Monday, February 18, 2008

Auspicious Beginnings

I have it on good authority that Langer's pastrami is something very special. By good authority I mean more than one lovable nebbish, and believe me, these boys know their pastrami. Staunch east coast partisans have called it the best stuff in the country. I love pastrami, and love when Los Angeles wins any food-off (especially something this sacred), so I had to get there.

sweet macarthur park mural #1 (note our hero's ak-47)

Los Angeles is at its most magical around Christmas. While the rest of the country is shoveling snow, we enjoy some of the most beautiful days of the year. The gloominess that will take over towards the end of winter hasn't set in yet, and the city is so clear and bright that it's sparkly. And so many people are home for the holidays that traffic is actually a non-issue -- a serious LA miracle.

December 31 was pretty much made to round up a few sandwich friends and go to Langer's. In the sharp winter sunlight, you totally forget that MacArthur Park is a crack park; it just looks like the lush verdant promenade it once was. Even the murals on neighboring buildings of Selena, the Pope, and other esteemed subjects seemed particularly vibrant.

gone, but not forgotten

So, you'll already be smiling by the time you walk into the deli, but when you are greeted by wood paneled walls, fake plants, and a portrait of someone's adorable 70s-era grandson, you'll be positively joyful. This is good stuff.

The menu is really long but it becomes very clear from the moment you walk into the door that you're supposed to order the #19: the renowned pastrami, with cole slaw and Swiss cheese, served hot on rye. I went with a slight variation, the #1, which has all of that except the Swiss. Good lord. The meat, in unorthodox thick slices, is so richly flavorful that it might bring a tear to your eye. Its moist, meaty deliciousness is incredibly satisfying. The bread defies logic: it's fresh and very soft, but the crust is perfectly crisp (it might be the perfect sandwich bread: toast-like crust without cutting up the roof of your mouth). Even the cole slaw and not-too-sweet cream soda are transcendent. And the sleeper hit of the day? Sweet-and-sour cabbage soup. I'm telling you -- try it. (But seriously though, the pastrami. Wow.)

So, a good time was had by all, everyone was deeply impressed with their lunch, and we knew that with such auspicious beginnings, 2008 simply can't go wrong. On the last day of the year, we reached new levels of pastrami bliss.

Langer's is at 704 S. Alvarado at 7th St.
Note that they're only open 9am - 4pm, Monday - Saturday.


  1. OMGOMGOMGOMGOM - did you really just say Los Angeles Food Off? Because some day that website is gonna be awesome. Maybe I need to quit my job. Actually, I definitely need to quit my job. Also, I've been espousing Langer's for forever and a day to Evan who, for some reason, loves Canter's but I think is just blinded by nostalgia.

    And, um, when are we declaring "Tamales and Pastrami Day"?

  2. Wow, a food post and an art post all in one. Although the pastrami (but not the soup) sounds dreamy, unless Langer's decides to open a location in the burbs (of the burbs) it's doubtful I'll be getting any of it anytime soon.

    And Brad, how about Pastrami Tamales? Pastrales?

  3. ok people, let's calm down a little.

    first of all, canter's just isn't good. they have really awesome ceilings though. and the fruit cups are pretty special. and there was that one magical tuesday night at the kibbitz room when we were young and the dj played the most incredible mix in the history of music. but the food -- meh.

    as far as pastrales, it's a horrible name, but kind of in line with local food history. you do know that los angeles (perhaps socal in general) is the one place where you can find pastrami sandwiches at taco stands? in fact, i recall a spot in pasadena that had pastrami quesedillas. god bless you jonathan gold for elucidating me to this particular fun fact (and so, so much more).

    and tsp, seriously, the cabbage soup was delicious.