704 South Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
This is a restaurant that is as elusive as finding a parking space at the mall during the last two weeks of December. It's only open from 8 to 4 on weekdays and Saturdays, the closed on Sundays. Not ideal for me since I'm always at work during those hours, and my day off also is the day Langer's is closed. Then you throw in geography, since I'm coming from Orange County, and I thought I would never make it up here to try this legendary restaurant.
Just when I thought all was lost, my buddy was having a wedding up north, so we were going to be going right by here on a weekday. I finally had hope that we could actually make this happen. We left OC at a strategic time, to avoid the lunch rush, avoid some traffic, and hit Langer's with plenty of time to make it before their 4pm closing time. Mission accomplished. We rolled in close to 2, and were seated right away.
Langer's Deli is proud to call itself old school, because they genuinely are. Opening their doors in 1947, back when Truman ruled the White House, Al Langer had just 12 seats in his deli, which would eventually become a restaurant where many generations of families would visit over and over again. Running the show now is Al's son Norm, who got a little bit of luck when a subway stop opened near the restaurant, which saved this historic restaurant from possible closure.
Langer's is located across the street from MacArthur Park, an area that has definitely seen better days. Mainly a Hispanic area now, and ringed by Chinatown, Koreatown, and Historic Filipinotown, Langer's is not in an area that I expected to find what some people call the greatest pastrami sandwich in the world. I walked in the door and immediately understood why this Jewish deli is still here. No matter who you are, if there's good food available, you will want to eat it. Inside Langer's was a great cross section of America. This place brought everyone here to eat, and I could not wait to try the food here. We quickly ordered and waited for our food to arrive.
Katie started things off for us with what she likes to call, "Jewish penicillin," Matzo Ball Soup ($3.95). This is a very basic soup. No veggies or noodles included, just the broth and the matzo ball in the cup. This is definitely worth getting. The matzo ball was well made, and not clumpy like others we have had. The broth had a lot of flavor, and this soup worked wonders on Katie's sinuses. This soup wraps your insides like a comfy blanket on a winter day.
Well here is the sandwich that has brought all these people to Langer's, and helped make it a cultural icon, the #19 Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, and Coleslaw ($15.95). For the sandwich not being stacked as high as I imagined, it sure did have lots of pastrami on here. The meat was tender and full of flavor. I liked the thickness of the cut also. If I'm going to have pastrami, I want to be able to taste it, and you can't do that when it's cut paper thin. The coleslaw added a good crunch and had the right consistency, without being too soupy. The Swiss cheese got a little lost on here though. The rye bread was very soft in the middle, and the crust portion was hard. It really helped keep the sandwich together and structurally sound. I really enjoyed this sandwich even more with their house made Russian dressing, which would even be good on a shoe. It's that good. A really good sandwich that I was happy to have tried.
Katie's choice on this afternoon was the #44 Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($15.95). This classic sandwich came on grilled rye, with sauerkraut, a good amount of pastrami, and nippy cheese. I had never heard of nippy cheese before, but it's basically a sharp American cheese. Katie felt this sandwich was really good and rich. It was made even better with the addition of the Russian dressing. I really liked the rye bread toasted at Langer's. It definitely added a crunch to the bread, which helped with the texture of this sandwich. I'm much more of a hot sandwich guy, so this one was right up my alley. Another winner.
I really do not have too much to say about their Russian dressing, only this. Make sure you order a side of it. It's the best I have had to date, and I'm already making plans on trying to smuggle some out of here on my next visit. It made both of our sandwiches better.
Even though we had a three hour car ride ahead of us, we needed to try one of their desserts at Langer's. We selected the Apple Pie Ala Mode ($7.09) to fill this need. This apple pie came topped with one of the most generous servings of ice cream we have seen with pie. I'm not sure what kind of ice cream they use here, but it was great. The pie was a little on the syrupy side. The apples had a good crunch to them, and they did not rely on an abundance of cinnamon to flavor this pie. The crust was well made, and could have been showcased a little more without all the syrup used here.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to come up with what to say about a restaurant, this was not one of those times. Langer's definitely deserves all of the heaps of praise that it receives. Their pastrami is all it's cracked up to be, and we do look forward to finding more reasons to come by this way in the future. To call this the best pastrami I have ever had, I'd have to have a side by side taste test with the pastrami from Brent's Deli in Northridge. It really is that close to call, and I raved about Brent's, just like I raved about Langer's for weeks after my visit. Even though Langer's is not in the best part of town, I love the charm of it. It makes it even more special than it is. Service was stellar during our stay. Our waiter definitely kept tabs on us all afternoon. The prices might be a tad high, but this is quality eats that you are getting at Langer's, and it's well worth it. Glad we could finally scratch this restaurant off of our restaurant bucket list.
Out of five cakes, (since this restaurant is located across the street from MacArthur Park, and there was a famous song written about leaving a cake out in the rain in that park), five being best to zero being worst, Langer's Deli gets 4 cakes.
For more information about Langer's Deli, go to their website here: http://www.langersdeli.com/