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Review: Langer's Delicatessan - Los Angeles

Pictures can be viewed at:

http://tnt-adventures.blogspot.com/

Situated across the street from MacArthur Park, you don't really want to cruise the streets at night or hang out here too long. But step inside and it's a whole different world with a nostalgic feel of a mom and pop coffeeshop back in the 60s, but more on a larger scale with about 7-8 cooks behind the counter, piling on the meat on top of the sliced breads. And many, many waiters and waitresses running around the restaurant to serve the hungry customers.

Langer's is always crowded, especially during lunch time. Lines out the door is pretty common. The huge menu could get overwhelming with different selections of sandwiches, steaks, and salads. Even grilled liver is on the menu if you dare try. But whenever I come here, I just order their most popular item: #19.

Pastrami sandwich with swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian style dressing served on rye bread (14.95
)The outer crust of the rye bread is crispy while the inner part of the bread is quite soft. I love sinking my teeth into the generous portion of the smokey flavored pastrami and swiss cheese. I would think the cole slaw would come as a side, but piled atop of the pastrami just completes this delicious sandwich altogether. Every bite is scrumptious!

The famous #19 pastrami sandwich is a pricey $14.95 but really worth it for the hefty pile of meat. I wouldn't share this sandwich with anyone, don't want to be giving death stares at each other. This delicatessen is a place worth coming back to over and over again. Langer's is notably THE place for the pastrami sandwich in the West Coast; Katz's being THE place in the East. I would say that Langer's beats Katz's in the battle of East coast and West coast. (The parking lot is on 7th Street and Westlake. Get your parking ticket stamped for a 1 hour validation).

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      1. Now, now, Langer's may be good, but not the only great corned beef and pastrami in the LA area. Have you ever had a pastrami sandwich at Tommy Pastrami's? I ate at the Huntington Beach location and the meat was delicious, the bread freshly baked, and the prices reasonable. Trust me on this, my grandfather ran a Bronx eatery.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Discerning1

          Discerning1 - I have been to Tommy Pastrami's in HB and other locations. I'll agree with you that Tommy Pastrami's is good, but doesn't compare to Langer's.

          1. re: Discerning1

            It's an apples-and-oranges comparison that has tied Chowhounds into knots.

            There are two kinds of pastrami: the (relatively) lean, dense, dry Jewish deli pastrami of which Langer's is the master, and the fatty, chewy, moist pastrami served on hoagie rolls at places like Johnnie's and the Hat. IMHO, the best of the latter can be found at the Oinkster in Eagle Rock.

            The two styles are very different, each is very good in its own way. I consider myself fortunate to live in a city that has both.

            -----
            Oinkster
            2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

            The Hat
            491 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

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

            The Hat
            5505 Rosemead Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780

            1. re: maxzook

              Linking ...

              -----
              Oinkster
              2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

              The Hat
              491 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

              The Hat
              5505 Rosemead Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780

              1. re: maxzook

                I love Oinkster's pastrami (though not as much as Langer's), but recently Oinkster seems to be in a downward spiral. The last time I was there (in June) the pastrami was less that stellar and the roll had a flavor and texture that could be confused with post-consumer waste.

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  Funny, but I had the opposite Oinkster experience this past Friday - and I'm no Oinkster fan.

                  But for the first time, everything came together. Place was packed, nice vibe throughout, the line moved quickly, and the order takers had their act down. Sandwiches arrived without much delay.

                  It's still not Langer's by any means, but for the FIRST time I thought the Pastrami at Oinkster was pretty good. Fries were great and son loved his burger.

                  I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I guess I'm not as much of a detractor. At least for now.

                  -----
                  Oinkster
                  2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

                  1. re: Briggs

                    I'm still an Oinkster fan, but a disillusioned one. I used to go at least once a month. Your report doesn't surprise me -- their problem seems to be consistency, not quality, so they still have good days. It's just that recently the good days have been fewer and the off-days have been really off.

                2. re: maxzook

                  Two other major differences, Max. The corn rye bread used at Langers, and the dipping of the french roll in juices at The Hat, Johnnie's, etc.

