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Best Deli Restaurants: NYC vs LA

Best Deli Restaurants: NYC vs LA

Many people take pride in where they’re from. New Yorkers are especially very proud of calling home to the “greatest city in the world.” They love the speedy lifestyle, the vastly diverse population, and the famous skyscrapers that seemingly pierce through the clouds. In California, the atmosphere is a little different. Californians are commuters at heart. Although they tend to take it a bit slower, they actively engage in their share of road rage when they need to get places. Californians love their cars, their space, and their surf boards.

At the heart of New York and California are two metropolitan giants: New York City and Los Angeles. Both are known for their skylines, nightlife, and food. In NYC, Italian food dominates as the New York-style thin crust is known as one of the best pizza pies in the world. LA, in contrast, has mastered Mexican food. From authentic Mexican restaurants, to hole-in-the-wall taquerias, to food trucks, to food stands, LA does Mexican cuisine right.

While there is no arguing about which city does Italian or Mexican food better, the two cities go head-to-head in the department of delicatessens. I know some may argue that there should be no question. Hands down, New York delis are known far and wide, and great delis in NY are more prevalent. However, the two arguably best delis in each city have puzzled many when asked this question, “Which has the better sandwich?” But before we can answer that question, let’s talk a little bit about these two very well-known delis. In the west coast side of the ring, we have Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles, California. In the east coast side of the ring, we have Katz’s Deli in Manhattan, New York. Each are worthy opponents but only one can win.

Langer’s Delicatessen and Restaurant was founded in 1947 and is known for their original #19. What’s the #19 you ask? Just mounds of tender pastrami topped with coleslaw, Russian dressing and swiss cheese between rye bread. Not being a huge fan of Russian dressing, I opted for a simple pastrami sandwich during my visit. As you will see with Katz’s as well, the star of the show in these deli sandwiches are the nice and thick slices of pastrami that are so tender that they easily pull apart and just melt in your mouth. Another highlight of the sandwich was the rye bread which uses an interesting “rebaking” technique. It’s crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. As a restaurant, Langer’s provides a sit-down dining experience in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Til this day, locals continue to line up outside this famous LA deli.

On the other side of the U.S., there’s Katz’s Delicatessen. Katz’s history goes back over a hundred years to 1888. Since then, it’s gone through name changes and moved across the street from its original home. Nonetheless, it continues to serve some of the best deli sandwiches NYC has to offer. Here, you grab a ticket at the door and order at the counter. As your mouth waters at the carving techniques of the workers, you get a small sample to taste while you wait. The pastrami here is beautifully seasoned and cured and smoked for hours. The result is an incredibly flavorful sandwich in which the meat speaks for itself. Katz’s is also known for being very generous with its portions. No complaints here!

Before I announce the winner, let me preface this by saying that it was a difficult decision. Both delis are amazing in their own ways. I myself am a Californian but I have a love affair with New York; I absolutely adore the Big Apple. That said, if I had to choose one, I would have to say that Katz’s is superior. The pastrami has a nice smoky, peppery, and salty taste that fills the sandwich with tons of flavor. Sadly, it’s not often that I get to hop over to NYC to have Katz’s so Langer’s is a nice substitute that is very comparable.

Have you ever had Katz’s, Langer’s, or both? Which one do you prefer? What’s your favorite deli? Please share below.