26 February 2006
419 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

Atmosphere: My baseline for Jewish deli atmosphere. Low light, expansive, un-renovated. Big tables. Giant booths. Separate sections. Spectacular. Oh, and I love the servers-pushing-the-food-to-your-table-on-carts element.
Attitude: Fran can give you more lip than you ever knew existed. Chris is just plain great. I love these people.
Food [general]: I had planned a big moment where I would acknowledge that my favorite deli of all time didn’t necessarily have the best food. And while I will still acknowledge that, I will also say that my egg salad sandwich was damn good. The rye was fresh and the celery in the salad kept it crunchy like I like it. Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable sandwich. Tried the blintzes just to remind myself how good Brent’s were. So reminded. Finally, they have a bakery on the premises. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is to me – for a Jewish deli to actually have the bakery in the deli. You cannot beat that kind of freshness. And not just any bakery — a gigantic bakery full of wonders and delights. It really must be experienced to be appreciated.
Pickles: Better, I think, than Art’s but not quite as good as Brent’s. Not enough of the young ones, and yes, I know if you ask for them, they’ll bring ’em, but I still love the idea of being provided the full spectrum by default.
Dr. Brown’s black cherry: Check.
Summary: I am ruled by sentimentality. I have never pretended otherwise. I will always love Canter’s and favor it above all others. It is home to me.

Atmosphere: Best in show. There’s no getting around it. Canter’s takes the cake on charm, design, and ambiance. From the tiles on the floor, to the glass meat counters, to the illuminated tiles in the ceiling, to the thousands (?) of staff bustling every which way, it’s truly something special. Even the clientele add to the scene at Canter’s.
Attitude: I have yet to experience the exuberant, rake-you-over-the-coals playful wit that I’ve heard others describe, but the Canter’s staff are always funny and engaging. The best are the older staff, who enjoy talking to customers, and will gladly dispense their opinions and suggestions about menu items or anything else. You are always treated like they appreciate your business, but they won’t let you start thinking you’re the center of the universe.
Food [general]: Very good — I love it. Not mind-blowing in the way that Langer’s or Brent’s is, but definitely in the big leagues of delicious Jewish deli food. The pastrami is fantastic, and can be arranged to order (though I’ve seen my very particular order messed up several times). I always order the same sandwich — and did so on this trip — but the menu is so vast (think the Sunday “Times”) and so variously tempting, that I often considering straying from my usual agenda. In the end, I always feel the sandwich is going to be too good to pass up, and i am never disappointed. It’s a slightly less flavorful pastrami than those of my absolute favorites, but the fries, coffee, and atmosphere are superior, so I never really mind.
Pickles: I don’t write home much, and I definitely wouldn’t write home about these. This trip I had the sourest pickles I’ve yet had at Canter’s, but they’re never sour enough for me. I always end up not wanting to finish mine.
Summary: A wonderful, special place that is not to miss. It’s not the holy grail of deli food, but I can’t think of a better place to satisfy a hunger for the comprehensive deli experience. I could spend hours there—before, during, and after the food — and have.