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LA Weekly: 10 Best Pastrami Sandwiches in Los Angeles

02
Jun
2014
LA WEEKLY

By Rachael Narins

Finding a pastrami sandwich to eat in Los Angeles has never been a challenge. From Boyle Heights to Tarzana, there are burger stands, dedicated pastrami shacks and classic delis, all offering sandwiches made with the salty smoked meat. Lately, with a renewed interest in all things house-made, you can also sample the Jewish staple in more unexpected places, like chef-driven restaurants.

Pastrami is the pinnacle of cured meats. Brisket of beef is salt-brined, spiced, hot smoked, chilled, steamed then sliced and served. The multiple steps were devised before refrigeration, and ensure it comes out transformed, tender and flavorful. The version most of us know and love is the unique creation of the Romanian-Jewish immigrants of New York. As the people who made it and loved it moved west, the pastrami sandwich came along for the train ride. By the time it got here, it was ready for chili peppers, less spices, an Italian roll, (the oh-so-not-kosher) cheese slice and at some point lost its strict affiliation with Eastern Europe and became open to interpretation from all cultures.

Some of the best around is being made in ugly drums by Korean-Americans, are ethically made with organic, grass-fed beef, or appear in a quesadilla at a hipster taco joint. It can be found topping burgers and fries and some rebels are making it with salmon. The meat can be thick (hand-cut) or thin (machine) sliced. Lastly, you will find all of the meat piled high on to rye bread or an Italian roll. For our purposes, we didn’t care if it was on a roll or sliced bread, but did judge the quality of the bread. (Rye bread is iconic, but not nearly as common as an Italian roll.)

Choosing a “best” pastrami was exceptionally difficult. Langer’s has been at the top of the list for years, but we found a few contenders for the crown.

1. Wexler’s Deli

This is what single-minded passion looks like. Micah Wexler, who recently opened his soulful deli in Grand Central Market, has a clear vision of old-school Jewish deli food, and thanks to that he makes a praiseworthy sandwich. It’s a classic rendition of bread, meat and mustard, made modern through an extreme dedication to top quality ingredients. Order up the O.G. (that’s Original Gangster) – or the MacArthur Park if you’re the type who likes cheese on your meat – and bite in to the thick, hand-cut, antibiotic- and hormone-free Colorado beef that’s been long-smoked on-site over applewood. An aromatic layer of pepper and spices adds more flavor and texture to the supple meat. It comes with a choice of slightly spicy celery-seed flecked coleslaw or the irreproachable, creamy potato salad. The beautiful bread, made to Wexler’s specifications in hearth-stone ovens at Etchea bakery; is not too thin or thickly cut and has a glorious, chewy texture and a terrific toothsome crust. Pull up a stool, slather on a little more Plochman’s Kosciusko Mustard, take a sip of your Cel-Ray and then bite in to perfection, finishing the experience with a barrel-aged, lacto-fermented cucumber pickle. Mazel tov, Wexler’s. You’re doing it right. 317 Broadway, Los Angeles; (213) 624-2378.

2. Langer’s
3. Smoke City Market
4. Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory
5. The Oinkster
6. Eastside Market Italian Deli
7. Brent’s Delicatessen
8. The Original Rinaldi’s
9. Johnnie’s Pastrami
10. The Hat