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Mar 19, 2012 03:36 PM

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:

        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:

                To be any better than this:

                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

                        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,
                                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"

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

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


                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.


                              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

                                      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.