Obligatory Langer’s Lunch: My Sandwich World Has Been Turned Upside Down
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but before last week I had never been to Langer’s. As a Miami jew (lower case, because I’m a bad jew who loves pork way too much), whose parents were born in New York, who spent his his childhood eating at Wolfie’s (and the lesser known, kind of terrible, Pumpernickel’s), and the past 4 1/2 years living in NYC, you’d think I would have gone sooner. Like maybe the first week I moved here. Like, maybe right from the airport. Despite the pedigree, I’m no deli expert. But I am a fat man, and as such have nothing but love for pastrami and corned beef and tongue, on good rye bread, with a bit of mustard. How could I not?
Sadly, none of those things are under $10 at Langer’s. In fact, getting out of that place for $10 is practically impossible, especially if you Dr. Brown’s a requirement (it is.) But that didn’t stop me from trying.
So if you want to get super technical, Langer’s is too expensive to truly be a Midtown Lunch. But it’s a L.A. lunch institution, and a must try for anybody who lives in this city (or visits for that matter.) And there are a few things on the regular sandwich menu for under $10. Skinless chicken breast sandwich for $8.95? Uh, no thanks. But the salami and egg sandwich is probably a winner ($9.95). And if you like chopped liver ($9.95) or egg salad ($6.95) Langer’s does both amazing well. But the combination sandwiches are obviously where it’s at… and for those, there is really only one acceptable under $10 option.
#27 – Chopped egg/chopped liver sandwich, served open face. Keep in mind that open face is just a suggestion… the real way to do this up right is by smushing the two together. Outside of the version made tableside at Sammy’s Roumanian in NYC, Langer’s chopped liver might be the best I’ve ever eaten (you might say the secret ingredient is extra schmaltz!) And the chopped egg (aka egg salad) was the perfect foil to cut the richness, and meatiness of the liver. It was truly outstanding, and I could almost see myself ordering it over the pastrami. Almost.
Who am I kidding with this under $10 crap. Of course we ordered the pastrami as well. I am a firm believer that swiss cheese, cole slaw and russian dressing make every sandwich better… so the famous #19 was right up my alley ($14.45). Amazing.
Although I have to admit something… and this is very hard for me to do. My good friend (and contributor to Squid Ink) Noah Galuten warned me before ordering that Langer’s pastrami was actually best enjoyed completely plain on rye bread. No cole slaw. No russian dressing. No swiss cheese. Totally plain. Inconceivable! He’s been making this outrageous claim for awhile now, and quite frankly I wasn’t buying it. It’s just complete and utter crazy talk, which I will refute with a fairly simple mathematical equation:
Meat + swiss + cole slaw + russian dressing > Meat
Put that on your chalkboard! It’s science people. As air tight as the pythagorean theorem. (Full disclosure: I have no idea what the pythagorean theorem is.)
And yet, maybe sometimes God does trump science. (If he’s going to take time out to care about something, clearly it’s going to be pastrami.) What I’m saying is, Noah is right. When you eat them back to back, the plain sandwich clearly emerges victorious. Unlike the completely outrageous Carnegie Deli (and even Katz’s to a certain extent), Langer’s puts a shockingly manageable amount of pastrami on their sandwiches. (Some would say, borderline stingy.) And as a result, the meat is completely overpowered by all the toppings on the #19. With something as boring as, say, turkey, this is the desired effect. But with something as flavorful and fatty and unctuous as Langer’s pastrami, it’s a distraction. (Yes, I just compared the holy trinity of sandwich toppings to the Iraq war. And said that a plain pastrami sandwich was a gift from God.) World = rocked.
Despite being shaken to my core, I’m glad to check that one off the list. And as with many who enter Langer’s, clearly my life is never going to be the same.
Want to see the rest of the stuff we ate? Noah posted about the lunch on Squid Ink. (Spoiler alert: the tongue and tuna melt are both all stars.)
Langer’s, 704 South Alvarado (and 7th), 213-483-8050
Parking: 90 minutes free with validation in the Langer’s lot on 7th & Westlake