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Am I the only one who doesn't get Brent's?

I know it's popular here, so I thought I'd give it another shot after being underwhelmed 15 years ago. And... I was even more disappointed today.

I ordered the basic pastrami sandwich, and at first bite I realized the sandwich would be memorable, but not in a good way. What I got was a nicely overstuffed sandwich that was full of fat and gristle - just as I had experienced the last time I was there. And please don't use the "well, pastrami's always fatty". Uh, no it's not. Forget about Brent's being in the same league as Langer's - it was below Canter's and Billy's, let alone Johnny's & The Hat. I just don't get how people here can slam Canter's yet give Brent's a pass. I feel I need to do a field trip to Jerry's to see which is worse...

The positive was that Brent's has a nice suburban Jewish deli vibe, the service was top notch and the cole slaw was excellent. The rye bread was good, but certainly not up to Langer's. The place was packed and it was before noon. So was it a fluke to have the same mediocre experience 15 years apart? And I really went wanting to like it.

I've said this here before, and I'm more convinced than ever: IMHO, the only reason that Brent's gets the props it does is simply because it's the only Jewish deli in that part of the Valley.

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  1. Actually, Abe's Deli is just a couple of blocks away from Brent's.

    Abe's Deli
    19626 Nordhoff St, Northridge, CA 91324

    1. It's funny that you should post this. I grew up in LA delis and on a trip last month to Napa from OC, we pulled off the freeway specifically to try Brent's for the first time. I had breakfast- their corned beef hash (excellent) with 2 perfectly poached eggs, undercooked hash browns and a meh onion bagel. Service was friendly, but I thought the same thing. If I still lived 10 minutes from Nate N' Al, what is so much better at Brent's that makes it worth the drive? I know it's not fair to compare one breakfast to dozens of meals I've had at other places (Canter's, Junior's, even Billy's). Does anyone that lives close to one of the the places mentioned bypass them in favor of Brent's and if so, why?

      1. Gristle isn't OK (but would be unusual in a brisket flat, which is the cut they use for corned beef and pastrami, because the definition of a brisket specifies it be trimmed of connective tissue before sale) but fat is required and is part of the pastrami experience. Lean pastrami doesn't have the flavour. If you want lean pastrami, you can ask for it (it'll be cut from the end of the brisket further from the point, which is the leanest and least flavourful), but the default is to have some fat.

        I disagree with your assessment of it being below Canter's, mostly because Canter's can't seem to drain it and thus it turns all bread into mush, and Canter's actually defaults to lean pastrami for reasons I can't fathom.

        Also, not to nit-pick, but Brent's isn't a Jewish deli; if they were, there would be no cheese or dairy products on the menu. It's a "Jewish-style" deli, like pretty much all delis in LA.

        That said, if you don't like it, you don't like it and now you know and you don't have to go back. More for me, I guess; I love their pastrami. I bring it home with a loaf of bread and then I actually put the bread on my oven brick to crisp the crust.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          I am in total agreement with DU. The rye bread at Langer's may be a bit better than Brent's, but not by all that much. And the pastrami has never had gristle in my (admittedly sporadic) visits spanning quite a few years. I just drove out the other Saturday and arrived at 6 AM and had the corned beef hash with poached eggs and a side of toasted (dry - I don't want anything interfering with the taste) rye bread. Heavenly, by all my standards.

          1. re: Servorg

            Brent's uses a rye bread from a distributor. I have uses and ordered the exact same one. It is quite expensive and comes either sliced or whole so you can slice it to your preference.

            I agree with you though, there is not much difference in the bread. It is not like people are crowding into Langer's just for the bread. Both places, people are going for the deli meats.

            1. re: A5 KOBE

              My understanding is that it comes from Delicious Bakery in Northridge. When I want Rye, I go there instead because they sell it for less than Brent's does.

              Delicious Bakery
              9147 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

          2. re: Das Ubergeek

            "Also, not to nit-pick, but Brent's isn't a Jewish deli; if they were, there would be no cheese or dairy products on the menu. It's a "Jewish-style" deli, like pretty much all delis in LA."

            Did you mean Kosher and not Jewish?

