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Brent's Deli in Northridge is a Los Angeles sandwich institution. The thing to get? The Black Pastrami Reuben. [Photograph: Farley Elliott]

When it comes to pastrami sandwiches in Los Angeles, it's best not to mess with Langer's. The MacArthur Park-adjacent deli has been serving up supreme slices of their best brined beef for years. But all the way across the county, deep in the recesses of the San Fernando Valley, there is another prime purveyor of pastrami, and their stacked Reuben sandwiches have been sparking plenty of deli debate across the Southland about who makes the best meat. Some might even say they've got Langer's beat.

At the original Brent's Deli, all the way up in Northridge, the thing to get is the Black Pastrami Reuben ($14). There are other common Jewish deli sandwich varieties available, from the thicker-cut corned beef on rye to the dark and succulent thin brisket sandwich. You'll find fried potato pancakes too, dark at the edges from a serious griddling, but with a runway of interior space for all of your applesauce and sour cream needs. Pickle spears come sharp and vibrant, still snappy in their recent transition from cucumber to vinegary side dish. But the thing to get is definitely the Black Pastrami Reuben.

Just take another look at that meaty deli photo (scroll up if you have to) and try to convince yourself to order anything else. You can't do it, and there's no shame in that. Everyone orders the Black Pastrami Reuben, even when they want to try another sandwich, because there is no escaping the addictive qualities of pastrami, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and grilled rye bread. Like any half-decent reuben, the synergy of cooling dressing, cheesy fat, vinegary sauerkraut, crispy bread, and warm, salty, seasoned beef is undeniable.

But at Brent's, where the smoked pile of peppered-at-the-edges pastrami seem to multiply endlessly with every bite, there is something more at work than just your average reuben. The thin ring of fat, the tender interior and the lean, still juicy bites are all expertly managed, a well-brined testament to Brent's 25+ years of consistency. Order your Black Pastrami Reuben lean or extra fatty and you'll be in two different kinds of meaty deli sandwich heaven. And either one will still seriously jeopardize your heart rate.

While the debate over corned beef and proper pastrami continues to bounce around the internet, Angelenos everywhere simply count themselves lucky to live in a city with two of the best pastrami joints you'll find anywhere in America. Of that, there's simply no debate.

About the author: Farley Elliott is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. He writes about strip mall food for LA Weekly and covers the LA beer scene for KCET.

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