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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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