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May 19, 2014 05:54 PM

A morning to explore near Union Station - recommendations?

I'm originally from LA, but I've never actually explored LA, so I know nothing about the city. I'm arriving at Union Station to meet up with a buddy, but the problem is that I arrive at 5:30am and my friend won't be able to join me until noon.

My current plan is just to walk to Olvera Street for a nice menudo or posole with fresh tortillas and then continue on to Chinatown to get a couple steamed buns or something. Any recommendations on the best places to do that?

I'm also open to any other suggestions. I've never taken the Metro Rail before, but I wouldn't mind taking it to get to somewhere noteworthy.

And yes, I do know about Philippe, but I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I don't like their sandwiches very much. It might be because I'm born and raised on The Hat.

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  1. Take the Red Line to Grand Central Market (opens at 8) there's high end coffee and pastries, bagels and house smoked salmon and sturgeon and the Egg Slut. In China Town Won Kok (opens at 8 as well) for baked bao.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      Thanks! Any ideas for before 8am? I was hoping the bao or to-go dim sum places would open before that.

      Any menudo ideas as I make my way towards China town?

      1. re: ah6tyfour

        Yum Cha - 6:30 AM
        Family Pastry - 7 AM
        CBS - 8 AM

    2. 1) Arrive at union station
      2) Buy MTA day pass
      3) Hop on redline to GCM, buy/eat eggslut. Go to wexler's, buy/eat lox.
      4) Go across the street, get your tourist on and go up/down angels flight
      5) Get back on redline and head on over to Langers
      6) Buy pastrami sandwich (#9 or #19, depending on your pastrami viewpoint), fries, corned beef hash, coffee, lipitor.
      7) Consume everything you just bought, you silly glutton you. If you fail, prepare a doggy bag for your friend. Or if you're super nice, pick up a #9 or #19 for your friend.
      8) Wait for your friend to pick you up as you will be far too comatose to move
      8a) For maximum legit-ness, implement 8 above by passing out inside MacArthur park for a few hours.

      49 Replies
      1. re: ns1

        Is Angels Flight operating again? See The Hat reference. Langer's may not be appreciated.

          1. re: JAB

            I can also appreciate a nice thick-cut pastrami sandwich! I just came back from New York and thought Kat's was just a tourist trap. Then I tried it. Asked the guy at the counter for a not-too-lean cut. He went and got me a brand new uncut pastrami and gave me samples for my customary $1 tip. It made for one heck of a sandwich! Langers sounds like a place that could do as good, if not better.

            There's something about Philippe that doesn't do it for me. I've had their lamb sandwich and their beef sandwich, both with varying amounts of dipping. It's almost as if the sandwich never actually melds into a sandwich. You taste the meat, you taste the bread, you taste the mustard, but you don't taste a unified sandwich.

            1. re: ah6tyfour

              Langer's then or the aforementioned place in GCM (Wexler's) that has the lox / sturgeon and bagels also has excellent Pastrami but, I don't believe that they serve the pastrami until after 11 AM.

          2. re: ns1

            You left out The Eastside Market Italian Deli's D.A. Special their Sausage, Meatball, Roast Beef And Pastrami Sandwich. Just in case you're still hungry.

              1. re: ns1

                For breakfast, try Nick's Cafe.

                Opens at 5:30 (or earlier), and it's a short walk up Alameda from Union Station.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  +1 for Nick's Cafe.

                  Get anything with their ham. Their hash browns are great, their home fries yummy - especially when deep fried...!

                  As for it being a short walk? Sir Google said it's .8 miles.

                  1. re: happybaker

                    If a short walk to Nick's Cafe is your goal, from Union Station, take the Gold Line metro towards Pasadena and get off at the very next stop, Chinatown Station. Nick's Cafe is a 5 minute walk up Spring Street from Chinatown Station.

                    Take ns1 and Jase's advice and get a $5 day pass, which gives you access to all the metro lines, purple towards Koreatown, red/purple towards Langers or GCM, red towards Thai Town, gold towards Little Tokyo or East LA etc etc.

                    1. re: d_doubleyew

                      Sounds awesome. I have never explored LA and always thought of it as a place nobody ever went, so I'm excited to finally get the chance to walk around a bit. I never knew there was a subway system. I'm going to try my best to ride it a few times as I wander around the city.

