99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Langer’s

photo by Anne Fishbein

How good can a pastrami sandwich be? How quintessentially Los Angeles can an L.A. restaurant be? These questions and more can be answered with a trip to Langer’s, the deli that serves the universe’s best pastrami sandwich. And while Langer’s wouldn’t have its fame or glory without that sandwich, the restaurant is also so much more. Langer’s is amazing for its worn brown decor, for its brusque but comradely service, and for the construction workers and slick gangsters and little old ladies who all sit at the counter elbow to elbow, gleefully eating sandwiches and chopped liver and slices of very good cheesecake. The walls are plastered with awards and recognition: Everyone from the City of L.A. to the James Beard Foundation recognizes the value of a deli that has barely changed since 1947. It’s a glimpse back into how L.A. used to feel, yes, but perhaps more important, it’s a glimpse into how L.A. still feels, if you know where to look.

-- Besha Rodell