25 February 2006
704 Alvarado Street
Los Angeles, CA

Atmosphere: A return for us to the depressing, un-renovated look. Very much appreciated. This place brings the old back into school. Lots of fake wood. or if it’s real wood, then they really should’ve just saved the money and gone with the fake. Pretty empty. Half the restaurant was closed off and the half we were in wasn’t full. Kinda sad to see.
Attitude: “Jimmy” was awful pleasant and courteous — apparently a struggling actor trying to convince us he could play the hell out of a 1950s soda shoppe counter boy. Couldn’t help but think how incongruous he was with the entire deli and its surrounding neighborhood.
Food [general]: This is clearly the place you go for amazing pastrami. This is not so much the place you go for egg salad. Not bad, just not great. We were there too early for fries.
Pickles: Almost an afterthought. Very disappointing.
Dr. Brown’s black cherry: In a can? Never even heard of such a thing. Maybe it’s purely psychological, but I swore it didn’t taste as good as from the bottle.
Summary: Comin’ into it, I knew it was Elliot’s baseline for all delis, so I wanted to really like it, but I think it’s just all about that #19 here — the pastrami coleslaw sandwich. Apparently, everything else they serve just kinda shuffles into line behind it.

Atmosphere: Langer’s exudes a lovable, tragic ambiance that i love. I’ve never seen it full; I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it half-full. It’s darkly put together, poorly-lit, and old-feeling. The meats on display under glass look artificial and unappealing, but looking nearly-fake somehow adds to the overall feeling of wizened “real deal”-ness of the place. Add to this that Langer’s feels dropped-from-the-sky into its location in boisterous, scary Macarthur Park. It’s a pristine piece of delicious and despairing Los Angeles irony.
Attitude: It seems that the Langer’s hiring policy prioritizes sweetness and grace. Every waitstaffer I’ve encountered at Langer’s has always been gentle and warm in demeanor, and this trip was no exception: a no-doubt unemployed actor politely and attentively took our order without missing a beat. He even talked me down gently about fries being unavailable because the oil fryer wasn’t hot enough yet. No surprise really; we had no business chasing a gut-bursting lunch at 10am.
Food [general]: Langer’s #19 is my gold standard and inspiration for the evaluation of all other sandwiches — pastrami and otherwise. Rye bread, piled-high hand-sliced hot pastrami, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and russian dressing. I’m not a bread fanatic, so i get my rye toasted to help ward off sogginess from the dressing. I cannot do justice to this sandwich in writing. The flavor of the meat, compounded by the texture of the meat from being hand-sliced, is like nothing I’ve experienced on either coast. The #19 transgresses the mundane tiers of eating sensations—taste, smell, touch — and gestures on toward something metaphysical. It’s the kind of food that makes you wonder in your very body if there is not some postmaterial conscience teleologically beckoning from within the interaction of human will and the passive elements, instructing humankind: “make food.” the #19 creates and destroys sensory universes; restores hopes and euthanizes fears; inspires the reform of nations, and takes away children’s nightmares. The #19 is everything magic and wonderful about eating. Additionally, the fries are good as a foil, and the coffee is great if you can tolerate standard-issue diner brew (which I love). Note: on our 10am visit, the sandwich was not as stacked with pastrami as it usually is. Presumably, someone in the kitchen figured no one wants to eat a half-pound of pastrami that early in the morning. That person was wrong, but probably sensible.
Pickles: Pretty forgettable. but it’s hard to think about anything when your mind is being molecularly reassembled by the DNA-altering power of the #19.
Summary: Langer’s is a fine deli with plenty to offer, but for me, it’s a one-trick pony. I would never go to Langer’s and not order the #19. If i were a vegetarian, or not hungry enough to eat the #19, i would not bother with Langer’s, lovable as it is. But if one can eat meat and seeks the perfect sandwich, it is available — until 4pm, and not on Sundays — in Macarthur Park.