                    2. re: happybaker

                      C'mon gang, 0.8 miles is like a 15-20 minute jaunt at a leisurely place.

                      Plus a 20 minute walk means you have about an additional 100 calorie deficit for Nick's to fill.

                      Win! Win!

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        haha, I do like to walk around and wander until I find where I'm going to, so I might just walk it, especially if it takes me along the Alameda side of Olvera Street area.

                        I had discounted Nick's when you first mentioned it since I was after non-typical cafe fare, but it looks like it'll be the only thing open at 5:30am. I might as well go there first to kill some time before hitting the other places which all seem to open around 8am.

              2. re: ns1

                Dash Route B will take you from Union Station to GCM (and environs)

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  There you go. What's that cost, like a quarter?

                  1. re: JAB

                    2 quarters, unless the OP is older than 65 years.

                2. re: ns1

                  Sounds like a great morning. Did I mention that, once my friend arrives, we have lunch already planned?

                  Does not mean I won't go ahead and do your list first!

                  I have not heard of Langers. Their menu looks amazing. #19 it is!

                  1. re: ah6tyfour

                    I'll not try to persuade you from the # 19 if that's your thing but, consider a plain pastrami on rye with some mustard so as not to take away from the pastrami.

                    1. re: JAB

                      I just looked at the menu again and saw that the #19 had cole slaw. Yes, I think I will go for the plain pastrami. The menu is a bit large and complicated. For a plain pastrami sandwich with mustard, would it just be the $14 Hot Pastrami sandwich? And I'll be able to choose rye bread?

                      Think if I ask nicely they'll let me sample their beef tongue and corned beef? Maybe I'll end up ordering the $21 mixed deli plate so I can try all three meats.

                      1. re: ah6tyfour

                        Honestly, Langer's is a bit of a 1 trick pony. Stick to the pastrami.

                        1. re: ah6tyfour

                          I did a #9--hot pastrami vs. #19--pastrami, swiss, slaw, russian dressing comparison with my mom's companion this Saturday and I favor the simpler sandwich. And your default option is their extraordinary rye bread.

                          He asked to try the tongue, and the least they would sell him was a quarter-pound. He liked it, but way too much food. We were sitting in a back booth -- if you were at the counter solo and could talk to the cooks/slicers, you may have better luck.

                          1. re: nosh

                            According to the menu, the #9 is turkey, tongue and roast beef with tomato and Russian style dressing. That doesn't say "simpler sandwich" to my mind.


                            If what you're referring to the sandwich simply called "Hot Pastrami", it has no number because it needs no number.

                            It is The One True Sandwichâ„¢, unschmaltzed and ungilded. Pastrami on rye, adorned simply with Gulden's, a few full sours, and maybe fries well done if you're feeling decadent.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Mustard is something tho. Not unadorned.

                              1. re: jessejames

                                I didn't say unadorned. I said "unschmaltzed and ungilded".

                                The day that Gulden's is considered gilding is the day Detroit becomes the Paris of the Midwest.

                                Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    But u always make a big point about what other folks put on their pastrami and you also put something with strong flavor on yours. I'm just saying...

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      Hey gang, I've got an idea! Why don't we all put, or not put, whatever we want on our pastrami (and that includes up to mayo if we want) and maybe we quit telling each other what someone else ought to like for any reason, including religion, tradition or anything else you can think of that you believe gives you the right to dictate what someone else should like?

                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                      Detroit is a cool and up and coming spot with a lot of soul. And if you tried the pastrami sandwich at zingermans in Ann Arbor you might reconsider.

                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                    That's my sandwich, too, but I sure wish Langer's used a better mustard than Gulden's. That sandwich deserves more. It's the lone weak spot.

                                    1. re: cacio e pepe

                                      What other mustard would you suggest? A down-to-earth, working class, brown deli mustard is really all a great pastrami sandwich needs, and Gulden's fits that bill. Hebrew National, too.

                                      Mind you, I'm not saying these are great mustards. What I'm saying is that they're right for an unfancy pastrami deli sandwich.

                                      Put whatever mustard you want on your fancy Plan Check "pastrami nosh", for example. You won't hear a peep from me about that. It's an untraditional restaurant serving an untraditional sandwich, and the standard deli rules and guidelines don't apply there. But when you're eating at a place that's been around long enough for my grandfather to have eaten at in his younger years, and that he would have felt totally comfortable at, well, there's traditions and responsibilities to consider, and to uphold :)

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Oy! No pastrami nosh for me, thank you.

