I like sandwiches. And today, I had the best one I've ever had. The #19 from Langer's Deli in Los Angeles. I am loathe to admit this, but this pastrami sandwich blows away any NYC deli's version.
Steve and I had a discussion the other day sparked by our delicious pork sandwiches from Forage. Steve maintained that the #19 was the winner across the entire spectrum of sandwiches he's ever eaten in his entire life, including Sack O'Subs. I said it was not fair to put deli sandwiches in the same category of regular sandwiches. Perhaps they could compete in the "hot meat on a bread" category (Phillipe's etc) but cold sandwiches are their own category. Grilled cheese, hot dogs and hamburgers would have to have categories of their own as well.
So today was the day I tried it.
I now believe that if there was a Westminster Sandwich Show, that this #19 from Langer's Deli would be Best in Show. If you can compare a tea cup poodle to a sheepdog and pick a winner, then you can compare pastrami to grilled cheese.
The first indicator that I was dealing with a world class sandwich was that though this deli is located at the intersection of El Shitto (Alvarado) and Filth (6th) across from MacArthur Park (where someone left the cake out in the rain and it is now full of used needles and bum poo) it has been at this location for 60 years with no signs of stopping. There were 4 cashiers poised and at the ready for the lunch rush that was just starting. They have no parking on site, requiring patrons to walk a block through the crappy neighborhood, but yet the place was already filling up. As I glanced around for the few moments I had to wait while they bagged up my order, you could see how the place was just about to be absolutely swamped, but they were ready. The phone was already ringing constantly with orders. They have curb service.
We took the sandwiches home. After the first bite, I knew.
It starts with the bread. This was the best rye bread I've ever had. Soft and tender on the inside, with a hard, crunchy irregular crust on the outside. The bread alone was worth the trip, and I would have gotten a whole loaf if I'd known. The pastrami itself was so tender and perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was not sliced, but sort of flaked or chunked, and not too much. This was not one of those monstrosities piled with two pounds of meat. You could fit the sandwich in your mouth. The other layers were some kind of coleslaw, russian dressing and according to Steve, cheese. I did not detect cheese. I also did not stop to pull it apart, because I was having a transcendental sandwich experience at the time. There are times where you just savor, living in the flavor moment and not question the how or the why.
The sandwich was so perfect, that I ate only half (plus one bite) and have saved the other half for a few hours from now.
Edit-it is now a few hours later, and I have finished the sandwich. I feel a loss, a deep sadness, now that my sandwich is gone. How will I ever eat another sandwich anywhere else?