I’ve heard Jews refer to fellow MOTs as Larry-David-lox-and-bagel Jews—as if that’s a bad thing. Larry David is awesome, and what’s better than smoked salmon on a toasty bagel? Well, one thing: The No. 19 at Langer’s.
Honestly, much as I enjoyed my two years at The Jewish Journal, nothing made me sadder about leaving than separating myself from that artery-clogging, thick-cut pastrami on rye. (Don’t forget the Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.)
Brace yourselves, New York, because what I am about to write is definitely going to piss a lot of you off, but it needs to be said: Los Angeles has become America’s premier deli city.
Wait ... Stop ... Put the gun down. It’s true.
Across the city’s sprawling acres, there are more delicatessens of a higher quality, on average, than anywhere else in America. Every time I visited one deli, I heard about three more. Despite their healthy image, far more Angelenos than native New Yorkers eat at Jewish delicatessens on a regular basis. Though the occasional tourist swings by, Jewish delicatessens in L.A. are thriving in the present, not trading on fabled pasts.
There has been no grand decline in the Los Angeles deli scene. Most are packed, sometimes around the clock, and not just with older Brooklynites like Larry King (who eats breakfast at Nate’n Al daily). The delis out there are bigger, are more comfortable, and ultimately serve better food than any other city in America, including the best pastrami sandwich on Earth. Los Angeles is both the exception to the rule of deli’s inevitable decline and the example for the rest of the nation of how deli can ultimately stay relevant. If we are to save the deli elsewhere, we can learn a lot from L.A.
OK, I think that’s going a bit far. I mean, Canter’s leaves a lot to be desired. But we’ve got Langer’s and ... mmmmm ... 4 million pounds of pastrami.