Friday, April 3, 2009
The best Pastrami in the Universe: Langer's
Eat your heart out New York. The best Pastrami sandwich is a Los Angeleno. An East side one, at that. Sitting at the corner of 7th and Alvarado, yards away from where Captain David Aceveda and the late Terry Crowley met in the pilot of the Shield, is Langer’s, one of the best restaurants in the city.
You are here for one reason, and one reason only. The number 19. Hand carved pastrami sitting on impeccable rye bread. Before we even get to the slaw can we talk a bit about that rye bread? The crust is sharp; the rest of the bread just melts in your mouth, kinda like the pastrami. The caraway seed crust kicks in nicely like the turbo in Crockett’s Daytona Spyder. It’s the best Rye bread I have ever had because it makes me feel like I am on Miami Vice. The slaw is amazing. It’s more than just mayo, vinegar, carrot and cabbage. The slaw knows it’s got an important role to play, it has got to share a stage with that wonderful hand cut pastrami. Slaw motions to Russian dressing to put on it’s “A” game. Russian dressing comes through. And then there is the Swiss cheese. I forgo Swiss at other places for getting in the way; this is simply not the case at Langer’s. Here the Swiss cheese has every right to be there as the strung out dude in the booth next to you with just enough change to get a small bowl of cabbage soup. I have taken a bite into the number 19, its bliss, but before I put the sandwich down I take another bite. Uh-oh. Overload. I sit and chew and chew like a cow off the 5 halfway to San Francisco. But I am far better off than the cow. For I am eating really, really, really good cow.
Langer’s offers many more combinations than just the number 19. Chopped liver, Corned beef, a dip, and tomato are just a few of the many Pastrami possibilities at Langer’s. Some purists go for the sandwich plain, and then add on some mustard. Feeling kinda tough today, I decided to go for it like Rocky at the end of Rocky V, and I order another sandwich. Am I glad I skipped the French fries.
I went with some yellow mustard and went pretty easy on it. It was a whole different sandwich. In comparison, the number 19 is a weekend trip to Vegas, over the top, straight up indulgent. Going plain, and then adding some mustard was a study in control, an experiment in tasting the pastrami. It’s the difference between beer chugging and wine tasting. Hard to go wrong with either but plain with mustard is my new gold standard for judging pastrami. Slaw, Swiss and Russian dressing are for when I’m hung over.
I had to try the other half with brown mustard. In a nutshell, yellow mustard wins. The sharpness of the yellow serves as a better contrast to the richness of the meat. Brown ain’t bad, but it’s not the best. What it really comes down to is a matter of personal taste and at Langer’s that means a battle of these three condiments:
Brown mustard, house made Russian dressing, Yellow mustard.
Like most delicatessen’s, Langer’s features a huge menu that could tempt one to veer off the Pastrami highway but this is simply not advised. Unless you happen to go after the best kept secret at Langer’s: the corned beef.
Thanks to our waiter, the kind of professional you seem to find only at stalwarts like Langer’s, for recommending the Corned Beef. It was awesome. It was actually richer than the Pastrami, every bit as good but more rich than savory. We hit the trifecta with a Corned Beef with Swiss and Russian dressing on the side. My beef shame was countered by the discovery of this Corned Beef; this meat was truly God’s work.
The half on the left, just above the bread on the bottom, is glorious fat.
Langer’s is a city treasure. After all these years it still churns out a product worthy of it’s reputation and gives Los Angeles a serious old school food rep. My guess is I will eventually try everything on the menu but only after having a Pastrami on rye. Much like the mural above that hangs in the back of the restaurant; Langer’s is a work of art.