Deli Capital of the World

Los Angeles and its adjacent municipalities contain more continuously family-owned Jewish delis than any other city in the country.

Courtesy Canter Family

Los Angeles and its adjacent municipalities contain more continuously family-owned Jewish delis than any other city in the country. In the hands of third- and fourth-generation proprietors, family recipes for matzo ball soup, knishes, and latkes have evolved into high art. Arguably the best pastrami sandwich in America is served at Langer's Deli (704 South Alvarado Street; 213/483-8050; www.langers deli.com), a 62-year-old institution in downtown Los Angeles. The expertly trimmed, long-steamed, hand-sliced meat is served warm on double-baked rye bread. In the San Fernando Valley, Brent's (19565 Parthenia Street, Northridge; 818/886-5679; www.brentsdeli.com) serves stellar house-cured corned beef and hearty cabbage soup thick with tender chunks of braised brisket. Regulars swear by the house-made kishke, a rich, smoky sausage of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), vegetables, and matzo meal that's broiled until it's golden and crackly. Amid worn vinyl booths, Hollywood legends like Larry King, Monty Hall, and other big machers shmooze daily at Nate 'n Al (414 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; 310/274-0101; www.natenal.com) while feasting on eggy chopped liver and flaky smoked whitefish. The corned beef sandwiches and the short ribs in the flanken soup, made from certified Angus beef, are rich and tender. By day, Canter's (419 North Fairfax Avenue; 323/651-2030; www .cantersdeli.com), a gargantuan Hollywood deli, is filled with the usual LA suspects: old bubbies sipping tea and eating cinnamon rugelach, hopeful young writers nibbling house-cured half-sour pickles while pecking away at screenplays. But at night, when the adjoining bar opens, scenesters pack into the place for giant bowls of chicken soup crowded with thin egg noodles, beef kreplach dumplings, and a single giant matzo ball. —David Sax, author of  _Save the Deli (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) _