Langer’s Deli: Outshining New York’s Finest by MacArthur Park

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Restaurant Sign Los Angeles

Langer's Deli sign serves as a beacon for meat lovers across from MacArthur Park.

Al Langer was born in 1913 and was working in Newark delis by age 11. After honing his meat slicing skills in Manhattan, the Catskills and Miami, he relocated to L.A. in 1936. Following VE Day, Al, an Army veteran, started Langer’s Deli across from MacArthur Park. Over the years, MacArthur Park became a dangerous junkie haven that was too risky to visit after dark, so Langer’s slashed their hours and added curbside service. Actor Richard Harris even immortalized the park in a 1968 song about getting high called in – you guessed it – “MacArthur Park.” Thankfully, the neighborhood appears to be racing toward respectability.

Deli Los Angeles

Langer’s interior is old school, with brown booths and walls lined with tiles that also scream ’70s. A counter allows for views of bustling deli workers.

Deli Los Angeles

A painting depicts Al Langer hand-slicing pastrami at the counter, facing a horde of happy deli customers.

The Langer’s Deli menu lists dozens of items, but any Langer’s discussion begins with hot pastrami. According to the menu, the pastrami is “a Select Cut of Beef, Sugar-Cured and Seasoned as Corned Beef, Then Slowly Smoked for Tenderness and Tantalizing Taste and Flavor, Then Covered with Choice and Costly Spices.“ The beef is procured from Vienna, Chicago’s famous beef and hot dog producer. In 1936, Al ran a deli for six months in Palm Springs. It was difficult to source fresh ingredients, so he had to innovate. He re-baked stale rye to reinvigorate it. “Re-baking” is still used at Langer’s to this day, leading to warm bread and crisp crust.

Deli Los Angeles

The meat slicer works wonders with a brown, orange, and yellow tile back-drop.

Sandwich Los Angeles

The #19 sandwich ($12.25) Langer’s bestseller, pairs pastrami, Swiss cheese and cole slaw with Russian style dressing.

Sandwich Los Angeles

The #6 ($11.60) looks similar from the outside, but contained pastrami and chopped liver with Russian style dressing. Chopped chicken liver and pastrami are by no means natural partners, but it was a great way to taste more dishes. I could have done without the creamy Russian dressing, since buttered bread and meat already added more than enough moisture.

Sandwich Los Angeles

A close-up provides views of the pastrami’s caramelized, spice-crusted edges.

Liver Los Angeles

Luscious chopped liver features finely chopped egg and contributes to plates.

Sandwich Los Angeles

If any Langer’s conversation begins with pastrami, the next sentence would have to contain the words “corned beef” ($10.95). [This photo was taken during a 2005 visit.]

Even sides are great, highlighted by textbook potato salad ($1.95) and cole slaw ($1.95).

Since it was a surprisingly balmy day, my friend ordered a small cup of Friday’s soup of the day ($2.75) – clam chowder. He had trouble locating clams in the thick cream, but seemed to like the soup pretty well.

Deli Drink Los Angeles

Langer’s offers both chocolate and vanilla egg creams ($2.25). I opted for the latter, made by mixing seltzer, milk, and vanilla syrup.

Sadly, Al passed away on June 24, 2007, at the age of 94, but his son Norm carries on the family tradition. He’s managed the deli since the early 1970’s and now owns the restaurant with wife Jeanette and daughter Trisha. Based on my experience, it’s clear that the deli is still in good hands.

Langer’s Deli: Outshining New York’s Finest by MacArthur Park


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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