            1. re: JAB

              Sure, whatever. A Jewish deli—as opposed to a deli owned by a Jewish person—would necessarily be kosher.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Das, as others here have pointed out and as pretty much any observant Jew will tell you, "Jewish food" is a designation that does not in any way mean kosher. If it did, for all intents and purposes there would only be one Jewish deli to speak of in all of Los Angeles, The Pico Deli. And due to the kosher prohibition against serving milk dishes with meat ones, no LA deli that serves cheese blintzes or latkes with sour cream would be considered Jewish.

            2. I have been eating at Brent's over 10 years and have never once been disappointed. I can't say that about Cantor's, Factor's, Junior's or Nate and Al's.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wienermobile

                I feel the same way about Nate N' Al, 30+ years. I've never had a latke that comes close to what they serve. How are Brent's?

              2. Definetly a fluke you had two bad pastrami sandwiches at Brent's 15 years apart.
                I've had a couple real fatty pastrami sandwiches at Langers. So fatty I've had to sent them back.

                I don't know if it's a good indicator, but I've never seen such a high percentage of obviously overweight people as I see at Brent's.

                1. Brent's IS excellent every time I have been there. Other notable dishes besides the typically deli sandwiches are chicken in a pot, roasted chicken and creamed herring.

                  Pastrami and eggs is also delicious.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                    Back to pastrami...the black pastrami Reuben is to die for.

                    1. re: monku

                      That black Pastrami Reuben is one amazing sandwich.

                      1. re: wienermobile

                        The Black Pastrami Reuben, oh my, oh my. Now you and monku have me salivating. On my next 6 AM foray I'm just going to go ahead and have one (maybe tomorrow) since it's basically lunch time for me then anyhow (and so what if the waiter starts looking at me with an uneasy expression and starts edging away from the table)... ;-D>

                        1. re: Servorg

                          4th that Black Pastrami Reuben - definitely belongs in my Top Ten of great sandwiches.

                  2. Funny, my first and only experience at Brent's was also about 15 years ago, and my assessment back then was identical to the OP's. What I ordered turned out to be an overstuffed but otherwise entirely unremarkable, mostly bad pastrami sandwich. I vividly recall that the sandwich was composed of decent rye bread enveloping a lot of flavorless, fatty, rubbery meat. The key to a great pastrami sandwich IMO (e.g., the ones at Langers) is for the meat to be properly seasoned and, of arguably greater importance, it must be sliced against the grain so it falls apart in your mouth.* What I was served at Brent's was simply wrong, wrong, wrong on all counts. Despite the zealous accolades of Brent's ever-growing fan base, I have never been tempted to return - and this thread won't change that.

                    * Look at the opening picture on the Langers website for a quintessential example of what I'm talking about: http://www.langersdeli.com/

                    1. Their chopped liver is about the worst you'll ever taste. For some reason they make it very sweet.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: mucho gordo

                        So a few additional comments:
                        -Yes, I know the difference between Kosher & Kosher style - which in reality has nothing to do with being "a Jewish deli". I was using the phrase as a short cut. Or so I thought.

                        -For all those raving about the "Black Pastrami", I thought maybe I'd ordered the wrong thing way back when, and this would do the trick. I asked the waitress, who said no, it's the exact same pastrami that's in all their sandwiches - it just happens to be in a Reuben.

                        -I've unfortunately been eating and loving pastrami my whole life, so I know it's not exactly the leanest of meats - I know what I'm in for. There is however a difference between fat for flavor and FATTY. Maybe my problem is not that Brent's is so bad, but that the lavish praise led me to expect how great it would be.

                        -Finally, I repeat my assertion: to those who think Brent's is so incredible, who among you DOESN'T live in the Northwest SF Valley?

                        1. re: Briggs

                          I live adjacent to the SM airport.

                          1. re: Briggs

                            30 miles away.
                            It's a destination deli for me.

                            1. re: Briggs

                              I live in Silverlake and for me Brent's is a breakfast place or a place from which to get catering for a deli spread. I certainly wouldn't go there just to get a pastrami sandwich.

                              1. re: Briggs

                                The Westside - about 25 miles. I'm no Mr. Taster (probably the most pastrami-centric Hound that I know of) but I found Brent's pastrami to be lighter on the salt and more tender than the garden-variety pastrami one typically runs into around town. Most places cook the hell out of it - whether grilled or boiled - resulting in tough meat. The effect on the fat cap is most of the fat is cooked out of the connective tissue holding the fat cells and that connective tissue ends up tough and rubbery. Not my experience at Brent's.

