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Langer's vs. Katz's and One Other LA vs NY Observation

I recently went to New York and ate a lot of food. The place that I was probably most excited to try was Katz's deli. I've lavished praise upon and more recently, lamented a pattern of decline at, Langer's. For this comparison, I will take Langer's at its best vs. one visit to Katz's. At Langers, I order a plain pastrami on rye and sometimes spread a small amount of mustard on the bread. At Katz's, I ordered the pastrami on rye and due to a misunderstanding, the sandwich maker added mustard.
The pastrami at Katz's is better than at Langer's. It's very close though. Langer's at its best does not leave me wishing I could go to Katz's. The pastrami at Katz's is slightly smokier and has a slightly deeper, more robust taste. The Katz's pastrami is also a little bit fattier and juicier. The sandwich maker hand slices it right in front of you and offers a sample on a paper plate before assembling the sandwich. Katz's gives you more meat than at Langer's but not by a large margin.
The rye bread at Langer's is far superior to Katz's rye bread. Katz's rye bread is an afterthought, it seems. It's soft all the way through the crust. It fell apart while eating the sandwich. I compared it to the bread or rolls that you get at most BBQ joints--it's just a vehicle for the meat and doesn't add anything to the sandwich. Langer's rye bread is exceptional. Soft in the middle with a great crust. Since I wouldn't be returning to Katz's, I went back to the counter for another sandwich to split with one of my companions. This sandwich came from a brand new hunk of pastrami. The pastrami was identical--perfect. The bread was the same as well.
I'm glad we have Langer's and I hope my last five or so sandwiches aren't the new reality at Langer's. At its best, I'd choose Langer's over Katz's because of the bread.
Other observations: NY pizza is not better than LA pizza. I had pizza from about 5 different places in New York, including John's on Bleecker Street and Joe's (to compare with our SM Joe's) and I never found myself wishing we could have this pizza in LA. Between the fancier wood fired oven places and a few of the better gas oven pizza places, LA has as good or better pizza than I had in NY.

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  1. I went to NY and did the exact same thing you did, and found your statements 100% true:

    Langers > Katz, and NY pizza is not better than LA pizza.

    Oh yeah, and the 54th/6th halal cart is not all that.

    Having said that, is there a SoCal equivalent to the halal cart, and if not, why isn't there?

    17 Replies
    1. re: ns1

      You guys happen to try Keste, Co, Motorino, Difara, Patsy's Spanish Harlem before coming to that pizza conclusion?

      1. re: Porthos

        Nope (I aint paying a $50 cab ride just to go to Brooklyn for pizza), but I did try a pair of yelp 4*'s that were highly touted by the locals I was with and found LA better.

        Trust me, all those big pizza places were on my list but it was too damn hard to hit everything up.

        Here was my review of NYC:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/799152

        1. re: ns1

          Can't really make such a bold pizza conclusion then can we? :)

          1. re: Porthos

            Based on my knowledge of NYC pizza I expected to have OMFG NY PIZZA no matter where I went.

            I didn't realize to get pizza better than LA I had to visit one of 7 uber pizza shops

            1. re: ns1

              You're comparing to LA's average or LA's best of the best? Might as well go to Soot Bull Jeep and proclaim NYC Korean better or Sasabune NYC and proclaim LA sushi better.

              1. re: Porthos

                Not comparing it to ANYTHING, I found NYC pizza to average, based on my small sample, even though I was with NYC'ers who found said pizza awesome.

                For instance, I didn't find this:
                http://www.yelp.com/biz/sacco-pizza-n...

                To be any better than this:
                http://www.yelp.com/biz/lamonicas-new...

                And I don't think Lamonicas is uber pizza.

                To be clear:

                When I go back to NYC I'll try the other pizza joints, I just have a much more realistic expectation now.

                1. re: ns1

                  I feel NY pizza is superior because of the coal flavor that it adds to the crust. There is nothing here that can add that flavor to the crust due to smog laws.

                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                    I think by and large that LA pizza is better though my NY sampling is not extensive. I must say that Lambardi's pizza in NY was pretty great.

                    1. re: Thor123

                      Thor123 said: "I think by and large that LA pizza is better"

                      I think that if you tried the top 5 or 10 places that NYC Chownhounds would recommend to you against the top 5 or 10 places that LA Chownhounds would recommend to you, you might change your mind. There's a lot of mediocre pizza in NYC (for example, pretty much anything with "Ray" in the name), and many visitors make the mistake of assuming this is representative of NYC's best pizza.

