Friday, October 29, 2010

Agony and Ecstasy - Life Beyond The Tender, Juicy, Heavenly Pastrami at Langer's Delicatessen

At this point, there's not much more to be said about one of L.A.'s best institutions serving up some of the world's best Pastrami. Their Pastrami is so focused and delicious it's caused followers of New York's famous Katz's Deli to switch allegiances and moved famous writers to wax poetic about this succulent delight. :) But over the years, I started becoming cognizant of other words and letters filling up the menu at Langer's that didn't involve the word "Pastrami." :) Curious, I've been slowly exploring the rest of the menu to see if there is any life after Langer's famous Pastrami Sandwich.

The fact that Langer's has been around for over 63 years(!) (founded in 1947) is impressive enough, but add the fact that they're still packing in the crowds due to their Pastrami is even more awe-inspiring. Stepping inside really feels like entering a time warp to an era of days gone by, with some old (now charmingly quaint) decor and simple rows of booths running up and down the restaurant.

On one of my very first visits, we began with their #5 - Corned Beef and Swiss Cheese, Russian Style Dressing on Rye Bread.

The Corned Beef is delicate, tender and mild. Probably one of the best Corned Beef Sandwiches I've had in years. :) I wish the Swiss Cheese was melted, but it's a minor concern when the Beef is this tasty.

But the real highlight is their famous Hot Pastrami Sandwich. For my first time, I order it plain, and it's served in all its unadorned glory with Rye Bread.

I take a bite...

It's just SO good! (^_^)

If the Corned Beef is tender and juicy, their famous, much-lauded Hot Pastrami is even more moist and delicate and luscious. It's lightly salted and spiced; it's savory and satisfying on so many levels.

The only regret that entered my mind was how I had missed out on Langer's for so many years (despite growing up in So Cal, I never made it out to Langer's until a few years ago). :) This tender, Sugar-Cured Corned Beef that's then smoked for hours is perfectly complemented by the fantastic Rye Bread (made by Bea's Bakery, and finished in the ovens here at Langer's). It's a soft, pillowy Rye, fragrant and lightly tart, with a crunchy crust.

And contrasting their Plain Hot Pastrami, is their most popular item on the menu, #19 - Pastrami, Swiss Cheese and Cole Slaw, with Russian Style Dressing on Rye Bread.

You can tell a restaurant is excelling when it can spawn debates amongst the dedicated food lovers about which version of a dish (with the same base ingredients) is better. :) Their #19 is their lovely Hot Pastrami Sandwich, but with the addition of the Swiss Cheese and Russian Style Dressing and Coleslaw. It's got a sweet tang, the Pastrami is still so lush and satisfying, but for my tastes, it's a bit too complicated. I prefer the Plain Hot Pastrami, but I can see why some people love the #19 so much. :)

One of my guilty pleasures are Chili Fries, so I'm curious how Langer's version compares to the more (in)famous versions around town. :)

The French Fries at Langer's are that ubiquitous, crinkle cut Fry found at many places around town. It's crunchy, crisp and has a decent inside. The Chili itself is mild, slightly saltier than I'd prefer and ~OK at best.

With the lengthy discussion on Chowhound about finding good Corned Beef Hash, I had to give Langer's version a try as well.

Their Corned Beef Hash is well-crisped, nicely seasoned and tastes fresh. There's a real Beef taste, and the layering of the finely minced Corned Beef with Potato chunks interspersed makes this *almost* taste like the canned version of Corned Beef Hash that some Hounds are looking for, but the flavor is still a bit different. It's moist and fatty, and for a restaurant version, it's something I'd be happy to order again if I was in the mood. :)

On another visit, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my 'dachi Noah, from Man Bites World and some other fabulous guests. We began with a classic Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda. :)

Light, refreshing and sweet, infused with Celery flavors, it's an excellent way to start the meal. :)

Continuing on, we try their Matzo Ball Soup.

Their Matzo Ball Soup tastes like a straightforward, basic Chicken Soup with a soft, tender style of Matzo Ball. It's fine, but it's nothing that would make me order it again.

And then the Hot Beef Tongue Sandwich arrives.

Lengua. Gyu Tan. Beef Tongue. I love a well-executed version of Beef Tongue whenever I can find it, and Langer's Beef Tongue Sandwich is surprisingly good! :) It's extremely soft and delicate, thinly sliced with a more round and distinctive bovine flavor than the Pastrami or Corned Beef. This is definitely a sandwich I wouldn't mind ordering again! :)

One of our guests is craving a Reuben-like Sandwich, so we order their #44 - Hot Pastrami, Sauerkraut and Nippy Cheese Grilled on Rye.

