Agony and Ecstasy - Life Beyond The Tender, Juicy, Heavenly Pastrami at Langer's Delicatessen - [Review] w/ Pics!
(Formatted with All Pictures here:
At this point, there's not much more to be said about one of L.A.'s best institutions serving up some of the world's best Pastrami. Their Pastrami is so focused and delicious it's caused followers of New York's famous Katz's Deli to switch allegiances and moved famous writers to wax poetic about this succulent delight. :) But over the years, I started becoming cognizant of other words and letters filling up the menu at Langer's that didn't involve the word "Pastrami." :) Curious, I've been slowly exploring the rest of the menu to see if there is any life after Langer's famous Pastrami Sandwich.
The fact that Langer's has been around for over 63 years(!) (founded in 1947) is impressive enough, but add the fact that they're still packing in the crowds due to their Pastrami is even more awe-inspiring. Stepping inside really feels like entering a time warp to an era of days gone by, with some old (now charmingly quaint) decor and simple rows of booths running up and down the restaurant.
On one of my very first visits, we began with their #5 - Corned Beef and Swiss Cheese, Russian Style Dressing on Rye Bread.
The Corned Beef is delicate, tender and mild. Probably one of the best Corned Beef Sandwiches I've had in years. :) I wish the Swiss Cheese was melted, but it's a minor concern when the Beef is this tasty.
But the real highlight is their famous Hot Pastrami Sandwich. For my first time, I order it plain, and it's served in all its unadorned glory with Rye Bread.
I take a bite...
It's just SO good! (^_^)
If the Corned Beef is tender and juicy, their famous, much-lauded Hot Pastrami is even more moist and delicate and luscious. It's lightly salted and spiced; it's savory and satisfying on so many levels.
The only regret that entered my mind was how I had missed out on Langer's for so many years (despite growing up in So Cal, I never made it out to Langer's until a few years ago). :) This tender, Sugar-Cured Corned Beef that's then smoked for hours is perfectly complemented by the fantastic Rye Bread (made by Bea's Bakery, and finished in the ovens here at Langer's). It's a soft, pillowy Rye, fragrant and lightly tart, with a crunchy crust.
And contrasting their Plain Hot Pastrami, is their most popular item on the menu, #19 - Pastrami, Swiss Cheese and Cole Slaw, with Russian Style Dressing on Rye Bread.
You can tell a restaurant is excelling when it can spawn debates amongst the dedicated food lovers about which version of a dish (with the same base ingredients) is better. :) Their #19 is their lovely Hot Pastrami Sandwich, but with the addition of the Swiss Cheese and Russian Style Dressing and Coleslaw. It's got a sweet tang, the Pastrami is still so lush and satisfying, but for my tastes, it's a bit too complicated. I prefer the Plain Hot Pastrami, but I can see why some people love the #19 so much. :)
One of my guilty pleasures are Chili Fries, so I'm curious how Langer's version compares to the more (in)famous versions around town. :)
The French Fries at Langer's are that ubiquitous, crinkle cut Fry found at many places around town. It's crunchy, crisp and has a decent inside. The Chili itself is mild, slightly saltier than I'd prefer and ~OK at best.
With the lengthy discussion on Chowhound about finding good Corned Beef Hash, I had to give Langer's version a try as well.
Their Corned Beef Hash is well-crisped, nicely seasoned and tastes fresh. There's a real Beef taste, and the layering of the finely minced Corned Beef with Potato chunks interspersed makes this *almost* taste like the canned version of Corned Beef Hash that some Hounds are looking for, but the flavor is still a bit different. It's moist and fatty, and for a restaurant version, it's something I'd be happy to order again if I was in the mood. :)
On another visit, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my 'dachi Noah, from Man Bites World and some other fabulous guests. We began with a classic Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda. :)
Light, refreshing and sweet, infused with Celery flavors, it's an excellent way to start the meal. :)
Continuing on, we try their Matzo Ball Soup.
Their Matzo Ball Soup tastes like a straightforward, basic Chicken Soup with a soft, tender style of Matzo Ball. It's fine, but it's nothing that would make me order it again.
And then the Hot Beef Tongue Sandwich arrives.
Lengua. Gyu Tan. Beef Tongue. I love a well-executed version of Beef Tongue whenever I can find it, and Langer's Beef Tongue Sandwich is surprisingly good! :) It's extremely soft and delicate, thinly sliced with a more round and distinctive bovine flavor than the Pastrami or Corned Beef. This is definitely a sandwich I wouldn't mind ordering again! :)
One of our guests is craving a Reuben-like Sandwich, so we order their #44 - Hot Pastrami, Sauerkraut and Nippy Cheese Grilled on Rye.
With a foundation as great as their fantastic Pastrami, it's hard to mess up anything that stems from that, and thankfully their #44 is just fine. :) The Sauerkraut imparts just the right amount of tartness, and the melted Nippy Cheese helps to tie it all together.
But probably the most shocking discovery of the day is their #27 - Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver Sandwich.
I am generally not a Liver fan, but I never thought I'd see the day when the words "stunning" and "Liver" were used by me in the same sentence. (^_~) The balance between the Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver is absurdly good! There's a real clean, focused flavor that shines through. I was bracing myself for the usual metallic, iron-y Liver taste, but instead the Chopped Egg's creaminess really provides the perfect foil for the Chopped Liver which exhibits none of the usual heavy, unpleasant flavors you usually associate with Liver. Definitely something worth trying outside of the Pastrami! :)
I'm pretty happy at this point, but then the Tuna Melt arrives.
