If yesterday's 30 Days post, pitting Johnnie's Pastrami against The Hat, was the battle of the lowbrow fast-food joints, today it's all about highbrow pastrami.

Want to look like a dyed-in-the-wool Angeleno? Next time you visit Langer's, sit down and order the #19 without glancing at the menu. Better yet, don't order the #19. Order any other sandwich at Langer's as long as it features pastrami — and don't look at the menu.

Langer's Deli: Latkes

The #19 is the most popular sandwich at Langer's Delicatessen: pastrami on rye with coleslaw, Russian dressing and a slice of Swiss cheese. The coleslaw adds a solid crunch, the cheese provides more texture than it does flavor and the creamy, pale orange Russian dressing adds a sweet, pickly note. Langer's pastrami, however, needs no accoutrements.

It is sliced thickly, more like a slab of brisket than the thin, curling pastrami at most sandwich shops, whether they're of the artisanal or drive-through variety. The meat itself is tender and warm, modestly seasoned but intensely meaty, peppery without the overpowering sense of spice. It comes on rye bread so crusty, it makes Andy Rooney look like Pollyanna. Yet the bread, in a true miracle of nature's duality, is somehow exceptionally soft and chewy. All the numbered sandwiches at Langer's are gussied up with Russian dressing and other adornments: cheese (#10), coleslaw (#1), chopped liver (#6). If you want it plain, you'll have to ask for the homely, unnumbered “hot pastrami.” That's okay. Bread and pastrami, that's all you need at Langer's. And maybe a plate of potato panckes, which aren't cheap ($11.95) but come five to a serving.

The pastrami sandwich at Oinkster.; Credit: Guzzle & Nosh

The pastrami sandwich at Oinkster.; Credit: Guzzle & Nosh

At Oinkster, they put a lot of time and effort into their meat. It's also sliced thicker than typical pastrami, though it's not quite as thick as Langer's. The flavor is strong and very peppery. The meat is mostly tender though definitely tougher and more chewy than at Langer's, and it's served on a standard French roll.

Oinkster is known for their pastrami, but the better sandwich here is the BBQ pulled pork. It's smokey shredded pork under a bed of pickled red cabbage with a vinegary sauce that should be poured liberally over the meat. Not that the pork needs any moistening, but the tart zing of the sauce perfectly offsets the meat.

As for pastrami, there can only be one winner. It's Langer's. Still #1.


Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at eshatkin@laweekly.com.

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