With a foundation as great as their fantastic Pastrami, it's hard to mess up anything that stems from that, and thankfully their #44 is just fine. :) The Sauerkraut imparts just the right amount of tartness, and the melted Nippy Cheese helps to tie it all together.

But probably the most shocking discovery of the day is their #27 - Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver Sandwich.

I am generally not a Liver fan, but I never thought I'd see the day when the words "stunning" and "Liver" were used by me in the same sentence. (^_~) The balance between the Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver is absurdly good! There's a real clean, focused flavor that shines through. I was bracing myself for the usual metallic, iron-y Liver taste, but instead the Chopped Egg's creaminess really provides the perfect foil for the Chopped Liver which exhibits none of the usual heavy, unpleasant flavors you usually associate with Liver. Definitely something worth trying outside of the Pastrami! :)

I'm pretty happy at this point, but then the Tuna Melt arrives.

As I'm about to take a bite, Noah's astute eye suddenly catches something, and he stops me. He gingerly picks up the Sandwich and then cracks it open. Like gazing upon The Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we're awestruck by what my 'dachi has coined "the quadruple crispies." Langer's not only grills the outside of the Tuna Melt (as expected), but the also grill the *inside* of the Tuna Melt on both sides, so you get 4 layers of crispy crunch with each bite! Excellent! (^_^) Sure it's slightly greasy, but it's *so* good! :)

On a later visit, I begin with their Chicken Noodle Soup.

It has that classic Diner taste; a Chicken Soup made with Bouillon Cubes. There's no actual Chicken Meat in the Soup, and the Thin Noodles have turned to mush.

Their Chicken Rice Soup fairs about the same.

It has the same Bouillon Cube taste, with soft Rice floating around in the Soup. It's a touch more enjoyable than the Chicken Noodle, since the Rice grains still have some body left.

Their Knish continues the heartbreaking trend.

It's a thicker version, with a filling of solid Mashed Potatoes. Unfortunately the outer dough exterior is dryish and the filling is so dense that it makes for a hard time eating this, even when split amongst 4 people.

One of the most humorous things to come out of these visits is the attempt to order their Fish & Chips. Fish & Chips are a popular item amongst many people, and I'm always looking for a great version around town. But each time I've tried ordering the Fish & Chips at Langer's, I've gotten sage advice from the veteran servers. The first time, our seasoned waitress gave me the raised eyebrow "Trust me, you don't want to order this" look. :) The second time I tried ordering it with a different server, he politely and quietly warned me to order something else. (^_^)

Their 1/2 Roast Stuffed Chicken arrives next.

Surprisingly, the Chicken is stuffed underneath the skin (between the skin and the meat), instead of the usual center cavity stuffing. Sadly, the Chicken Skin is soggy, smothered in Gravy. The Bread Stuffing is fluffy and comforting, reminding one of Autumn, but the actual Chicken meat is less successful. The white meat is slightly dry (but parts are still moist), but tasting a bit old, like it was reheated. The dark meat fares a bit better but still tastes a bit dull.

Their Home Fries have a great crispiness while still being moist on the inside, with a great crunch to each bite.

Their Fried Chicken is next to arrive.

There's a super crackly crunchy exterior that's well-seasoned with Salt and Pepper and satisfying. :) But sadly, there's still a noticeable amount of subcutaneous Fat throughout each piece of Fried Chicken, as if the frying didn't melt enough of the Fat away, resulting in a slightly off-putting mouthfeel with each bite. Between the two cross-town institutions, I'd have to give the edge to Pann's for their Fried Chicken over Langer's.

Their Hot Brisket of Beef Sandwich is another item I've been curious about for a while.

It has a very light, clean beefy taste, less pronounced than their Corned Beef or Pastrami. Texturally, it's not as pleasing or amazing as the super-tender Pastrami, but it's also less salty and tastes healthier all around.

Their Smoked Whitefish is another interesting dish I've been eyeing for a while.

Their Whitefish (like their Lox) is outsourced, and there's an intense smokiness that's quite distinctive, and it's lightly briny with a delicate flakiness. But, the amount of sodium used just overpowers everything. Eating it with the Toasted Bagel, some Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Lettuce provided helps to alleviate some of the Salt-overload, but it's still a bit too salty.

We finish up with their Patty Melt on Rye Bread.