                  1. re: maxzook

                    Actually, Oinksters pastrami (the meat) is modeled after Langer's, not Tommys, The Hat, Johnnie's, ad nauseum...

                    -----
                    Oinkster
                    2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

                3. Katz's rye bread is not even close to that of Langers'. Katz's rye is almost a Wonder Bread, pasturized rye. The pastrami, however, is comparable.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BigGreener

                    Agreed. The pastrami is equal although I prefer the dimensions at Langers. But the bread at Langers is far, far superior.

                    1. re: JudiAU

                      I suggest trying Katz's Russian dressing. It destroys that nasty 1000 Island they have at Langer's. All in all, the meat is very close. I would give a slight edge to Katz's because of the other delicious options such as the Brisket, Corned Beef and Hot Dogs are also top notch. Also the mustard at Katz is far superior as well for the pastrami purists.

                      I am dreaming about that Russian dressing at Katz's though. : (

                  2. Oy, your review give me mishigas!

                    1) Langer's closes at 4pm so even in the bleakest of dreary winter afternoons there's no nighttime pastrami.
                    2) The meat at Langer's is generally considered to be adequately portioned, not generously portioned. "Hefty pile of meat" is more evocative of the Carnegie behemoth than the much more demure Langers sandwich.
                    3) In the two dozen or so times I've eaten there, I have never seen a line out the door.
                    4) #19 is blasphemous! Milchig on your fleishig? What's to stop the mayo and white bread from coming next? Oy gevalt! :)

                    Mr Taster

                    43 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      "3) In the two dozen or so times I've eaten there, I have never seen a line out the door."

                      Try coming between 11:30 and 1. You'll see the line with velvet rope now. (No arguments with your other points)

                      1. re: Briggs

                        I've only been there for a weekday lunch twice, and both times there was no line, no velvet rope... (velvet rope? really?)

                        Also, if I may make a point on my own point, mayo in the cole slaw means that technically the #19 is implicitly violating another one of the Hallowed Hallmarks of Ashkenazic Cured Deli Meats.

                        By the way, I am saying this tongue-in-cheek, but I do wish that Langer's would pimp their awesome, plain pastrami sandwich first, and allow people to come to the #19 (or other modifications, blasphemous or not) only after they've learned to appreciate the pastrami minimally adorned. Diving into the #19 without first having a regular pastrami sandwich the way our New York Jewish forebears intended (with just a dab of Gulden) diminishes one's capacity to appreciate the perfection of the pastrami itself.

                        So please, Langer's newbies, eat the plain pastrami sandwich first. Love it. Appreciate it. Then move on to the #19 (or don't, if you prefer, as I do as well as generations of eastern European Jews who died to bring you such deliciousness. A shonda it is!)

                        How's that for a schmear of Jewish guilt?

                        Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            If it makes you feel better, I eat all the pastrami that falls out of the sandwich first, so technically it's unadorned...

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              "mayo in the cole slaw means that technically the #19 is implicitly violating another one of the Hallowed Hallmarks of Ashkenazic Cured Deli Meats." Yes, but not the dietary laws, since mayonnaise has no dairy in it, IF it's properly made - Hellman's did after all originate in a NY deli. As the only Jews in my family are ancestral to the women I've married (Yes! All of them!) I can't speak of guilt or innocence, at least along those lines, but I would not object to a dab of mayonnaise on my otherwise pure pastrami sandwich. And yet although I've been known to put mayo on any sandwich that didn't feature peanut butter, I don't feel my usual NEED for it on Langer's pastrami. The meat itself is so succulent, so rich, so tender yet assertive, that anything but a stoutly garlicked homemade mayonnaise would just get lost in the shuffle. For once, mustard is enough.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                >> Yes, but not the dietary laws, since mayonnaise has no dairy in it,

                                Ah, I am glad that you noticed how I crafted that sentence to evoke the spirit of My People's Dietary Customs without invoking any laws :)

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Who cares, eat a sandwich anyway you desire.

                                  1. re: reality check

                                    Indeed, my tongue is beholden to nothing but what it finds delicious.

