Thursday, March 1, 2012

Billy's Deli an Oasis in a Deli Wasteland? - CLOSED

Billy's Deli
216 North Orange St.
Glendale, CA 91203

Southern California is not normally known for their delis. It can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, when trying to find a great deli in LA. Okay, maybe I should make that like trying to find someone in LA that has not had plastic surgery. That seems better, and a little more impossible! Either way, it is even worse in OC, where it is almost a deli wasteland. So when I heard that Katie's Dad wanted us to meet up with the family at Billy's Deli in Glendale, I was a little apprehensive that it would be good. Let's see if my fears would materialize.

Billy's has been slinging sandwiches around since 1948. An achievement most restaurants will never get close to seeing. The ownership has changed. The original Billy, who was not even a Billy at all, is a long time Glendale resident, Frank Whitten.  In the late 60's to early 70's, Frank's son, Lee created the famous wall that has become an iconic part of the storefront here. The wall features individual molds of salami, cheeses, and casks of wines for decorations.

Not only does Billy's feature a sit down restaurant, but half of the place is a delicatessen and bakery. The deli is known for slicing their famous meats, while the bakery side bakes bread for sandwiches, and I am also told they whips up some impressive brownies. The whole restaurant exudes nostalgia, and not just because of the big pictures on the wall depicting Glendale in bygone days. Enough of the old days, lets come back to today and look at the food.

No bread basket is served here, it is a deli remember? After being seated you are brought a bowl of pickles. I really enjoyed these. They had a great crunch, and the flavor was very crisp and clean. A word of warning before you gobble all of these down. The first bowl is free, and the next will cost you fifty cents. Well worth it though.

Katie has had a soft spot in her heart for Matzo Ball Soup since she had it in New York. She claims this was about as good as anything she had on our East Coast trip. This cup of soup featured tender pieces of chicken,  vegetables, and of course a big matzo ball plopped right in the center of the cup. The matzo ball was comforting. and rich in flavor. Katie claims this soup is medicine for the soul. I could argue that, but if it cuts down on medical bills I am all for it.

With your sandwich selection you get to choose a side salad. Choices are all pretty representative of a deli, potato, macaroni, Cole slaw, carrot salad, and pasta salad. As you can probably tell from the picture above, I selected the Potato Salad. This potato salad had a nice mellow flavor, but was much more creamy than other potato salads I have had. There were no big hunks of potato to be found here. I liked this potato salad, but Katie's Uncle Tim was not too fond of this chunk free potato salad. So the potato salad debate will live on, chunks or not!

Katie did not want to look far down the menu, so she ordered the Number 1 Three Decker Sandwich. They really piled on the turkey, pastrami, and Swiss on this sandwich. Katie liked this very much. She felt the turkey was a little on the dry side, but the pastrami was right out of New York City.  The rye bread held the contents of this sandwich well. There was so much meat on this sandwich that Katie had to take some of it off, just so she could get her mouth around this. She got the macaroni salad to go along with this, and felt it was pretty good.

Lynn went to the sea for her pick, the Tuna Salad Sandwich. This tuna came on rye bread, which she was really keen on. The tuna portion of this sandwich really satisfied her appetite. Just looking at this it looked like a lot of lettuce, and a little bit of tuna. She claims that it was not the best tuna she has had, but she would not throw this tuna back, (little fish humor for ya!).

Uncle Tim went real old school when he selected Triple Decker Sandwich Number Three for lunch. This sandwich contained liverwurst, salami, Swiss cheese, and dressing. This is what he gets every time he comes here, his old standby. He likes the flavor combination of this, and it never disappoints him.

I did not get a real good shot of Aunt Mel's French Dip Sandwich. She called the meat, "fall apart tender", but she was not crazy about the au jus here. She added pickles to the sandwich for texture. Melody did state that she would get this again. The fries were cooked to her liking, and made even better with ranch dressing. How can anything not be good with ranch?

Dennis, the pure traditionalist amongst us, got a simple Pastrami Sandwich. He really enjoys the consistency here. The sandwich tastes the same as it did 25 years ago. The pastrami was lean and stacked high. Just the way he likes it.

There was no doubt that I was going to go big here. What you see above is the Triple Reuben. This sandwich featured the hat trick of meats, turkey, pastrami, and corned beef, along with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Needless to say this sandwich was very filling. Out of the three meats, my favorite was the corned beef. Great flavor and cooked the right way. The turkey is not that processed stuff you get at other deli's, it is the real thing. The pastrami was some of the leanest I have had, and it was sliced nice and thin. I got a side of Russian dressing for a little flavor boost with this and it was the right call. Great all around sandwich.

After eating at Billy's I can see why it is a local legend. The sandwiches are what a deli should be. The meats are cooked the right way and stacked high on rye bread. The prices might be a little on the high side, but the quality of them makes up for it. Sandwiches run from $7 to my $14 Triple Reuben. We received good service while we were here. We got to the deli at noon on a Sunday, and there was definitely a steady stream of patrons sampling the delicious sandwiches here. The decor is not going to wow you. It is less about the frills, and more about the down and dirty deli experience. In the abyss of average to below average deli's in Southern California, Billy's is a welcome diversion.

Out of five jewels, (because the city of Glendale has the nickname the Jewel City for some reason), five being best to zero being worst, Billy's Deli gets 3.5 jewels.

For more information on Billy's Deli, click here:

Billy's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon


  1. Hey.....good blog! Have you tried New York Delicase in Mission Viejo? I recommend them. The only good deli place in OC. Also.....aunt Mel ...her name is Melody...not Meliane! LAME! Love ya jerkface!

  2. Wow....your blogs gone mobile friendly!!!! Very cool!!!

  3. Anonymous - I have not tried New York Delicase yet. I will put it on my list. No excuse but I finished this post at midnight, and got Aunt Melody's name wrong. At least I did not forget that she was in my wedding! Thanks for the comment.

    Sam - Anything to help the reader. If you get up to Glendale check this place out. Hard to find, but worth it. Thanks for reading!

  4. The Capri deli in Covina is where you need to go. The best cold cut combo ever made. Also their meatball and Italian sausage sandwich is outstanding. It's been around for over 50 years using e same bakery for it's buns. Also they make Italian food that you can get pre packaged in different serving sizes to go for reheating later (including heating instructions for each item). By far my favorite sandwich place ever

  5. Mike Lane - I remember you mentioning this place. I will put it on my list! Thanks for the info.

  6. I would agree with Dennis. As a 19 year resident of Glendale and the greater LA area it is one of the best deli's in the southland. I would at least give it a 4.