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Oct 8, 2013 02:12 PM

NYC/LA pastrami battle - the three kings

OK, let me please preface this by saying all three of these spots are f'ing awesome. The real winner, me. All sampled in last 10 days

Langers -- you know the drill. Thick sliced pastrami piled an inch and half or so on crusty rye. I like mine with swiss and cold kraut on side to pile on. To me this has always been the standard. No place has better rye. But I heard of a few contenders in NYC.

Katz's -- downtown....frankly, this meat and sandwich architecture is similar to langers. I tipped the carver, asked for extra fatty -- all the things the fine NYC hounds recommended. Sampled the meat first Similar beefy richness as langers meat if you ask me, and thickly sliced and juicy. to me the bread a bit too thickly sliced, maybe 50percent thicker than langers, and not as crusty or wide, but this is really opinion, a very similar sandwich to langers. that's a good thing. similar amount of meat -- very ample. Side dish of griddled natural casing dog with kraut-- very nice! im kicking myself for not buying a hard salami to take home

this brings me to my next stop...another nearly century old spot walking distance from Times Sq., the carnegie deli. ample isn't accurate here. there's more succulent pastrami in half a sandwich here than a whole one at the other spots...maybe 6 inches of meat (you can't print that!) price about the same, 18 or 20 bucks i think...more thinly sliced, more of that black stuff on the sides...super f'ing juicy, this thing steamed up the bread and melted what was literally 6 slices of swiss cheese on it...this spot seemed to be a notch below katz/langers from the hounds i surveyed, but i actually liked it best. yes size matters. but this meat was awesome soft and juicy and delicious. pickles here (full and half sour better than langers and katz).

as i said, all these spots are amazing, but if i had to pick one spot to get a pastrami sandwich it would be the carnegie deli. you don't need to eat for a while and even half a sandwich can do a hungry hound...of course i didn't stop there.... however, if were downtown near katz's i would go there instead of carnegie. the meat is maybe a bit "beefier" and less "pastrami-y" if that makes any sense, and is outstanding. obviously if in LA, langers is our king.

footnote: russ and daughters and barney greengrass blow our barney greengrass away for selection of fish, better bagels, latkes and more...also 100 year old(ish) places proudly run by familes like (i think) the 3 pastrami kings above)

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  1. Posted tongue in cheek.....
    OK, ok, we'll let NY and LA battle all they want...FOR SECOND PLACE!
    Sorry to bust your utopian bubble, but the best sandwich can be found in Montreal, at Schwartz.
    The Montreal Smoked Meat!
    Not only that, but it ain't gonna set you back $18-$20: the best sandwich in the world can be had for less than $7 bucks. Howsabout THAT?
    Robert Sietsama, Gourmet magazine contributor, says "I love Katz’s pastrami more than life itself, and I’ve eaten literally hundreds of these pastrami sandwiches, but I still found Schwartz’s marginally better.”

    Now if someone'll finally admit that Montreal's bagels are better than New Yorks' bread doghnuts....

    6 Replies
    1. re: porker

      next time im in the arctic circle ill try it!

      above also tongue in cheek.

      sounds great to me, id love to try that on for size!

      1. re: jessejames

        honestly when you said "three kings" I thought you did a langers v katz v montreal battle.

        hopefully next time ;)

        1. re: ns1

          id love too -- can't do it all...somehow i managed to fit in about 6 hotdogs and two pastrami sandwiches when i was there for a weekend with a wedding, rehearsal dinner and brunch tho!

          oh, the cheesecake at juniors...both marble and regular...moist and dense and not dry in any ive ever had

          1. re: jessejames

            Montreal, Arctic Circle, is only a 6 hour drive from NYC (train is >12 hours, but thats another story...)

              1. re: jessejames

                Fun video.
                Their 2 year plan is to open restaurants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, then Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, and finally in France.

    2. Nice rundown. I actually prefer Carnegie the least.

      Pastrami to pastrami, I think it's very close between Katz's and Langer's with a slight nod to Katz's. Probably biased by the memories it brings back for me.

      Of course if we throw bread and slaw into it, yes, Langer's sandwich is better.

      Take any swings at sushi in NYC?

      27 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        i wish....closest i got was the smoked sable and lox (or whatever some of you guys wanna call it!)

        id love to check those spots out and the italian joints is such an eaters town...sometimes i think NOLA is tops but maybe it's there.

        my consolation prize for missing those will be lunch at shunjis!

        1. re: jessejames

          We've moved a discussion of NOLA recommendations to the New Orleans board, at

        2. re: Porthos

          srsly man, that Katz rye is terribad.

          1. re: ns1

            no one has better bread than langers

            even labels bread better than katz/carnegie...but, that carnegie bread gets steamy and soggy and you can make little pastrami 'sushi roll bites' cuz you can just eat the sandwich the regular way!

              1. re: Porthos

                hey man i agree! when you have six inches and a lb and a half of meat at carnegie who needs the fucking bread!

                1. re: jessejames

                  We used to have Carnegie Deli here in Los Angeles ... well, Beverly Hills. It was not so successful.

                  What I did have was good although I did not try the pastrami.

                  My first encounter, I was with a couple of friends working late. When the sandwiches arrived, they each came in a LARGE brown paper grocery bag. For a reason.

                  1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                    I didn't know that. There's on in Vegas but not the same. Still ok.

                    Their sandwiches are HUGE. But so good I finish them. But easily two meals unlike the local ones at least for this hound. The bagel and cream cheese there has an inch or so of cream cheese. Even the Swiss in the pastrami sandwich was more cheese than our delis use meat. But so good. I'm imagining borat right now!