                                    1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                      Agreed. But there are historic, cultural and religious reasons why food customs develop in a particular manner, whether it's pastrami or Irish soda bread or stinky tofu. My point was to emphasize the understanding of what makes Langer's pastrami itself so great. (You're there first and foremost for the pastrami, right? Not the swiss cheese, the thousand island dressing or the cole slaw? Because if you are there for those things, my point is not valid). If after trying the pastrami sandwich in its purest form you prefer to gild the lily, then that's certainly your perogative. I just think that Norm Langer is doing a disservice to pastrami newbies by pimping the tarted up #19 concoction to people with no real understanding of what makes his pastrami better than virtually anywhere else.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        "But there are historic, cultural and religious reasons that food customs developed in a certain way..."

                                        All of which are deserving of less than a moments notice and consideration on the local board of a site devoted to delicious food and personal taste.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          What's irrelevant is that I horribly misspelled prerogative. Food and culture go hand in hand... "personal taste" is not an island. Unless you're developing completely new flavor compounds in a space lab somewhere, you have developed your personal tastes based on the options that have been presented to you, and those options have been determined entirely by the culture, history and religions of the people who developed them.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            I try not to let superstition and ignorance rule my personal taste.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              OK, now THAT statement is irrelevant! :)

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                No more irrelevant than letting 2000 year old religious dietary "laws" influence ones taste in food.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  Jesus likely followed those dietary laws, so I think they're a little older than 2000 years! But that, as you say, is irrelevant.

                                                  Like it or not, you can't separate the religion from the culture and the resulting food... they are inexorably intertwined. Whether you accept it not, that pastrami is the end result of a long storied history of Jewish (and non-Jewish) culture in which ancient dietary customs and laws contributed, in some part, to mold that very thing you enjoy. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy a Langer's pastrami sandwich slathered with Russian dressing, cream cheese, halvah, chocolate sauce or whatever you choose to schmear all over it. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't (I might have before, but not anymore).

                                                  What I am saying is that appreciation of sublime simplicity is a lost art and I encourage people to tread these waters gingerly before diving head first into a pool of Russian dressing, cheese and coleslaw. If nothing else, it will give newbies a frame of reference as to why the pastrami is so divine, other than "everyone on Yelp says so."

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    As also a Jew I agree with you Mr Taster. With pastrami the simpler the better. I like my cole slaw on the side as a side munch to contrast the saltiness of the pastrami. Also for the record Kosher Laws go back more like 3,000 years not 2,000.

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      When one invokes superstition (and the contrived attempt to control others using mythology and words like "culture") to convince me that one taste is better than another, I recall why my food selection is informed by my own taste buds, and not the meaningless stories that surround and flow from religious dogma.

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        From one atheist to another, I think you've entirely missed the point.

                                                        Mr Taster

                                          2. re: Mr Taster

                                            Culture is being recrafted every day. Los Angeles is a primary example of that.

                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                    We're, historically, always up for a good debate but I know many an Ashkenazic who would NEVER think of having a pastrami sandwich without coleslaw and russian dressing...forget the cheese.
                                    Me included.

                                  3. re: Briggs

                                    For what it's worth, my dad and I were there for lunch this past Saturday a little before noon and we got a seat right away. When we left about 40 minutes later there were only two parties waiting but room at the counter and some tables were being cleared.

                                    Bread, meat and some mustard is all I need on my sandwich. Well maybe a few bites of pickle and wash it down with some soda.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      "Saturday a little before noon and we got a seat right away"

                                      Try during a weekday after 12 noon or so and see if this holds true.

                                      1. re: Briggs

                                        *shrug* just a data point I was throwing out since you didn't specify day of the week. I almost can never make it over there during the weekday. So good to know if I am in the area during the week that the window you specified is bad.

                                        Now that I think about it though, I must have gotten lucky a couple of months back. I was there on a weekday and walked in about 11:30 and got seated no problem at the counter. When I left at noon there were plenty of tables, counter seats and no lines.

                                  4. re: Mr Taster

                                    "Milchig on your fleishig? What's to stop the mayo and white bread from coming next?"

