Ahh, Langer’s… a legendary deli frozen in time. The days of the New York style delicatessen have been gradually dwindling away. They are harder to find as they are replaced by the corporate giants; the Schlotzskys, the Jason’s Delis, and dare I say…. the Subways. But there is still hope. For me, dining at Langer’s was a spiritual pilgrimage – it was praying at my own Wailing Wall. Okay, I’m being a bit melodramatic.
Langer’s is a whole experience; dining there is just half the fun. You have to negotiate driving in L.A., and then, the questionable neighborhood where Langer’s resides. Langer’s is located at 7th and Alvarado, right across the street from McArthur Park. As I mentioned before, the neighborhood is well…. shady. I read somewhere that this area of L.A. is where one would go to get a fake I.D. Why didn’t someone tell me that when I was 17? Langer’s offers parking one block east of where the restaurant sits. You get one free hour of parking as long as your ticket is validated. I felt like that one block walk from the parking lot to the restaurant was negotiating a gauntlet of unsavory characters and ne’er-do-wells. I’ll be honest, I was little scared to take some exterior shots of Langer’s as I feared that my camera would get stolen. Thankfully, I made it into Langer’s without being robbed, mugged, or sexually assaulted. Phewww.
The Langer’s interior sort of reminded me of an old game room basement from when I was a kid. They had the brown pleather booths and counter stools… 70′s brown, and the light fixtures had those old beige lamp shades, all classic diner decor. We were quickly seated and began examining the menu. Langer’s has been reviewed/blogged hundreds of times. Everybody always says, “get the #19.” The #19 is Langer’s #1 seller. It’s Pastrami on rye with a slice of swiss, coleslaw, and Russian dressing. I didn’t want to be like everybody else: I ordered the #10 ($12.70), which is Pastrami on rye with a slice of swiss, and Russian dressing. Yeah, I just ordered the #19 without the coleslaw. My dining companion ordered Matzo Ball soup and a half of a pastrami sandwich on an onion roll.
While we were waiting for our Jewish goodness to come up, I kept looking around for some celebrity eating incognito at Langer’s Deli. I’ve been to L.A. a few times and have gone to some of the famous spots like Pink’s Hotdogs, but I have never had a celebrity sighting. As my ass squeaked across the pleather booth while I turned around, I wondered if the guy sitting a few booths away eating a #19 was Ted Danson. It wasn’t.
Our waitress, Alice, brought our food out a few minutes later. Just looking at this brilliant sandwich made me want to attack it like a fat kid going after an ice cream cake. I sunk my teeth in to the Pastrami, and then was whisked away into a different dimension of deliciously smoked, tender lunch meats. Oy Vey, it went down like BUTTER (that’s for you Grandma)!
I’m really not an expert in Pastrami, but I think I figured out why this stuff just melts in your mouth. I’ve had Pastrami at a few different places in different parts of the country. The Langer’s difference is that it’s hand-carved pretty thick, it’s sugar cured and peppered, BUT….here’s the kicker: it’s slightly fatty. Not too fatty that it’s unpleasant, but just enough to give it some good flavor during the smoking and steaming process. Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.
A few other notes; Matzo ball soup was pretty good. Not too salty, and the matzo balls were solid. The entire menu is robust with traditional Jewish deli menu items such as liver and onions, potato pancakes, malts, shakes, and oodles of desserts. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t try some of the other menu items, or get a dessert, but the whole L.A. trip was a bit rushed. It gives me something to try when I come back.
Except for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I now have from my one block walk from the car to Langer’s Deli through the gauntlet of derelicts and homeless people, the whole Langer’s experience was definately a mecca of the pastrami world. Can Katz in New York City hold up to Langer’s? Stay tuned to find out.
704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057