LOS ANGELES
It’s a place you can imagine Don Draper, visiting Hollywood on yet another escape trip from Manhattan, walking in and grabbing a pastrami sandwich to absorb all the Scotch he’s drinking straight.

Canter’s Deli – along once was the bright “Miracle Mile” in Los Angeles – has served celebrities and politicians over the years, offering up a taste of New Jersey in California. Over the years it has won accolades for its pastrami sandwich and traditional Jewish deli offerings, leading some to call it the best deli on the West Coast.

Today, Canter’s still attracts large crowds (primarily tourists and old-time L.A. residents), opened 24 hours serving up matzo balls, pastrami and corned beef. I’m in town for the July Fourth weekend visiting my sister, and we dropped into Canter’s because my nephew has an infatuation with delis (having studied in Chicago).

Meat Sandwiches
Like any good deli, Canter’s has a wide selection of sandwiches made by piling high thinly sliced meats – all on freshly baked rye bread. My nephew took on the challenge of one of the deli’s signature sandwiches, the “Fresser” ($15.50), a humongous pile of corned beef and pastrami, served up with cole slaw and potato salad.

I was intrigued by “Jersey City” ($16.50), a triple-decker sandwich made of pastrami, corned beef, turkey and baked ham with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.

Sweet and sour stuffed cabbage ($6.50) was cooked perfectly with a nice tomato base

Sweet and sour stuffed cabbage ($6.50) was cooked perfectly with a nice tomato base

We both gave a hearty effort in eating it all, but my nephew ended up taking half of his sandwich home and I gave away some of mine to my Mom and aunt. I thought the pastrami and corned beef had an especially nice smoky flavor, but I would have preferred my pastrami served hot.

Traditional Tastes
The rest of my family tried some classic Jewish selections, including a Matzo ball soup with Kreplach, rice and noodles ($8.50), potato pancakes (three for $7.50), and sweet and sour stuffed cabbage ($6.95).

My sister especially liked the stuffed cabbage, which had a tomato-based sauce that added a nice flavor. My Mom didn’t like her first Matzo ball she’s ever tried (I guess it’s an acquired taste) and I enjoyed the potato salad, with just the right balance of sweet, and the authentic plate of pickled served up at the start.

The Last Bite
While many landmark restaurants fight the challenge of staying fresh but holding true to a certain period in time, Canter’s seems to be doing well in serving up authentic flavors with its nostalgia. With more than 60 years in its current location on Fairfax, this family-owned deli is sure to please locals and tourists for years to come.

Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
2-snaps

 

Canter’s Fairfax Delicatessen and Restaurant, 419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. PH: 323.651.2030. Open 24 hours daily (except Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Major credit cards accepted. Reservations accepted for large groups. Non kosher. www.cantersdeli.com

Canter's Deli on Urbanspoon

Matzo ball soup with Kreplach, rice and noodles ($8.50)

Matzo ball soup with Kreplach, rice and noodles ($8.50)

The deli section was consistently busy, but not as busy as the bakery section

The deli section was consistently busy, but not as busy as the bakery section

The “Freeser” ($15.50), corned beef and pastrami, served up with both cole slaw and potato salad.

The “Fresser” ($15.50), corned beef and pastrami, served up with both cole slaw and potato salad.

Potato pancakes (three for $7.50), basically latkes

Potato pancakes (three for $7.50), basically latkes

The dining room might be old, but it's dripping in nostalgia with its art deco decor

The dining room might be old, but it’s dripping in nostalgia with its art deco decor

A side of potato salad

A side of potato salad

“Jersey City” ($16.50), a triple-decker sandwich made of pastrami, corned beef, turkey and baked ham with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.

“Jersey City” ($16.50), a triple-decker sandwich made of pastrami, corned beef, turkey and baked ham with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.

Everybody loves Canter's

Everybody loves Canter’s

Canter's captures a specific time that's timeless

Canter’s captures a specific time that’s timeless

A mural facing the parking lot gives a glimpse at Canter's more than 75 year history in LA

A mural facing the parking lot gives a glimpse at Canter’s more than 75 year history in LA

The marquee sign outside Canter's on Fairfax

The marquee sign outside Canter’s on Fairfax

7 Responses to Stepping Back in Time with Canter’s Deli on Fairfax in LA

  1. Ann Kligman says:

    Dear Ben, I’m a regular reader of your blog (via my nephew David’s reference to it on his blog). I feel obligated to explain what you called “freeser” at Canter’s (one of my favorite places – I live in LA). It is “fresser” – a Yiddish word loosely translated as “glutton” or “overeater”. So you see it aptly describes the deli dish.

    Best of Luck,

    Ann

    • Ben Ben says:

      Hi David’s Aunt Ann! Thanks for giving us the scoop on the word “fresser” (oops, I misread the menu, so thanks for pointing out the spelling). That’s the most appropriate word for that sandwich!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    I love that place. That’s what I love about NY and LA — so many old-school institutions that still survive.

  3. Row says:

    Yum, those sky-high sandwiches look awesome, especially the “Jersey City”. I’ve never had matzo ball soup, so I’ve always wondered if the matzo balls get soggy, kind of like how crackers become when they’re left in soup too long.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I’ve had homemade matzo balls from a co-worker and they are delicious when done right. They’re not like soggy bread at all, but should feel light and airy.

  4. Lara Starr says:

    Dude! You nailed it! Don went to Canter’s on tonight’s season opener!

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