                                    I agree! As far as I'm concerned Russian dressing IS mayonnaise!!

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Mr Taster, you gave me my first laugh of the day. I really enjoyed your comments.........

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Mr Taster: Why is the #19 blasphemous? It's a Reuben?
                                        I was in LA for the weekend but too busy to try Langers or The Hat ( I was in Altadena)
                                        I am a NYC boy and a big fan of Katz's, 2nd Ave Deli and Sarge's in that order. Next time I am in LA I am taking a pastrami tour.

                                        1. re: Motosport

                                          I think it's because it has meat and dairy together, which I believe is against Jewish law/tradition. And I also think because some people believe a pure pastrami sandwich should just be pastrami on rye with a bit of mustard.

                                          I think.

                                          1. re: Motosport

                                            I don't believe that the #19 is a Reuben since it has coleslaw and not sauerkraut.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              The #44 is their Reuben, HOT PASTRAMI, Sauerkraut and Nippy Cheese Grilled on Rye

                                              1. re: wienermobile

                                                Which of course, is not a Reuben (corned beef); it's a Rachel:

                                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reuben_s...

                                                1. re: maxzook

                                                  Which goes to show you that the #19 is blasphemous not only to pastrami, but to reubens as well :)

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                2. re: Servorg

                                                  I stand corrected. Many times I put just a bit of cole slaw and Russian dressing on my hot pastrami on Rye. Slathered in deli mustard of course.
                                                  I'll pass on the swiss cheese. 2nd Av Deli is Kosher thus no swiss cheese or egg cream. I just get a nice chocolate soda.

                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                    I like mine the same way. At Junior's Deli on Westwood Blvd. in WLA I think they call that one the "Emmy" and it is delicious. If you ever make it out to the SFV to Brent's Deli they have a fantastic Reuben with their "black pastrami" and great rye bread.

                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                      One other thought. In Santa Monica on Montana is a place called R+D Kitchen (which is one of the Hillstone Group's places who brought us Houston's and Bandera as well). They have sandwich called a "Reubenesque" which has some of the most tender and delicious corned beef I've ever had with cole slaw on a great thin corn rye. It's a great sandwich.

                                                      -----
                                                      R+D Kitchen
                                                      1323 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                3. re: Mr Taster

                                                  "What's to stop the mayo and white bread from coming next?"

                                                  My late friend Joe Hacker (may he rest in peace), as good a Jew as any and probably better than most, once surprised me -- you might say shocked me -- by putting mayo and sliced tomatoes on a pastrami sandwich he made. But in the pilpul following the shock, he explained it this way: "Look," he said, "you love a nice BLT, right?" No question, of course, who doesn't? "And a BLT is made with smoked meat, with mayo and sliced tomato, right?" Who could disagree? "And so," he concluded, "What could be bad about mayo and sliced tomatoes with another kind of smoked meat?" And you know what? He was absolutely right. (He drew the line at Wonder Bread, through -- he made his PLT with mayo on a good sourdough, the way God commanded on Mt. Sinai.)

                                                  This is not to say that in Joe's memory I ALWAYS eat my pastrami with mayo and sliced tomatoes -- but I do sometimes, without shame and without worrying about the traditions of my people. Joe WAS my people.

                                                  Which brings us back to Langer's, where I would never order pastrami with mayo or sliced tomatoes. Like many here I go the pure route: pastrami. rye. Gulden's. BUT! BUT! I order slaw with it, and a little bowl of the Russian dressing on the side, and sometimes I'll put a little slaw on a bite, and sometimes I'll dip a bite into the Russian, and sometimes I'll take a bite pure, and sometimes I'll mix 'n' match. Trust me: Joe approves.

                                                    1. re: ozhead

                                                      Dear Ozhead, would you call yourself a trifle self-indulgent??

                                                        1. re: ozhead

                                                          No one enjoys my self- indulgences more than I do...(and I hardly thought your post was even close to being overly self-indulgent when it comes to this board) ;-D>

                                                          1. re: ozhead

                                                            Ozhead, indubidably(sic)!!! I was just being mock prim.