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        fwiw,
                        the last time i was in NY, i found that in my absence an influx of "chain-type--pizza-pretending-to-be NY=pizza" places had taken up residence.
                        the counterfeiters seemed to be everywhere.
                        very disheartening to know that the pizza of my childhood is now an endangered species.
                        in the "old days" good pizza could be found in almost any neighnborhood; there was no need to take a cab to find it.
                        sad, sad, sad.

                        although, most of the good pizza served in LA is of a different style than NY pizza, and in LA you expect to have to drive to get good food of almost any type, i'm grateful that we have the likes of Milo and Olive, Stella Rossa, and, for the best cheap thrill around, 800 degrees.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          No. I think your palate is now just more spoiled, ahem, um, I mean more refined.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            It's the Thomas Wolfe effect on display...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Just as refined are WSG's instincts. truly impeccable recommendations.

                            2. re: westsidegal

                              > i found that in my absence an influx of
                              > "chain-type--pizza-pretending-to-be NYpizza"
                              > places had taken up residence.

                              Are you talking about the various Ray's chains, or are there newer ones?

                              1. re: Peripatetic

                                newer ones that seemed to reek of corporate decision making about the procurement of ingredients and about the preparation of the pie,
                                AND
                                also, it seemed to me that the "rays" had gotten worse too.

                                made me want to cry.

            2. re: Porthos

              I've done Di Fara multiple times and Keste and Motorino twice. Never Co or Patsy's. I've been to Grimaldi's, I've been to Joe & Pat's on Staten Island, I've been to tons of little by the slice places in Manhattan (Bleecker St. Pizza on 7th is my favorite of that type).

              First of all, I think Di Fara is way overrated. Good, but not among NYC's best, I really don't get why people bow at it's altar.

              In comparing NYC vs. LA, if you do best vs. best, maybe NYC wins by a bit, but it's really close. Like with Jewish Deli's, there's the sterotype and romance associated with NYC. With the Delis, LA clearly wins these days and with pizza, we're at least close.

              But that's best vs. best. NYC is a pizza culture, so there are lots of very good slice type places all over the city. Yes, you can point to some very good ones in LA, but they're very spread out (e.g., one of my favs is Slice of New York in Seal Beach). So if you're a pizza lover who eats it every day, you'll be happier in NYC. If you're a broader eater who wants something superlative once or twice a month, LA is great.

              1. re: Robert Thornton

                I agree completely that LA has closed the gap considerably over the past 2-3 years. I disagree with the first 2 conclusions in this post that NYC pizza "isn't all that" and isn't as good as LA.

          2. Thanks for the report. I'm a pizza lover and really like the new pizza places that have opened up in LA recently, notably Settebello, Milo & Olive, and Stella Rosa along with my traditional favorites Mozza and Vito's. Whenever we visit Las Vegas, we always hit one of the Grimaldi's, which has been my favorite pizza. Not having tried NY pizzas and using Grimaldi's in Vegas as a measure, I would agree that LA pizza has significantly caught up with NY.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Ogawak

              While I agree there are pizza places that have opened up in LA that are very good....

              What is undeniable is A5 KOBE's statement about the flavor of the crust....LA vs. NY. I just learned something new about the 'smog laws' and what makes the flavor(s) different.

              1. re: latindancer

                Yeah that's what I thought too and when I went there I was sorely disappointed.

                Tap water magic my ass.

                1. re: ns1

                  i agree. plus, difara does not have a coal oven and they had the best ny style pizza in ny that i've tried including many coal oven places such as patsys in spanish harlem, grimaldi's and arturo's. won't compare difara to motorino or keste since it's a bit different. kind of like comparing vito's to mozza here.

                  i also agree with the katz v langers. pastrami a bit better at katz but bread much better at langers.

                  1. re: ns1

                    "Tap water magic my ass"

                    LOL...
                    How can any place do a better job with a pastrami sandwich than Langer's?
                    Seriously.

              2. I did this same comparison back in 2005 and our analyses are pretty much simpatico.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/65903

                Incidentally, the reason they give you a taste of the pastrami is so that you can reject it if the cut is not to your liking. If you're particular about your pastrami, the carver will go back to the steamer bin and get a different one for you.