I order it medium, but sadly the Patty Melt arrives well-done. It's extremely juicy and fatty, and the melted, gooey Cheese and crunchy Rye with Grilled Onions helps to create a satisfying version of this dish. But after Servorg's excellent recommendation for Pann's Patty Melt, Langer's version falls a bit short. :)

Service is brisk and slow at times. Some servers seem to take their time, but others are on the spot, ready to help alleviate your needs. The fact that they're always at near-100% capacity doesn't help, but it's fine for what it is. :) Prices range from $3.95 - $23.95 for their Sandwiches, with most in the ~$12 - $14 range.

Langer's Delicatessen continues to bring in the crowds, even after 60+ years for a reason: Their Hot Pastrami is noteworthy and standout, being so mouth-wateringly good. :) In exploring the rest of their menu, and finding so many heartbreaking items (made even worse because each "miss" means I missed out on having their wonderful Pastrami again (^_~)), there are quite a few noteworthy things outside of their Pastrami. Their Corned Beef is very good; their Beef Tongue is quite tasty, and their Chopped Egg and Chopped Liver Sandwich and Tuna Melt are very pleasant surprises! Breakfast is enjoyable with their Corned Beef Hash and Home Fries as well. :) But at the end of the day, it's still all about their amazing Hot Pastrami Sandwich: Succulent, soul-satisfying and delicious in every way. :)

Rating: 8.2 (out of 10.0)

Langer's Delicatessen
704 S. Alvarado Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Tel: (213) 483-8050

Hours: Mon - Sat, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays.


PIGMON said...

Exile Kiss-
This Chicago Jew has one recommendation for your next Langer's outing: pastrami/chopped liver combo (NOT the #6 with the Russian style dressing. Integration of cole slaw into the sandwich should be considered). With their amazing bread, this is a true mindblower.

That's a mandatory LA culinary requirement for me on every visit (along with Torihei).

Thanks again.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Pigmon,

Brilliant! :) Pastrami and Chopped Liver? Wow, this could be really good. :) I can't wait to try it next time. Thanks for the rec.

Banana Wonder said...

Dear lord Exile Kiss I'm going straight to church to light a candle for your arteries! Good work at Langers. I've never been and never had a pastrami in my life, but you give me a compelling reason to change this! :) And try a double grilled tuna sammie as well :)

edjusted said...

Once again I applaud and salute your thoroughness. And once again I gotta whine about the lack of good choices down in OC. There used to be a good deli down in Mission Viejo that had good pastrami and matzo ball soup, but they closed down years ago. There's Jerry's Deli in Costa Mesa, but they're just decent.

At first I was gonna say thanks for the review. Now I know what to get if I'm ever up there. But on second thought...I don't know...there's too many good choices. But thanks just the same!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anna,

Yes, please do. :) Thanks for the concern. (^_~) Yah their Pastrami is definitely special, but if you skip that, their Tuna Melt is wonderful and the Chopped Egg & Liver Sandwich is also good. :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi edjusted,

Thank you. :) There have been so many good reviews about Langer's already. I just wanted to write about something else besides the Pastrami; hopefully you found it useful. :)

Noah said...

I was certainly surprised at how many good things there are at Langer's. If I lived around the corner, I could see myself ordering a lot of different things there. But I go so's just impossible to not order the pastrami.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Noah,

Yah, totally! :) It was definitely great finding some new items. And thanks for the Cel-Ray intro. :)

Peter said...

Langer's is an L.A. classic. Hell it's even been used as a location on the HBO show Entourage.

I've been going there for quite some time. I've found it superior to other pastrami offerings in L.A., including but not limited to Canter's Deli on Fairfax.

In any case I used to live in New York so I don't know if Langer's can be considered better than Katz's Deli, though! For me I think that's still the best pastrami I've ever had. :)

By the way did you go to the recent Umaimono Fair at the Torrance Mitsuwa? I thought I was sure to find a review on your blog.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the comments. :) I'm glad you like Langer's a lot, and it's good to know you like Katz's more. :) I still gotta try that out the next time I'm in NY.

Mitsuwa Umaimono Fair: Nope. I know, I'm shocked as well. :) Just didn't feel like it this year. Thanks.

Food, she thought. said...


i want that tuna melt for lunch, even though i am kinda already eating lunch right now.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

How are things? :) Yes, that Tuna Melt is amazing! :) Love it!

phurstluv said...

Great review. It amazes me how the texture of the pastrami is so different from what they served back east. This is not thin sliced, it's corned beef texture. Tasty, but not like the pastrami I love.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Nancy,

Thanks. What's your favorite Pastrami back East? :)

Unknown said...