                                      1. re: Briggs

                                        You're replying to my post about Brent's chopped liver but you mention nothing except pastrami, wgich I didn't mention. Have you tried their Chopped liver?

                                      2. re: mucho gordo

                                        @ mucho gordo

                                        Agree, I made the mistake of ordering a pastrami and chopped liver sandwich at Brent's once, never again. The pastrami was fine, the chopped liver was sweat not savory and totally ruined the sandwich.

                                      3. Funny- I was just in Langer's last week. I wasn't impressed but, I also don't eat pastrami, corned beef and the like. I brought a box of Porto's cheese rolls to share with my work mates and our deshelved toothless waitress wouldn't allow me to leave until she received her cheese roll as well. She knew exactly what she was doing as she told me she lives across the street from their Glendale location. Rather bold of her, I thought! My lunch was a scoop of tuna atop a basic small salad and an ice tea..15$.. and, the demand of a Porto's cheese roll!! I think the Brent's vs. Langer's is really a cultural preference. I'd take Brent's over Langers and that toothless waitress any day. For those who can't decide, remember there's also Weiler's deli on Nordhoff and Balboa which makes a far better matzo ball soup than Brent's pish water...


                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                          "I also don't eat pastrami, corned beef and the like"
                                          And so your opinion of Kosher-style delis is valid why?

                                          BTW - until my wife brought home a disappointingly horrible sandwich from Weiler's a few months ago, I had always had a fantastic experience there, and extolled its virtues here over Brent's. I guess this is a good opportunity to check in on Weiler's again.

                                          1. re: Briggs

                                            I made no mention of "kosher style" and have no opinion of such. Frankly, I never heard of that term being described for a deli. I am Jewish and was raised with the notion that most delis are "Jewish" deli's. IE: Canter's, Art's, Weiler's and Brent's.

                                            I simply mentioned meat things 'cuz on CH this seems to be the deciding factor in the Brent's vs Langer's saga. I grew up in the valley and Brent's was the family place for deli. Even my father's poker games were outfitted in Brent's platters. That's 35 years ago.
                                            What I like at Weiler's - not a chaotic, crazy noisy joint; nice staff, their soups, salads and chicken pot pies. My husband loves their corned beef, their reasonable prices and the complementary rugalah at the end of a meal. To-each'is-own I suppose. It's noon time, I'm hungry writing this and think I'm going to Brent's right now!

                                        2. After a point. pastrami is pretty subjective stuff....like pizza and cheeseburgers. That said, this transplanted east-coaster thinks that Brent's has gone down hill somewhat in the last 15 years. My first experience's were sublime.

                                          The cabbage soup still is the best around!

                                          However, I usually end up at Brent's with large parties and get to do a lot of tasting. It is not what it used to be. Langer's and Canter's pastrami is more consistent and much better.

                                          1. I love Brents. Of course the black pastrami Reuben is outstanding. I love the cabbabe soup, the pickles, mushroom soup, the turkey salad sandwich. They also grill up a good burger. I live in Valencia..so I pass a lot of delis on route to Brents. Sorry you had a bad experience.

                                            1. Everyone has a valid point, and I am a huge fan of Brent's. Any deli in business for more than a few years has its ups and downs. That includes the famous NY delis, as well. We were in Manhatten and visited the original Carnegie Deli one afternoon. The sandwiches we had were huge, good, and maybe equal to Brent's, in quality. But so what?

                                              A good deli is going to have good days and bad. And won't please everyone. And...[ta da!] if it's a "Jewish deli," will elicit a good amount of kvetching. We deli fans are not only allowed to kvetch, but maybe even required to do so. And deli fans know what I mean!!!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Golem

                                                Stay away from Jerry's. Only good thing there is the mushroom barley soup and the deli omelette.

                                                1. re: monku

                                                  Canter's pastrami is disgusting as well. Corn beef only for me.

                                                  P.S. I have never had a bad pastrami sandwich at Katz or Langers.

                                                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                    And I had a more than decent Pastrami from their truck at the Silverlake Jubilee. I really like Canter's, you really like Brent's. Go figure...