I grew up in a WASPy family that had no knowledge of deli food.
Then one day in my early twenties, I found myself in Los Angeles during lunch time. LA was not (and still isn’t) my “hood” and I had no idea where to eat aside from the standard fast food joints.
Fortunately, I happened to be on La Cienega Blvd, home to a number of excellent delis. I wandered into one, ordered a roast beef sandwich, and that was all she wrote. I’ve been a deli fan ever since.
Over the years I’ve sought out great deli food – both at home and abroad. One of my favorite things about going to Las Vegas when I was younger was soothing my Saturday morning hangover with sour pickles, matzoh ball soup, and kreplach at The Stage Deli in Caesar’s Palace (alas now gone).
That said, I am not an expert in deli food. However, Bill Handel, the longtime morning DJ at LA’s KFI 640 is, so listen up.
Handel states unequivocally that Los Angeles has the best deli food in the world, adding that the key to knowing if a deli will be good is that “the waiters have to be rude, the waitresses have to be over 80 years old, and have to have smoked for at least 40 years.”
He says the best deli food in America is Brent’s. On this point, he has some serious allies. Zagat’s has rated Brent’s as the #1 Los Angeles Deli for 16 years in a row and The Food Network has sung its praises in an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate (see video at the top of the page).
So sorry New York.
Handel’s other suggestions for the best deli food in LA are Nate & Al’s, Goldblatt’s, Junior’s, Langer’s, and Labels.
And what of the better-known delis such as the world-famous Jerry’s Deli? Handel has one word for it.