Young or old, everyone loves to debate what’s “best.” Couple that debate with food and restaurants and the conversation gets very interesting, and sometimes heated. So let’s talk about something very simple. The humble sandwich. And who makes the best.
New Yorkers believe that their delis trump just about anywhere on the planet. Folks from New Orleans place their bet on their beloved po’ boys (and who can deny them, a crawfish po’ boy can be pretty darned good). Philadelphians, well, they have their cheese steaks.
I’ve been to a lot of the “temples” of sandwich in various states and, for my money, my choice for the best sandwich in America is one local to our communities in Southern California. Heresy, some will probably say as there is a well held belief that no great sandwich can come from SoCal. SoCal has great dining of all sorts, but there is a belief that our sandwiches don’t cut the mustard, so to speak.
For the longest time, I was a firm believer in this food philosophy as well. That’s fine I thought. We have a lot of other choices in SoCal: like all the great taco trucks, 20 different kinds of Mexican, great Japanese, Chinese, some awesome fine dining and lots of other choices. And we do have some great sandwiches as well (I thought), but most of them are of the foie gras with a poached egg variety (which is certainly fine, but what about a good old fashioned “sandwich” sandwich). The kind one any American could be proud of. In this we were lacking, or so I thought.
All of that changed about 6 months ago, when I finally visited Langer’s Deli in Macarthur Park near downtown Los Angeles and just a few miles away from Front Porch’s Kingsley Manor Retirement Community. It is at that moment, that I came to understand what true greatness in a sandwich looks and tastes like – it looks like a Langer’s No. 19.
Opened in 1947, some of you have may have visited Langer’s in your youth, or perhaps even more recently. If you haven’t been, I encourage you to do so – it would make for a fun outing with your friends, your grandkids, kids, staff at your community, whomever. Langer’s No.19 is the thing of legends. It’s that rare item that actually lives up to the hype that surrounds it. Thick, succulent, smoky, sliced pastrami, served on warm rye bread that has a perfect crust, and topped with warm Swiss cheese, crisp coleslaw and Russian dressing. Perfection. Mesmerizing. The Delphic Oracle of pastrami. And every bit as good as any you will find in the famous pastrami “churches” of New York (i.e. Katz, Stage, etc.).
A visit to Langer’s Delicatessen is both a step back in time and a current culinary classic. Now, a sandwich at Langer’s is not necessarily the cheapest sandwich out there. Lunch will run the average person about $20. But quality trumps in these matters (at least when one is talking about “the best”), and there are certainly none better. Perhaps you have a favorite sandwich that you’d like to share with us all. Maybe a sandwich that you think rivals a Langer’s No. 19. Maybe a place that would make for a fun outing. Let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Write and tell us what you think is “the best.”
– Rob Klose
P.S., you can visit Langer’s online at www.langersdeli.com.