems were worse than what appeared at the surface.

                I also noticed they took considerable time to fulfill orders sometimes.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Johnny L

                  Yeah, that was a HUGE problem on my one and only visit. You would think that a hot pastrami sandwich would be custom built to be a spectacular fast food operation. Hell, the only good thing about my Canter's truck experience is that they shelled out my bland, dry sandwich in about 60 seconds flat-- with yellow French's mustard (which added insult to injury.) Fresser's had Gulden's! But it took them a full 35 minutes to get me my sandwich. Outragous!

                  The Fresser's guys KNEW what they were doing as far as product. It's just such a shame that the couldn't get the rest of their act together.

                  My hypothes is that the genius behind the "industrial mashed potatoes" caused the downfall of the whole operation :)

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I spoke with the owner - he actually was juggling two businesses that I know of and were completely different from each other. I'm guessing it just got to the point where he had to let go of the food truck business to focus on his original one. It was mentioned upthread that he was having employee-related issues. I wouldn't doubt that either - as anyone who owns a business can tell you, it really is hard to find good help nowadays. The owner's a really nice guy - I hate to see this happen as well.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      FWIW - I really liked Fresser's, I really like Langer's. And yes, I really like Canter's.

                      HOWEVER... Fresser's had an erratic schedule - they once listed that they'd be in Glendale and then never showed or tweeted. Not really a way to run a business - which this was. As for Canter's, I haven't tried the truck yet because: most days their truck is parked about 5 minutes away from the main restaurant on the Miracle Mile, and I thought the point of the trucks was to bring the food to the people. But hey, I guess if it works for them...

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      Not to pile on too much, but I was always puzzled by how long it took for them to make my sandwich. I loved the meat and was happy they made my work building a regular stop and am sad to see them go. But there were a few times where I was the only order and I'd see my bread placed on the pickup counter and the mustard squeezed on and then I'd wait and wait. I could see the meat sitting on the back counter waiting to be sliced. Finally I'd see someone working away at the meat and lots of movement, but nothing happening. Finally, a pile of meat would slowly be put on my sandwich and meticulously wrapped and bagged.

                      I think this is where the meeting of artisan and efficiency would clash. The owner obviously took a lot of pride and would fuss over each sandwich. But at a certain point, just slice it and put it on the dang bread already. If it took that long with my order as the only ticket, I could imagine how backed up it would be when the rush hit.

                      1. re: Jase

                        I don't think it was artisanal pride that led to delays. There were many times that I would get my sandwich in less than 5 minutes. I think, as has been reported, the owner had trouble finding competent workers.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Maybe the number of competent pastrami purveyors is matched by the number of competent pastrami-versed employees?

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            I'm not sure that there is any special talent that draws down the pool of potential food-trained employees into a particular sub-universe of pastrami.

                            I wonder what the pay is like compared to a bricks-and-mortar place...

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Good question, but I'm also guessing that someone who most would probably label a perfectionist might have a rough time finding the right employee.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                "...that someone who most would probably label a perfectionist might have a rough time finding the right employee."

                                If Thomas Keller (perfectionist crossed with heavy obsessive-compulsive notes) can do it, any other chef can do it... ;-D>

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Man, sandwiched by DU and Sir Vorg and no way out. I might as well be a high school second-stringer being covered by Kobe and Pao. :) I want to believe that, but I'm guessing the line for those who are eager to work in Mr. Keller's kitchen for practically nothing is much much longer than those who are willing to do the same in a pastrami sandwich truck, albeit a very good pastrami sandwich truck. Somehow, the romantic notion of each are on two totally different planes. :)

                    1. So a few questions my maven if I may.
                      Is Langer's preparation pretty much public domain or is there a secret method to which only a select few are privy like Crustacean/Anqui claims (work there 10 years before you can get into the secret kitchen)? If Fresser's can emulate can't others? Then why hasn't anyone made the leap with exurban brick & mortars?
                      OK, let's stipulate Langers is the one and only source for Langers style pastrami. Do they sell the makings by the pound & if so for how much?
                      I detest Tommy Pastrami's pastrami but love their rye bread, does that rise to the level of heresy?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bernardo

                        I'm not Taster, but..

                        The lore is that Langer's has a secret supplier who smokes his pastrami, and then they steam it for a few HOURS before cutting and serving. Yes, like any good Jewish deli, Langer's will sell you meat by the pound and bread by the loaf, they will even ship it:


                        1. re: ChinoWayne

                          I skimmed over David Sax's "Save the Deli" and I remember him saying that Langer's gets the same pastrami from the same distributor as everyone else. The difference is that they steam theirs for longer, and that's it--which explains why when people exalt the glory of langer's they typically refer to its supreme tenderness rather than flavor.

                          Did Fresser's make their own pastrami? (Pastrami is comparatively expensive because of time, labor, and space issues. The meat has to be cured or brined, smoked, and steamed, which is generally outside the boundaries of most delis.)