                                        Haven't been a fan of Guldens in years. It's too close to French's in flavor.

                                        I definitely value tradition, but the Gulden's of yore is no more. You remember the medals on the label back in the day? There's a reason they're gone. The tradition is in name only these days.

                                        I understand it's a west coast thing, but Beaver brand is leagues better than Gulden's these days. And it's not fancy pants. Comes in a squeeze bottle and everything. The best deserves the best.

                                        Plochman's Kosciusko is solid.

                                        Hell, I'd be thrilled if they made their own. It's a piece of cake, really.

                                        I'm of course just nitpicking what to me is a sandwich that knows no equal. I leave Langer's happy as a clam at high tide, but I always feel a twinge of what-if when I have the waitress bring the Gulden's. (By the way, why is there French's at every table? Baffling!)

                                        1. re: cacio e pepe

                                          >> (By the way, why is there French's at every table? Baffling!)

                                          You could always bring your own mustard, in the vein of the Heinz bootleggers at Father's Office.

                                          French's is on the table for the same reason they slather Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw on their sandwiches. Angelenos (even many Jewish Angelenos) seem to have somewhat loose expectations of traditional New York Ashkenazi food. For those of us who grew up on the stuff, it's only natural that you take a proprietary stake in it.

                                          Look, in the end, Norm Langer is just a businessman. He's in it to sell sandwiches, not to proselytize and alienate his customers-- much in the same way that thousands of independent Chinese restaurateurs are shelling out gloppy heaps of sweet & sour pork and fortune cookies to throngs of Americans who expect nothing else.

                                          I love this trailer and really appreciate this guy's perspective-- a transplanted New Yorker dishing up plates of traditional Ashkenazi soul food to Houstonites who may or may not know any better. Check out what he has to say starting at 9:30.


                                          Sadly, he's also got the Russian/swiss thing going on in his menu, but it's not front and center.


                                          And as a sign that the apocalypse is nigh, even Katz's is new reluctantly admitting to schmaltzing up their corned beef:

                                          "For years we've been keeping our Corned Beef, Swiss Cheese, Russian, and Sauerkraut combo under wraps. Now we're ready to go public"

                                          Although they're still fighting the good fight when it comes to their pastrami:

                                          Katz's Pastrami 18.45
                                          Smoked to juicy perfection and hand carved to your
                                          specifications (ask for Mayo at your own peril)

                                          And even the venerable 2nd Ave Deli is offering a schmaltzed up #4 sandwich, but their kosher certification is, mercifully, holding the Swiss cheese at bay.

                                          4. Hot Pastrami, Corned Beef, wide Salami, cole slaw and Russian dressing ..............................23.95

                                          In any case, the differences between these delis and Langer's is that the non-traditional sandwich trappings are options, rather than the main event that Langer's seems to want to make their #19. That's the part that's most offensive to my sensibilities. Langer's has every reason to be proud of his pastrami without resorting to gimmicks and glop. Though I guess that argument falls kind of flat when you consider even the temples of Jewish gastronomy have succumbed.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Russian and Swiss and coleslaw not my thing but this goes back on east coast too. Not a ca invention. Our family get togethers in 60s and 70s always had "sloppy joe" sandwiches whih were trays of sandwiches made with rye sometimes crust cuff off so it could be made into squares with pastrami slaw Russian sometimes mustard tongue or whatever else. "Sky hi" with slaw also east coast thing. I like Swiss kraut and horseradish but just saying there's no gimmick. It's also a tradition. But glad unlike what u like.

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Great video!

                                              I do think we're talking about somewhat different things, though, with the #19.

                                              Burgers and pizza just aren't part of the tradition. The Reubens and their ilk have been with us for an awfully long time. I'm not sure you can put that on the Gentiles or even on Jews outside if NY. Even so, they've mostly been embraced by non-kosher delis.

                                              I think I need to get a brisket brined immediately. After that video, I need to go through that labor of love.

                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                        Yes, that's what I ended up ordering. Just the simple hot pastrami sandwich (and I added mustard). Unfortunately, as my review states, I was not all that impressed with the pastrami.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Would I get in trouble for occasionally ordering a #44 with nippy cheese?