                With regard to pizza, for rank and file slices you're right- we have slices to rival a standard solid NYC slice. However, there is absolutely nothing here to rival a Brooklyn DiFara slice ladled with porcini mushrooms in olive oil, or a white clam pizza with mozz at Frank Pepe's in New Haven. Absolutely nothing.

                Mr Taster

                1. great call on langer's vs katz's. never really internalized it myself, but i think you're right. the pastrami is just a little better at katz (with langer's being very good in its own right), but there is no comparison bread-wise. the rye at langer's is some of the best bread i've ever had, period. no comparison there.

                  1. On the topic of the bread: Langers's rye bread purveyor is Bea's Bakery in Tarzana (one block north of Ventura Blvd., half a block east of Reseda Blvd.) You can buy the same bread there -- ask for the "deli rye," as they make several varieties of rye. If you want it to be the same as what you get at Langers, put the whole loaf in the oven for about 10 minutes before you serve it, to crisp up the crust.

                    There are no bad breads at Bea's. Try the "half and half," if they have it the day you are there: half rye, half pumpernickel, marbled together. A great bread, and every slice makes a beautiful abstract picture.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: ozhead

                      That is valuable information. Thank you very much.

                      1. re: ebethsdad

                        Bea's rocks.

                        In addition to their deli rye, their pastries are awesome. Not cheap but oh so good.

                      2. re: ozhead

                        Love Bea's, but they no longer supply rye bread to Langers and haven't for a few years. Fred's Bakery on Robertson Blvd is their source.

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          Freds? I used to LOVE their stuff but it has changed in the past few years. Not nearly as good.

                          If it's not bea's - my next bet would be diamond bakery on fairfax. Their corn rye is EXCELLENT.

                          1. re: happybaker

                            Your next bet? You mean you don't believe me?

                          2. re: foodiemahoodie

                            They went BACK to Fred's? Interesting. Fred's was the long-time supplier until just a few years ago, when they made the switch to Bea's.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/78313

                              1. re: happybaker

                                My guess is that foodiemahoodie is simply mistaken & has the order reversed. I suppose the easiest way to find out is just to ask. But given your comment about how Fred's has changed, and the fact that Langer's did switch from Fred's to Bea's at some point in the past few years, I'd be surprised if they'd switched back.

                                1. re: Jack Flash

                                  At Bea's they have these long, long loaves of deli rye -- too big for your average family, though you can buy half of one. The point to this story is: within the last couple of months I asked one of the counter folks at Bea's whether that is the same bread they provide to Langer's. The answer was yes. .Plus it tastes the same as the bread at Langer's. On the basis of these facts, I will continue to believe that Bea's is Langer's rye-bread purveyor.

                                  1. re: ozhead

                                    Ozhead and Jackflash - I agree on timing and order. No disrespect to Foodiemahoodie, but I'm really thinking it's Bea's now.

                                    Gosh, how awful if I have to go and accidentally buy some of their baked goods just to ask myself? ; )

                                    1. re: happybaker

                                      fred's was sold a while back. i think this is when langer's made the switch
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/326040

                                      1. re: emosbaugh

                                        I had lunch at Langer's a week ago and asked the manager this specific question. He told me that they WERE getting bread from Bea's, but are NOW getting bread from Fred's.

                        2. Comparing apples to apples, Katz reuben is superior to that of Langers. I also like the brisket and corned beef better at Katz. With that said, the pastrami on rye definitely goes to Langers. Crunch of the bread really adds great texture to the sandwich.

                          1. Last time I was at Langers I was very disappointed, Pastrami was dry and tasted more like Corned Beef. I've been to Katz's hundreds of times (last time about 2 years ago) and never had a bad sandwich. Pizza is actually more subjective - thick, thin, toppings etc. Patsy's in East Harlem, L&B Spumoni Gardens and many neighborhood pizza places are better than Johns on Bleecker and Joes or the Million or so Original Rays.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: NYN8IVE

                              Dry? Corned beef? Never, ever been my experience. Not even close.

                              As far as the NY vs LA pizza argument - having grown up in L.A. I've been listening to this for years. I finally went to NY and tried pizza. In one aspect (now diminished) the pizza dough had a vague sweetness to it which could easily be traced to NYC tap water. That was some unbelievably delicious tap water. With a bit of salt and sweetness to it. Best water I've ever tasted - and that would have an effect. Alas, their tap water is good, but not what it used to be. And so many bakers have figured out how to filter out a lot of LA's water nastiness.

                              So much of this is what you grow up with. It isn't necessarily better, just what you're accustomed to in terms of comfort food. As someone once said "There's no second chance for a first impression".

