Langer's Deli is, according to many, home to the greatest pastrami sandwich on earth (and we feel strongly about which of those pastrami sandwiches is best). As with the garlic chicken at Versailles, people who eat there often pass up trying one of the many other items on their massive, diverse menu, for fear of missing out on what they are fairly certain is the best thing available.
With rye bread as good as it is at Langer's, isn't it safe to assume that they can fashion some other good sandwiches as well? We've often wondered ourselves, but could never quite muster the courage to veer from such assured greatness. In light of this, we gathered a group of five other hungry men, and took over the corner of Langer's Deli to find out what some of the rest of the menu had in store for us. Though to be fair, we couldn't prevent ourselves from ordering a few pastrami sandwiches too.
A simple bowl of matzo ball soup was met with reserved approval, simple in flavor, its matzo balls neither heavy nor light. It was, however, nothing which would make it stand out above many of the other Jewish delis around town. Following the advice of a few of the folks over at Chowhound, we ordered our fries well done, finding them to be an improvement on the limper version that comes when ordered without such a command, yet still nothing worthy of ethereal exclamation. Our real hopes were pinned, though, on those things which would be arriving between, or on, their near-flawless slices of rye. The tongue, ordered hot and sliced thin, was juicy and pleasantly salty -- pure in its flavor, accented by the crunchy edges of the rye, and augmented perfectly with a dab of spicy mustard.
The #27, an open-face sandwich of chopped liver and chopped egg was a surprising hit, the schmaltz-laden liver mellowed by its pairing with the fluffy and simple egg salad. The tuna melt was another victory, vaulting it into the discussion for Best Tuna Melt in Los Angeles. A key component of their version was the way that they handled the large serving of tuna salad, separating it into two smaller patties which were placed on the griddle, and crisped on both sides before moving inside the sandwich. Then, with two double-crisped discs of tuna contained within, the sandwich is grilled whole, resulting in what our table dubbed "a tuna melt with six crispies."
The menu, of course, has an ungodly amount of further options yet untried, including beef goulash; spaghetti and meatballs; red snapper; and a bacon cheeseburger. For all we know, there could be items on that menu that no one has ever tried. But is anything out there worth skipping your pastrami over? We suppose that comes down to how often you make it to Langer's, and how much of a craving you have that day for liver, tongue or a tuna melt. But if you do, bring a friend and order a pastrami too.
The only real disappointment of the day? That one of our dining companions, despite several rather vocal affronts to his manhood, still went ahead and ordered the Tri-Salad, a pointless platter of egg salad, tuna salad and chicken salad served with cottage cheese, crackers, and canned peaches.
Langer's Deli: 704 South Alvarado Street, L.A.; (213) 483-8050.
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Noah Galuten can be followed on Twitter via @ManBitesWorld.