If you’re a Los Angeles native, eating at Langer’s is your birthright. If you’re a transplant, it’s still your responsibility. Basically, every Angeleno must visit this since-1947 Jewish delicatessen for two reasons—one, it serves up one of the best food experiences this city has to offer and, two, you need ammunition if some New Yorker tries tell you that all LA delis suck.
Tip: If such a dispute does arise, you should mention that consummate Manhattanite Nora Ephron declared: “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.” In the The New Yorker.
Caddy corner from MacArthur Park, Langer’s is a relic of the once Jewish neighborhood, which is now home to a mostly Central American immigrant population.The fact that it still belongs, thrives and attracts a line every day of the week exponentially adds to its LA credibility.
Thanks to an invite from Val from Trippy Food, I found myself in that line on Christmas Eve eve. Val had never been, a travesty we quickly undid with the help of Langer’s #1 (pictured above), which has everything—thick-cut, succulent pastrami, cole slaw and Russian dressing—that their most famous #19 boasts, minus Swiss cheese. The rye bread, with it’s pillowy insides and double-baked (they pop it in the oven again once it’s delivered from Bea’s Bakery in Tarzana) crunchy crust, is the hero of every Langer’s sandwich.
I always order a cup of cabbage soup. It’s not as good as Brent’s in the Valley, but it’s still far and above most in LA (way better than Canter’s, Art’s, Junior’s, or Izzy’s). Cabbage and tomatoes make up most of this sweet and sour soup, with small chunks of beef adding a savory anchor. Their Matzo Ball Soup is also perfectly respectable, but a little too filling to follow up with a sandwich. Plus, if you get the cabbage soup, you can still fit some golden brown crinkle fries (I don’t care if they’re frozen) into your meal.
Confession: I ordered a grilled cheese. I know, I know. But I was going to Osteria Mamma for dinner, and a pastrami sandwich would have killed my appetite for the rest of the day and put me to sleep for hours. I used the opportunity to quell the curiosity I’ve always had about the “Grilled Nippy Cheese.” It didn’t disappoint. The caraway in the rye lent some sophistication to the super-melty American cheese, propelling it beyond your basic diner rendition.
Not to be missed is the Russian-style dressing. I love it and the art deco bowl it comes in. The chopped pickles add welcome punch but not overwhelming sweetness to the creamy texture. I could eat it by the spoonful.