As I'm about to take a bite, Noah's astute eye suddenly catches something, and he stops me. He gingerly picks up the Sandwich and then cracks it open. Like gazing upon The Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we're awestruck by what my 'dachi has coined "the quadruple crispies." Langer's not only grills the outside of the Tuna Melt (as expected), but the also grill the *inside* of the Tuna Melt on both sides, so you get 4 layers of crispy crunch with each bite! Excellent! (^_^) Sure it's slightly greasy, but it's *so* good! :)
On a later visit, I begin with their Chicken Noodle Soup.
It has that classic Diner taste; a Chicken Soup made with Bouillon Cubes. There's no actual Chicken Meat in the Soup, and the Thin Noodles have turned to mush.
Their Chicken Rice Soup fairs about the same.
It has the same Bouillon Cube taste, with soft Rice floating around in the Soup. It's a touch more enjoyable than the Chicken Noodle, since the Rice grains still have some body left.
Their Knish continues the heartbreaking trend.
It's a thicker version, with a filling of solid Mashed Potatoes. Unfortunately the outer dough exterior is dryish and the filling is so dense that it makes for a hard time eating this, even when split amongst 4 people.
One of the most humorous things to come out of these visits is the attempt to order their Fish & Chips. Fish & Chips are a popular item amongst many people, and I'm always looking for a great version around town. But each time I've tried ordering the Fish & Chips at Langer's, I've gotten sage advice from the veteran servers. The first time, our seasoned waitress gave me the raised eyebrow "Trust me, you don't want to order this" look. :) The second time I tried ordering it with a different server, he politely and quietly warned me to order something else. (^_^)
Their 1/2 Roast Stuffed Chicken arrives next.
Surprisingly, the Chicken is stuffed underneath the skin (between the skin and the meat), instead of the usual center cavity stuffing. Sadly, the Chicken Skin is soggy, smothered in Gravy. The Bread Stuffing is fluffy and comforting, reminding one of Autumn, but the actual Chicken meat is less successful. The white meat is slightly dry (but parts are still moist), but tasting a bit old, like it was reheated. The dark meat fares a bit better but still tastes a bit dull.
Their Home Fries have a great crispiness while still being moist on the inside, with a great crunch to each bite.
Their Fried Chicken is next to arrive.
There's a super crackly crunchy exterior that's well-seasoned with Salt and Pepper and satisfying. :) But sadly, there's still a noticeable amount of subcutaneous Fat throughout each piece of Fried Chicken, as if the frying didn't melt enough of the Fat away, resulting in a slightly off-putting mouthfeel with each bite. Between the two cross-town institutions, I'd have to give the edge to Pann's for their Fried Chicken over Langer's.
Their Hot Brisket of Beef Sandwich is another item I've been curious about for a while.
It has a very light, clean beefy taste, less pronounced than their Corned Beef or Pastrami. Texturally, it's not as pleasing or amazing as the super-tender Pastrami, but it's also less salty and tastes healthier all around.
Their Smoked Whitefish is another interesting dish I've been eyeing for a while.
Their Whitefish (like their Lox) is outsourced, and there's an intense smokiness that's quite distinctive, and it's lightly briny with a delicate flakiness. But, the amount of sodium used just overpowers everything. Eating it with the Toasted Bagel, some Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Lettuce provided helps to alleviate some of the Salt-overload, but it's still a bit too salty.
We finish up with their Patty Melt on Rye Bread.
I order it medium, but sadly the Patty Melt arrives well-done. It's extremely juicy and fatty, and the melted, gooey Cheese and crunchy Rye with Grilled Onions helps to create a satisfying version of this dish. But after Servorg's excellent recommendation for Pann's Patty Melt, Langer's version falls a bit short. :)
Service is brisk and slow at times. Some servers seem to take their time, but others are on the spot, ready to help alleviate your needs. The fact that they're always at near-100% capacity doesn't help, but it's fine for what it is. :) Prices range from $3.95 - $23.95 for their Sandwiches, with most in the ~$12 - $14 range.
Langer's Delicatessen continues to bring in the crowds, even after 60+ years for a reason: Their Hot Pastrami is noteworthy and standout, being so mouth-wateringly good. :) In exploring the rest of their menu, and finding so many heartbreaking items (made even worse because each "miss" means I missed out on having their wonderful Pastrami again (^_~)), there are quite a few noteworthy things outside of their Pastrami. Their Corned Beef is very good; their Beef Tongue is quite tasty, and their Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver Sandwich and Tuna Melt are very pleasant surprises! Breakfast is enjoyable with their Corned Beef Hash and Home Fries as well. :) But at the end of the day, it's still all about their amazing Hot Pastrami Sandwich: Succulent, soul-satisfying and delicious in every way. :)
*** Rating: 8.2 (out of 10.0) ***
704 S. Alvarado Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Tel: (213) 483-8050
Hours: Mon - Sat, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Totally. I remember your thoughts on Pastrami. (^_~)
I'm glad as well that there are other things on the menu at Langer's that are worth ordering. I think you might like their Chopped Egg & Chopped Liver Sandwich. The Chopped Egg is nowhere near as artery-clogging as Europane's version :) (but to be fair, it's also nowhere near as creamy and luscious in that respect), but there's something about the combo of the Chopped Egg and Liver at Langer's that makes for a pretty tasty combination.
Also loved their Tuna Melt and Beef Tongue. :)
BTW, have you tried their Corned Beef? That might be an alternative to the Pastrami to consider. Thanks. :)