                              1. re: NYN8IVE

                                I will repeat what I said before here despite being laughed at and trashed by the "Langer's Police" on this site---Langer's pastrami is more like corned beef. Katz, Carnegie and even other LA deli's have a more spiced/seasoned version of the meat typical of pastrami. Nothing wrong with corned beef, but it is different from pastrami.

                                1. re: brwencino

                                  Officer Taster reporting for duty.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8340...

                                  Exhibit A:
                                  Langer's pastrami

                                  Exhibit B:
                                  Magee's corned beef

                                  Case closed.

                                  Officer M. Taster

                                   
                                   
                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    I will tell you what: instead of this picture which shows a flat slice of Magee's, which is not at all Jewish corned beef, and just the edge of a Katz sandwich, go online and find pictures of a flat slice of Katz's pastrami and a flat slice of Langer's "pastrami" and you will see that other than the edge of Langer's there is no seasoning on its flat slice, but there is on Katz's. Do your own photo research. As for who is a "birther", methinks that those who elevate Langer's to an unsupported standard better fit that description.

                                    1. re: brwencino

                                      Seasoning on the flat side? Katz hand cuts their pastrami, there should be no seasoning on the flat side.

                                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                                        The seasoning is throughout the meat, get ti? Just look at an appropriate picture.

                                        1. re: brwencino

                                          I don't even know how to reply to this. Next you'll be insisting that Vito's actually serves Chicago pies. All joking aside, your argument really does come off as being that absurd.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: brwencino

                                            Like they inject the seasoning in the middle of the meat?

                                      2. re: brwencino

                                        > I will repeat what I said before here despite being laughed at

                                        Truthers, birthers, and now . . . corned-beefers!

                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                          Truthiness never tasted so good as Langer's corned pastrami...

                                        2. re: brwencino

                                          I have never had corned beef that resembled Langer's pastrami.

                                          1. re: brwencino

                                            What brwencino said, I rest my case.

                                        3. I've done the Katz's/Langer's comparison several times and the results are always the same. Katz's is good but Langer's is better on all dimensions. Langer's pastrami, bread and even the coleslaw are all superior in flavor and texture.

                                          1. I could not care less if Langer's or Katz offers the best pastrami, it's not like I would hop on a plane if I were in one city if I thought the pastrami was better in the other city, let's be real about this.

                                            The local consensus is that Katz's has outstanding pastrami and the local consensus is that Langer's has outstanding pastrami. All I care about is enjoying the best pastrami I can get my hands on, while I am in any given city. Just enjoy it all.

                                            A Chowhound is not some wealthy connoisseur who will travel any distance for the "best" of anything, a Chowhound is a guy or a gal who is capable of sniffing out a soul satisfying delicious bite of anything, where ever that Chowhound is on the planet at any given time.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: ChinoWayne

                                              I won't jump on a plane to NY when I want deli food, but I've been known to leap upon a Langer's pastrami sandwich and devour it with much moaning and...(err...never mind...what I do in the privacy of my own car driving home from Langer's is strictly on a need to know basis)... ;-D>

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                I've done the Katz deli Langers comparison in a 24 hour period and preferred Langers.

                                            2. Some of us Los Angelenos were in NYC. One friend is a pastrami NUT! He said Carnegie Deli > Katz and that Langers > Katz & Carnegie. Your thoughts???

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                                                Since this topic has occasionally strayed, I'll bring another factor into it. I recently had a pastrami sandwich at Zingers Deli in Boca Raton. The pastrami is fine, although not quite Katz' or Langers' quality. But the bread - It is outstanding. I've never had rye bread near as good as theirs. My understanding is that they bake it in house. The crust has a great crunch and the inside is a perfect complement to the pastrami.

                                                1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                                                  carnegie deli is at the bottom of the list unless you are an "insider" and are getting special treatment.

                                                2. I live in Baltimore so I feel like I am somewhat of a neutral party :). That said, I lived in NYC for 10 years and I grew up on Jewish deli here in Baltimore and I have spent many months at a time in LA. I recently went to Langer's for the first time, and I was curious to see how it rated here. My own conclusion is that the rye bread is so exceptional, so much better than anything you get at a normal [A level] deli in NYC, that I was really blown away, it made the sandwich outstanding in my opinion. I've always thought Katz's corned beef and pastrami were as good as it gets, but the meat served at Langer's is at least very close, and with the bread, I'd say that the Langer's sandwich takes the top spot [of places I have been to]. I may just be reacting to the novelty factor though. I have only ever had 1 Langer's meal vs about 40 at Katz's.