First thing, THANK YOU EK for not succumbing to the marketing ploy of the #19... you have done your readership a great service and have made my Ashkenazi brethren proud :)

However, as someone who has loudly trumpeted the pure pastrami sandwich at Langers against the wave of #19 eating sheep, I have been known to order the 1/2 chopped liver version as well and have written about it a few times over the years:

etc. :)

Very often we get the pastrami platter, which comes with a generous portion of pastrami, a big chunk of sliced rye, a big scoop of chopped liver, and various vegetal comestibles. It generally works out to be a much better deal than ordering individual sandwiches, and you can schmear on as much chopped liver as you like.

Mr Taster

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Mr Taster,

Very nice! :) Thanks for the links and I'm sad I missed out on the Chopped Liver and other highlights for so long. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Exile Kiss,

Great review. I've had Langer's on my list for years, but I still haven't made it over there. I definitely want to try the corned beef sandwich after reading your review.


Exile Kiss said...

Hi Pink,

Thanks. You definitely need to visit Langer's at least once. Try their Corned Beef and especially Pastrami. Let me know your visit goes. :)

gourmetpigs said...

Wow you certainly did go through Langer's menu!
My friend raves about the chopped liver as well and while it never sounded like something I'd order, I may have to try it ..

On another note I finally tried Katz in NYC and .. I think I like Langer's fattier pastrami better.

Anonymous said...

Exile Kiss,

Thanks for your thorough rundown of Langer's-- I've stopped by more than a couple times but have never managed to convince myself to order anything but the pastrami sandwich in all its various forms (cheese, no cheese, russian dressing, etc). Thanks for the added color-- will definitely make it a point to try the chicken liver (liver/offals fan here!)

But what I think really sets apart Langer's is their rye bread. That double-baked bread with the crackly crust and fluffy center.. incredible.

Compared to Katz's deli in NYC, I think Langer's edges it out. Katz's pastrami is a bit too fatty for me, and that's saying somethign coming from someone who likes their meat faaattyyy! Katz's pastrami ends up feeling slightly jelly-like and doesn't have the slight bite and chew that you need in good pastrami.


Exile Kiss said...

Hi burumun,

The Chopped Liver with Chopped Egg Sandwich is worth a try. :)

Thanks for the report back on Katz's. :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Daniel,

Thank you. :) And thanks for the great insight in Katz's and what you enjoy and don't.

Langer's Rye Bread is definitely a standout! I love it. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Exile Kiss,

I love your blog very much, but how come you have not edited it for over a month now?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

Thank you for the kind, kind words. Some personal things have come up to take care, and it has taken up my time. Forgive me. I hope to be back soon. Take care~ (^_^)/

Glennis said...

Great you explored the rest of the menu. I have to confess it didn't occur to me!!

I love the plain pastrami, but I also adore the #19. I don't care if purists don't like it.

But your description of the chopped liver/chopped egg is intriguing to me - I love both those offerings.

The other thing I like to try at delis is sweet & sour cabbage soup - how is Langers (do they offer it?)

I loves me a tuna melt, but if I trekked all the way to Langers, I wouldn't order one. I'd have to go for pastrami.

As a far as the tongue sandwich is concerned - try the tongue sandwich at the Persian sandwich shop, Attari, in Westwood. Heaven.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Aunt Snow,

Right? :) Same here. After falling in love with their Pastrami sandwich, it's so hard to order anything else. But definitely give their Chopped Egg / Chopped Liver Sandwich and Tongue a try if you want something different but good. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello ExileKiss,

Just wanted to let you know I finally found some time to hit up Langer's and try their chopped liver sandwich. It was fantastic- thanks for the recommendation!

I will likely write about it on my blog when I find the time :)


Exile Kiss said...

Hi Daniel,

I'm really glad you got a chance to try the Chopped Liver Sandwich. :) A great (and surprising) alternative to their delicious Pastrami. :)

Kung Food Panda said...

Great detailed post as always. I've been to Katz's and I've had the smoked meat in Montreal, but I've yet tried the sandwiches at Langers...must change that in 2011

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Kung Food Panda,

How are you? :) Thanks for the kind words; I'd love to hear what you think of Langer's.

Anonymous said...

Missing your reviews, Exile. Hope everything is okay.


Parley Baer said...

EK-- No posts for several months. Have you closed your blog? That would be sad news, indeed. I hope you're OK. -PB

sarah said...

i have been missing your excellent reviews! hope all is well with you and that you continue your blog...its my favorite. thanks you!

meenakshi said...

Your blog is one of my favorites, and we have discovered many great restaurants through it. Have missed your updates for a while. Hope all is well, and that you get back to blogging soon.

Unknown said...

Love this blog! Where did you go? let us know you are OK!

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