                                            1. re: wienermobile

                                              I'd happily "bite" into one of those. And you are rapidly becoming the King of Food Porn Photography on this board, W-mobile!

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                If you can't smell it the next best thing is seeing it...

                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                  Found a picture of a #6 Pastrami and Chopped liver...

                              2. re: ns1

                                GCM does have such new amazing stuff. And the transit connections are fab. That may be your best choice for ease, diversity, quality and range of choice.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  if you go to GCM, make sure to go inside the Bradbury Building across the street. Gorgeous.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    This. A couple of weekends ago, I decided I needed a me only chow day. I got the all day metro pass for all of $5. Started on Expo Culver City headed downtown

                                    Hopped on the Red to Langers, down to GCM and noshed there, walked around downtown, ended up by Bronzed Aussie for a pie. Got back on Red and transferred to Gold Line, walked around Little Tokyo for a while, then back on Gold Line to Chinatown.

                                    Worked my way down to Olvera Street and Union Station. Red line back to GCM for some more noshing. Then Red line to Expo line back home to Westside. Entire day under 8 hours from walking out the door to back in.

                                    It's wonderful how many places you can hit starting with downtown/Union Station area and a $5 all day pass.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      That sounds like an incredible day! I'll just have one morning and will have to pace myself as my friend is driving me on a food adventure around SoCal, so I can't be TOO full before he even arrives. Hopefully I get quite a few small eats in. I might have to make a friend at Langers and offer someone half my sandwich.

                                      1. re: ah6tyfour

                               assured there will be lots of people downtown who would be happy to have half a sandwich.

                                        1. re: ah6tyfour

                                          Save the other half for your friend. Easy enough to eat while driving.

                                          Have a great trip! Looking forward to the report.

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            They wrap leftover sandwich halves very well at Langers. The pastrami on rye will keep, but not necessarily with the cole slaw. Also, on reheating a pastrami sandwich, you can pop in the microwave for 20 seconds or so to warm the inside and then place on a skillet or something in a moderate oven to gently warm and crisp the rye bread.

                                    2. If they are on schedule LA's landmark Clifton's Cafeteria a scheduled to reopen in June.

                                      1. Not too far from the Toy District or Little Tokyo options. Urth Cafe ... nice crowd, salad, sandwiches. Wurstkuche ... nice design. Shin Sen Gumi is my favorite ramen, more so than Daikokuya, Men Oh, and Orochon. Hama Sushi.

                                        Guisados original spot isn't too far.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: tenxtone76

                                          I might have to try your favorite ramen shop. Hopefully my friend will be okay with having ramen for lunch.

                                            1. re: wienermobile

                                              The Pie Hole menu looks so good. So many places to go...

                                              Hard to resist going for a slice of Maple Custard pie or the Earl Grey Tea pie. And they open at 7am!

                                              Are their pies really sweet? They look sweet, so I might have to ask to purchase their least-sweet pie, whichever one it is.

                                              1. re: ah6tyfour

                                                The Maple Custard is tasty but very sweet. You'll want something to wash it down. Their apple pie has tons of sugar on the crust as well. The least-sweet, sweet pie I've ever had there (and my favorite) was the pumpkin pie, but that's a seasonal thing.

                                                Sounds like you should have a fun day ahead of you!
                                                Although I like Nick's for breakfast, it's straightforward breakfast food that you can probably find a lot of places. But at 5:30AM, you could do a lot worse. The walk to Nick's is pretty barren though, considering that you're exploring LA.

                                                The walk to GCM would be more interesting, and you could cut through Grand Park, and get a distant glance at Disney Concert Hall, and the construction for the new Broad Museum.

                                                My plan for exploring LA would probably be to take a leisurely stroll to GCM, eat breakfast and grab a coffee at G&B, if time permitted, a trip to semi-sweet bakery, then head north on Main to see the new development of that area, and then east to Little Tokyo for some dessert and if you need another coffee pick me up, Demitasse. I don't mind doing a ton of walking, so not for everyone.

                                          1. "And yes, I do know about Philippe, but I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I don't like their sandwiches very much."

                                            That wouldn't be a problem in this instance as they don't start serving sandwiches until 10:30 AM and their breakfast fare if pretty darn good.