                    Not the best but still good in bh area for me are Nate n Als, the nosh ( same pastrami as langers) and labels on pico. I remember stage deli in cc too.

                    I guess I'm ready for breakfast!

                    1. re: jessejames

                      I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that the Beverly Hills Carnegie Deli failed because their "excess" was counter to the BH maven's quest for "thin".

                      Do you think there was another reason?

                        1. re: jessejames

                          300 No. Beverly Dr.
                          Beverly & Dayton

                          These folks have various ideas about why it closed

                          the New York Times had another

                      1. re: jessejames

                        There was also a very large Stage Deli at the Century City Mall for may years in the 80's.
                        "January 8, 1988 | CHARLES PERRY
                        "Too much glass," said one of my deli mavens, waving his arm. Too much glass? "Look at all the windows. This isn't a deli. You could get a tan in here." Great. This is why I'd asked the mavens to join me at the Stage Deli. I'm a Valley boy, I couldn't possibly know all the fine points. Myself, I was just glad we got in with less than a 45-minute wait. As the only real restaurant yet open in the new Century City Marketplace, the Stage Deli has been packed every time I've been by.

                        1. re: wienermobile

                          The Stage in CC was terrific in its day; Carnegie, on the other hand, was always a head-scratcher out here as it got so much so wrong.

                          1. re: wienermobile

                            Ha! I remember that deli. And they're right-- Barney Greengrass, Goldblatts, Stage... none of them felt like delis. Nate N' Als, Canters, Art's, Brent's, Langer's all feel like proper delis (with varying degrees of food quality.) If a deli doesn't feel like a deli, a significant part of the charm and experience is lost. It doesn't matter if the food is identical to equivalent in NYC. Without the sassy waitresses, the grunge, the customers from all walks of life, the brown colors, there's something about the experience that just doesn't feel, well, kosher.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              I love the atmosphere of a good deli too Mr. T. But in my hood I'll take Greenblatts over Cantors every damn time. You sound like the kind of guy that has kosher hard salamis hanging in your kitchen.

                              1. re: jessejames

                                We usually had 2-3 hanging from the top of our kitchen from Zabar's.

                                1. re: polldeldiablo

                                  so good

                                  that spot is a free sample abuser's mecca!

                        2. re: SilverlakeGirl

                          Carnegie closed August 26, 1994. There were many reasons for the deli’s closure but the big three probably went something like this…

                          Nate ‘n’ Al’s, a long-established local tradition, was right down the street.
                          The food at the Carnegie cost more than the food at Nate ‘n’ Al’s.
                          The food at the Carnegie wasn’t as good as the food at Nate ‘n’ Al’s.

                          1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                            I just saw mention of the Carnegie in LA. I mentioned elsewhere on this thread that I happened to work for Marvin Davis at the time he brough the Carnegi to Beverly Hills, and how it closed after a handful of years.

                            I recall it just never being managed correctly, and if the truth be told, big deli sandwiches in the heart of Beverly Hills in the "you can't be too thin or too rich" era just was not a good combination.

                        3. re: Porthos

                          ...which is why I usually say katzs and langers pastrami are equal enough, but Langers has a sandwich that is miles better.

                        4. re: ns1

                          Call me crazy but I've always ordered my Katz's sandwiches - either brisket or pastrami - on the club roll.

                            1. re: JeMange

                              The right call for brisket but, pastrami on rye. Come on... ;>)

                          1. re: Porthos


                            I'm with you. I think Langer's and Katz's are pretty close. I think Langer' is a little spicier and Katz's is a little fattier, but they're both damned good. Katz's definitely comes up short with the rye.

                            Carnegie is a notch below if one doesn't consider size. All of them make good-sized sandwiches that are plenty so the benefit to carnegie is that one can share or take part home. But the meat just isn't as falvorful to me.

                            I would love to try Shwartz's, but they can't ship to the U.S.

                            1. re: john gonzales

                              I like that for such a huge sandwich Carnegie not too salty. I don't think you could double maybe triple the size of katz or langers and handle it at once. I'd like to try shwartzes too

                            2. re: Porthos

                              Had Langer's and Katz's in the last year. I'm a native NYer and I think that Langer's is much better.

                            3. What about 2nd Ave? Good service, good pickles. Still, you're right, Carnegie overstuff is big.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: benk

                                Love 2nd Ave. Haven't been since they moved though.

                                Matzo ball soup was awesome but between that and the sandwich, I'm done for the day.

                              2. "The real winner, me." You said it, I'm green with envy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JAB

                                  Picking out deli foods to sample was a way to really feast in NYC without getting killed financially too. I had some of the best meats and smoked fish i ever tried and tons of other sides/drinks and good service and atmosphere and no bill (for 2) exceeded $75 including everything, even at barney greengrass. I also really appreciate the advice from all the hounds here and there -- especiallly in Katz's - i think that bit about tipping the carver a buck and asking for extra fatty and then getting to try a slice first was great. As Bobbi Fleckman (from Tap) says in NY, "money talks, bullshit walks" - and i did see some substantially slimmer sandwiches on other tables! I hope to get out to coney island next time to try the original nathans but just couldn't fit that in this time. i'm considering calling Katz's and having them ship out one of those hard salami's too. The carver gave me a snip of that -- it was awesome.

                                2. I always like Carnegie deli the best......

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    granted it was in midtown manhattan, but judging by the line on 7th avenue, in the rain, lots of other folks agree (and there were a zillion other delis within a few blocks).

                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                      Me too. But I have not been in about 15 years.