Thursday, May 22, 2014

Best sandwich in America

According to Nora Ephron - and if anyone would know, it would be Nora Ephron - the hot pastrami sandwich at Langer's Delicatessen, in the Westlake District of Los Angeles, is "the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world."

There are some who would disagree. Katz's Deli, on New York's Lower East Side, has its champions. Certainly having a pastrami sandwich at Katz's can been a stimulating experience.

But I'm with Nora. I like Langers.

I read an article written in 2009 comparing the two, and it made me laugh right from the start as it compared the settings of each establishment.

Katz's Delicatessen, said the article, is in the "once seedy, now trendy" neighborhood where the diner feels safe and secure, while Langer's is in "the most densely populated area of the city" rife with "shabby characters."

A photo caption for Katz's notes its "quaint East Village" location with tree-lined streets. The Langer's photo caption calls out the Hispanic shops, run-down park and "illegal stuff" for sale.

What made me laugh was how opposite my experience has been. I used to go to Katz's Deli in the mid 1970s, when that part of Houston Street was the ass-end of the Bowery, and no one in their right mind would call the East Village "quaint."

And although I know that Westlake and the MacArthur Park area had some notorious gang activity in the '80s, it's now home to an amazingly diverse community, including Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Korean families.  My deli-going experience as a young woman at Katz's was far more risky an undertaking than my middle-aged dining excursions to Langer's, where I've encountered aging moguls of the music industry having a nosh on their way to court-side seats at Lakers games.

Langer's is so popular that at lunchtime, they have a stanchion line set up outside, just like Disneyland.  Once you get inside, it's a retro feel. There are brown tufted-vinyl booths with formica tables, some vibrant tiles in '70s-era colors behind the counter, hanging brass coach-house-style lighting fixtures. 

I love sweet-and-sour cabbage soup, so whenever I go to a deli, I have to start with a cup.  I won't say Langer's cabbage soup is outstanding, but it's comforting and exactly as I expected it.

The main event at Langer's is the sandwich. The menu is lengthy, with many possibilities, but I don't think I've ever known anyone to order anything that's not pastrami.  You can get a turkey sandwich, or a skinless chicken breast sandwich, but who would want to? It's all about the pastrami here.

You can be a purist and get a plain hot pastrami sandwich. Or you can get their most popular sandwich, the Number 19 - hot pastrami, swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing. That's my favorite.

Always get your sandwich on rye. Langer's bread is warm, crusty, and delicious enough so that even those who prefer Katz's east coast style of pastrami have to concede that it makes a better sandwich. All you need is an egg cream or a Dr. Brown's soda, and you're in Sandwich Nirvana.

Who's hungry?


Kizz at 117 Hudson said...

What a coincidence to read this today after I'd just scrolled by a local news item. Apparently there's been a water main break and it's flooding Katz's Deli! Now I can't get a pastrami fix until they sort that out.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'd be surprised to find the Katz area quaint. It was a good area for finding Patti Smith at the Bowery Ballroom, though...

Anonymous said...

Oh, lordy. I had my first bite of a pastrami sandwich at Zager's in Nashville, over 50 years ago when I was a kid. I immediately regretted ordering the hamburger.

Glennis said...

Too bad you're not in LA, Kizz, I'd buy you a Number 19 at Langers!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

I'm hungry! That looks ridiculously good.

M. Bouffant said...

Hungry? Not any more. (I had to get something to eat before coming back to comment though.)

Langer's is another local tradition I've never been to, but now it's only one train station away. Maybe for next month's fix of red meat.

And the sweet & sour cabbage soup sounds good. Not unlike borscht, I assume. At least by appearance.


My husband and son enjoy Langer's. My daughter and I prefer Canter's.