Canter’s Deli has been a Los Angeles icon since 1931, serving signature deli items and baked goods 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With 81 years of sandwich-making experience under their belt, they most definitely know what they’re doing.
I have personally never been to one of heir brick and mortar establishments, and to be perfectly honest, being new to Los Angeles, I hadn’t even heard of Canter’s Deli when I saw their truck. I had heard a lot of hype about their food though, and one day I had the great pleasure of trying it myself.
As I looked over the menu, I could tell things were going to go well. The first thing I saw was that underneath the heading “Sandwiches” was the word “with.” I love when things come with other things. I don’t care what it is—chips, dipping sauce, some sort of salad, whatever. After “with” came “pickles.” They had me right there. I love pickles. But wait, there’s more. Next came “&.” Pickles and something else? Is this real life? Following the “&” was your choice of coleslaw or potato salad. You get to pick! Incredible. All of this excitement, and I haven’t even got to the actual menu items yet.
I picked the first thing, or else I would have been there all day: “Pastrami.” That’s all it said. No explanations, no apologies, just “Pastrami.” I ordered it with the suggested rye bread and opted in for mustard. I even decided to pay fifty cents extra so I could try both the coleslaw and the potato salad.
I sat down and unpacked my bag of wonders. I removed the lids from the coleslaw and potato salad, unwrapped my precious pickle spears, and last, unveiled the sandwich. I let the anticipation build, first tasting the coleslaw and the potato salad—traditional and unassuming which I appreciated. They were slightly sweet, slightly tangy, held no surprises and were comfortingly delicious. Next came the pickle. It was so perfect. Crispy, not too juicy but not dry, and it tasted like it was pickled in a unique house blend of spices.
As for the sandwich, I would love to bask in its simple glory every day. The bread was a soft, chewy Jewish rye, spotted with floral fennel seeds. Even the crust was memorable–sprinkled with corn meal and more fennel seeds so that you see what you’re getting yourself into. It wasn’t crunchy or invasive, but still tougher than the rest of the bread so that it added some textural interest. Underneath the bread was a lathering of yellow mustard, which is the only condiment needed on this sandwich.
Finally, we have the pastrami. Layer upon layer of thinly sliced, tender, smoky, juicy, briny, almost buttery beef, piled high on rye. Bites of rich sandwich punctuated with a cleansing forkful of slaw or potato salad and a nibble of pickle made for lunchtime perfection.
Needless to say, my experience was sublime. I am now a firm believer in Canter’s fare and can’t wait to check out their storefront to find out what other wonders I might behold