                                                  Pizza wise...it's true Di Fara is excellent, really, really superb....but...so is Mulberry St Pizza in LA...and a few other places in California. I'd still say they very best pizza in NYC is better than elsewhere, but I think sometimes NYC food gets some underserved credit from inertia. Pizza in Baltimore is terrible though, I will fully admit that, don't even bother trying to find the best unless you like our local 'style' :)

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: thedanny

                                                    The rye at Langer's is a beautiful thing. Even my kids love it. They usually end up finishing the meat part of the sandwich and the majority of what's left being crust. They typically won't do crust, but they finish everything on this sandwich. They always want to pick up some rye bread after going to Langer's, but I always have to sadly inform them that it just won't be the same...

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      FYI - They (Langers) get their rye bread from Fred's Bakery on Robertson Blvd. . "Rye with seeds." Double size is 8.50, singles 4.29.

                                                      There is also information online that says they get it from Bea's. They used to. But Bea's makes pretty much the same thing. I think they call it "double rye".

                                                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                        Other way around (used to be Fred's, now Bea's, unless they very recently switched back to Fred's).

                                                        1. re: Jack Flash

                                                          A few months ago it was Fred's. I know it used to be Bea's. (that's what Bea's told me, and Langer's told me). Unless you've heard something new.

                                                          1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                            No, I'm going way way back in time. As in, a review from the 1990s mentioned Fred's. Then, maybe 5 years ago, they switched to Bea's, after getting it from Fred's for many years. This seems to suggest that they've gone back to Fred's.

                                                            1. re: Jack Flash

                                                              I was there last weekend and asked the manager this specific question. He told me that Fred's is their current rye-bread purveyor, having replaced Bea's.

                                                    2. re: thedanny

                                                      Attman's pastrami sandwich in Baltimore rocks.

                                                    3. Several years ago Mr. JudiAU went to New York for no good reason and left me slaving at home. But...he brought a large hunk of pastrami back from Katz' and stopped to pick up bread from Langers. Beautiful...

                                                      3 Replies
                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                            Reminds me of the time (10+ yrs ago now) that my father visited a relative in Queens and brought back potato salad from a deli there. I wasn't as "aware" of food then as I am now, but it was simply the most perfect potato salad EVER. wonderfully seasoned, the potatos were cubed to just the right size, and the texture was lovely. How I've longed to find it here in LA....

                                                          2. Have not tried it but on good authority have heard that the pastrami on rye at Cure/Umamicatessen gives Langers a run for its money.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Thor123

                                                              Just tried Umamicatessen's pastrami on rye the other day, and I actually thought the pastrami was better than the ones I had from 2 recent trips to Langer's. Sadly, the Langer's pastrami was dry and tough both times.

                                                              And despite the hip atmosphere, the sandwich is even a couple bucks cheaper at Umamicatessen. However, the rye bread still can't compare to Langer's - Umamicatessen's was a bit chewy and didn't hold up very well to the big chunks of meat. Toasting the bread may have helped, but I didn't think to ask.

                                                              1. re: mikeop34

                                                                I, too, have had a couple of recent experiences at Langer's with the pastrami being too dry. It's never been more than an inconvenience- I simply informed the server, and they replaced it with an excellent sandwich.

                                                                A couple of months ago, I went with some out-of-town relatives and warned them of my experiences. I specifically requested that my pastrami be moist. "Fattier?" the server asked. I said, "Moist." She returned with a stellar sandwich.

                                                                My family members didn't make the same request, and guess what? They got dry sandwiches.

                                                                Not sure what's going on here, but it looks like we need to make Chowhounds aware of this issue.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                  Several times, I've asked them to cut the pastrami extra lean. It is drier, when I ask them to do it extra lean, that's when I ask them to do the #19 on an onion roll. Works for me.

                                                                  1. re: JosephEBacon

                                                                    I'll never forget ordering pastrami in a deli when I was a teenager. The old guy behind the counter looks over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses and gives me a stern look, then asks the question...

                                                                    "Kid, you want it lean or you want it GOOD?"

                                                            2. Lean … fat ( and moist )
                                                              Oh! That bread … that crust ( true... true )

                                                              What's the wash?
                                                              Cel-Ray … where?