Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles

Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles

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  1. If you just happen to be bebopping along Fairfax Boulevard through the twilight zone region of Los Angeles that lies between Beverly Hills, Mid-City and West Hollywood—and God help you if you are—and hunger pangs overwhelm you, you have several culinary choices near at hand to satisfy that gnawing urge in your belly. This ironically mostly Jewish and Muslim neighborhood is rife with both kosher and gentile eateries of every description, but one of the most famous and popular of them is Canter’s Deli, which has been around since before Copernicus figured out that astronomers weren’t as smart as they thought they were (since 1931, actually; I do tend to exaggerate).

    Despite the enormous dining room, this deli fills up most days around lunchtime, especially on weekends, so be prepared to wait a short time in line for a table. Once you get situated and begin studying the menu, don’t allow the many choices to dazzle or frustrate you. In fact, just hand the menu back to the waitress (probably the same one who has been serving me since the 1960s) and tell her that you already know what you want.


     People go to Canter’s for any number of house specialties (I hear the matzo ball soup is excellent; not being Jewish, I wouldn’t know it from split pea), but the sandwiches are what made it famous. Whether you prefer pastrami, corned beef or roast beef, you will gape with wonder when they serve you the Bulger, which is my name for their sandwiches, because apparently the person constructing them is incapable of evenly distributing the meat across the bottom piece of bread, but instead lumps it all in the middle so that the center of each sandwich is about three inches thick. This has been going on for over 40 years, ever since my first visit, so I suppose the sandwich guy is old, terribly far-sighted, deaf and perhaps senile—but he makes one hell of a sandwich.



    One thing that makes the sandwiches at Canter’s special is that the deli contains its own bakery, and they make their own bread fresh daily. Most people get the pastrami or corned beef on the twice-baked rye, which is an excellent choice as it is nice and sour and has a crispy crust that won’t break a tooth.  In addition to excellent breads, the bakery offers a wide selection of fresh-baked treats to suit any palate.

    As happens with every single pastrami place I know of, fans of Canter’s rave about the pickles like they’re little slices of heaven. Ignore such people; they are pickles, kosher at that, which means garlicky and otherwise bland. I personally prefer a good sour dill—a really sour dill—with my sandwich, but good luck finding a deli (kosher or gentile) that serves anything but these all but flavorless kosher dills.


     Voted the Best Deli by Los Angeles Hot List for 2011, Canter’s serves up live music, too. The Kibitz Room next to the dining room rocks out every night, especially after midnight. Past regular performers include the Doors and Frank Zappa, and you never know what you’ll find in there any given night of the week.


    Canter’s Delicatessen and Restaurant
    419 North Fairfax Ave
    Los Angeles, California 90036
    (323) 651-2030

    Open 24 hours, every day except Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

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