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.
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.
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.
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.