As you might have gathered by now, we engage in food quests of one form or another. One of the objects of such a quest has been the definitive pastrami, (or corned beef) sandwich. The gold standard, in my opinion, is Katz’s in New York City. In Los Angeles, there are scores nay, hundreds of variations on this deli icon. However, there are only a few that remotely approach my ideal of the perfect sandwich.
Food writers routinely compile lists of the ‘best New York style pastrami’ sandwich and the two that make this list consistently are Langer’s and Brent’s. Not often mentioned is Nate N’ Al’s in Beverly Hills, for years our go-to stop. Factor’s Deli used to be very good but has declined in years. Canter’s on Fairfax also makes these lists with regularity, but they are not my favorite. A new player in the LA pastrami scene is Wexler’s in the Grand Central Market. They cure their own meat and lox, and the sandwich is pretty darn good.
A couple of years ago, on our way out to Desert Hot Springs for a much-needed escape, we stopped at Langer’s for the first time. Fortunately, we arrived after the crowds that normally fill the waiting line outside had dissipated. Its reputation is well deserved. Aside from the smoky goodness of the meat, their speciality is the twice-baked rye bread with a fabulous crunchy crust. The old-school deli ambience only adds to the experience and the french fries are delicious too. We have eaten there several times since and it never disappoints.
The following year, we stopped at Brent’s just because they have been so lauded, and were sorely disappointed. The meat was rubbery and indistinctly flavored, and the bread so soft, the sandwich disintegrated halfway through. It has been suggested we try again, but once was enough. On our food quests, one strike and you’re out.