Langer’s No. 19
The World’s Best Pastrami Sandwich
The world’s best pastrami sandwich can be found at an old-school Jewish deli across the street from MacArthur Park in Westlake.
Langer’s Deli: A Los Angeles Institution
Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant (though everyone just calls it Langer’s or Langer’s Deli) has been around since 1947 when Albert J. Langer bought the small 12-seat restaurant (known then as The Famous Deli) on the corner of 7th and Alvarado.
The restaurant, across the street from MacArthur Park, expanded a few times over the years (it now offers seating for 135 customers). But the shop has remained largely the same, slinging their trademark world-famous hot pastrami for nearly 75 years.
Langer’s originally catered to the Westlake neighborhood’s Jewish immigrants, but as people left and the neighborhood changed around it, the restaurant’s business started to falter. Langer’s went through an uncertain time in the early 1990s, but then the Westlake/MacArthur Park Red Line station opened half a block away in 1994. This made it much easier for commuters and people working in Downtown to jump off the Red Line and grab a Langer’s sandwich.
The No. 19
Langer’s No. 19 is a hot pastrami sandwich. The Langer’s menu says the No. 19 is comprised of Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Cole Slaw, and Russian Style Dressing. But that description doesn’t really do the sandwich justice.
You see, Langer’s pastrami is the stuff of legend. Pastrami is beef brisket that’s been brined, seasoned, and smoked. Even though it’s steamed before serving, it’s typically a bit tough and chewy. But Langer’s steams their pastrami for three hours (much longer than normal) , a process that makes the meat so tender it can only be sliced by hand.
The sandwich is also served on Langer’s equally legendary double-baked rye bread that features a delightfully crispy crust and tender bread infused with just enough caraway seed. Matched with the tender, hand-sliced pastrami (along with a half-pickle and Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard), the No. 19 is a consistently great sandwich.
Much Love for Langer’s No. 19
In 2002, Nora Ephron wrote a love letter to the No. 19 in a famous New Yorker article that inflamed the sensibilities of New York pastrami lovers. Titled simply “A Sandwich,” her essay makes the bold claim that the pastrami at Langer’s is “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world” — and better than anything you can get in New York.
Legendary Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold wrote in the L.A. Weekly in 2009, “The fact is inescapable: Langer’s serves the best pastrami sandwich in America.”
The Los Angeles Times has allegedly called it the “… Marilyn Monroe of pastrami sandwiches …” (despite the fact that Canter’s Deli sells a sandwich called The Marilyn). It the Times’ brand-new list of the 101 Best Restaurants in L.A., writer Bill Addison declares “(The #19) should be named the official sandwich of Los Angeles.”
The only really bad thing you can say about the old No. 19 is that it’s hard on the wallet. Perfection isn’t cheap, so if you want to try the world’s best hot pastrami sandwich today, it’ll set you back $22. When Ephron wrote about it in 2002, it was only $8.50 (the equivalent of $15 in 2021 dollars).
Langer’s is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line.
Header image: Langer’s storefront. Photo from the author’s collection.
Langer’s No. 19
- 704 S Alvarado (at 7th), Westlake
- GPS Coordinates: 34.056350, -118.276707 [ Google Maps ]
- what3words: ///cafe.driver.easy
- Visit Langer’s at langersdeli.com and on Facebook