Next stop Langer’s Deli for the famous No.19 hot pastrami sandwich, house-made coleslaw, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing on rustic rye bread with Dill pickles on the side. Some say “the best” hot pastrami sandwich in America!
We squeeze the Mustang into a parking space on the busy road and we wander down to the unassuming deli on the corner. Langer’s has been right here serving the same food since 1947. Here I am nearly 70 years later about to take a trip through time to sample its finest.
There is an immediate good vibe feeling as we walk in the Langer’s front door. Large deli counters line the back wall, bright posters depicting sandwiches decorate the takeout counter. We are eating in and a server offers us a choice of a counter seat up on thickly padded swivel chairs or a booth. We opt for the booth and gratefully lower ourselves into deep studded leather bench seats. Servers are looking sharp dressed in black trousers, crisp white shirts and sporting slim black batwing bowties.
The menu is long, literally hundreds of combinations of sandwiches. Then there is the hot sandwich section, oh and the sides. I really want to read it all but to get the ball rolling we already know why we are here, number 19! Pastrami, Swiss cheese and coleslaw with Russian style dressing. The chilli cheese fries are also legendary but sound way too much for me.
I take a moment to pop to the loo, it’s just a small single loo and hand basin and while I’m touching up my lippy a lovely girl with a huge wide smile comes in and asks if I mind if she washes her hands. “Of course” I say stepping to the side. Her smile gets even wider “girl I love that colour” she comments as I sweep the lippy across my mouth “it’s like you cain’t even tell you wearin it!”. I have to say I am so uplifted by how friendly and nice everyone is in America. I strut back to my table feeling fine!
Our number 19’s are placed before us, man what a sandwich! It smells fantastic, warm bread and hot pastrami and at least 4 inches high. So glad we didn’t go the chilli cheese fries!
This sandwich sounds simple, but it is so so good. I think it is Langer’s uncompromising commitment to quality and attention to detail that lifts this from a meat and coleslaw sandwich to a stunningly balanced moreish dish. As I bite into it I am filled with the love and passion that this family business seems to have imbued every part of its business with.
The Pastrami here arrives as an edible product, flavoured and smoked to the high standards set by the Langer family for years. But it doesn’t stop there, it is popped into the steamer for several hours making it incredibly moist and tender. They hand slice the meat to ensure every slice of meat is tender and delicate.
The bread is simply stunning, a light but textural bread spiked with punchy caraway seed flavour. Langer’s has been getting its rye bread from Fred’s Bakery on Robertson Boulevard forever. The big secret is the double bake. The loaves delivered to Langer’s are re-baked for another half hour and then sliced and kept warm until the sandwich build goes down. The bread is spread with amazing Russian dressing and the yummy crunchy and simple slaw is piled in there along with what looks like about ten layers of the extraordinary pastrami and slices of creamy swiss cheese. It is simply amazing.
I love the whole feel of this place. It feels warm and familiar and I can’t think why. Perhaps it is the feeling of the quintessential American diner that is familiar from tv and the movies. I look around for a film crew – maybe we are extras in a Seinfeld episode??
Around us are a fascinating mix of business people on their lunch break, what look like good ole (retired) boys out for a bite and folks like us, travellers seeking tastes of the local specialities. I think all of us are here because Langer’s is Langer’s and has been for nearly 70 years. They have maintained traditions and not bowed to modern food fads.
I just love that they insist that the Pastrami has a good amount of flavoursome fat, after all that is what makes it moist and delicious. Yes they do have a lean version for the foolish, that has been cooked much longer to shrink it down and render out the fat. But if you are silly enough to sit down to a 200g serving of beef in a 4 inch high sandwich and think you can get points for going low fat, I’m sorry but to me that’s like ordering diet coke at the donut shop. Psst!… they charge more anyway for the less tasty version so go for the traditional and just enjoy the damn thing!