This sandwich is heaven! I volunteered downtown at the Walt Disney Concert Hall for a fabulous event called Symphonies for Schools yesterday morning, where two groups of over 2000 school kids are bused in from all over the city to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic for free. There are a few great sandwich places that I like to visit for lunch when I’m in the downtown area. Phillipe’s in Chinatown is at the top of my list, but today I was headed toward the mid-Wilshire area. As soon as I started to cross Alvarado Blvd, I slammed on the brakes as I was reminded that I was in Langer’s Deli territory at lunchtime! My car did an about face and headed to this institution at 7th Street and Alvarado and at the corner of MacArthur Park, made famous by the song with the same name by Jimmy Webb during the 1960’s. It’s located in a colorful neighborhood with interesting bargain stores and activity, where the signs begging you to come inside appear in both English and Spanish. A year ago I was at the Ciclavia event, where they close off the streets for bike riders two Sundays during the year. We bicycled right past Langer’s Deli and instinctively got off our bikes to go inside, but were disappointed to discover they are closed on Sunday. So this time, I was not going to miss out.
They must serve hundreds of sandwiches a day. I didn’t have to wait in line, since I got there early, but they have ropes set up ready for the queue…and judging by the covered BMW and Mercedes in the parking lot, I’m guessing they are making a nice profit.
I ordered the #19 – Pastrami, Swiss and Coleslaw on Rye with Russian dressing. This sandwich is “to die for”. The meat is so tender it actually melts in your mouth. None of the stringy, fatty pastrami of lesser places. This pastrami is the real deal, according to a friend from New York. They add a thin slice of swiss cheese, just to add a hint of aged earthiness. I like the coleslaw (optional) on this sandwich to add a healthy edge (haha) and add crunch. It contains some of the minced pickles that are served on the side with the sandwich. The Russian dressing adds moisture and just enough so that it is not saturating the bread. Then the freshly made rye bread, crusty on the edge and soft in the middle, that they slice right before your eyes.
Each bite is a mouthful of flavor. I eat it slowly, so I can savor every bite. I eat only half the sandwich, so I can enjoy more of its pleasure later in the day. This pleasure however, comes at a price. In fact this is the only problem I have with Langer’s Deli. They’ve been serving these sandwiches since 1947 and since they aren’t in the high-rent district, you wonder how they can get away with a grand price of $15.20 for this sandwich, it’s double what I would normally pay for a sandwich. I was happy to pay it though, so I could experience culinary perfection in a sandwich.
Nora Ephron, one of our great modern writers, has a quote on the Langer’s website. “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world. It’s a symphony orchestra, different instruments brought together to play one perfect chord. It is, in short, a work of art.”
So it was fitting, that I started my day volunteering for the Los Angeles Symphony and ended it with the perfect symphony of flavors in a sandwich. Give it a try and you will find your car doing a backflip back to their parking lot when you find yourself in the Langer’s Deli neighborhood.