Save the Deli

Al Langer 1913-2007 Pastrami Perfectionist


I write with great sadness this morning as I have just received news of the death of a true deli legend. Al Langer, the founder of Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, passed away this Sunday. He was 94 years old. His loss will be felt accross the entire Los Angeles delicatessen community, around the country, and the world. For Al Langer was a pastrami perfectionist and anyone who tasted the fruits of his labors will forever be in his debt.

The Los Angeles Times published a great obituary of Mr. Langer today.

“In his later years, Al Langer continued to spend part of the day at the deli, reading his newspaper, greeting customers, watching the cycles of his customers’ lives.

“It’s fascinating,” he said in a 1986 Times article. “They come in as children, they get married and they bring in their children. And the older people that used to come in, they disappear. Little by little, they’re gone….”

The constant at Langer’s Delicatessen is good food. The expansive menu includes fried kippers, corned beef, New York steak, and livers and onion. But the deli’s hot pastrami sandwich sent critics searching for superlatives. Part of the secret, Langer said, was that the pastrami is steamed tender for hours and hand-sliced. Hot rye bread is the other key.”

Read the rest of the LA Times obituary here.

Though his death will be mourned by deli fans everywhere, his life’s work and legacy will shine forever in three ways:

-Langer’s name will continue to hang over the delicatessen he founded sixty years ago. Just two weeks ago he lived to celebrate this momentous anniversary, where it was decreed by the city that the intersection of 7th and Alvarado will be named Langer’s Square in his honor.

-He is survived by his son Norm Langer, who has been running the delicatessen for several years, and posesses all the great qualities that made Al Langer one of the world’s finest deli men, and a true mensch. With Norm at the helm, the Langer’s legacy will continue to shine bright.

-The pastrami sandwich he brought to Los Angeles and the world remains at the top of its game. Dark, spicy, and slightly sweet, the tender meat is hand sliced to perfection, assembled on thick slices of warm, double baked rye, and slathered with brown mustard. It is a work of art in the world of Jewish deli, and like all great masterpieces, it will outlive its creator for what we pray will be centuries.

Langer’s will close this Thursday, June 28th for the funeral, which is open to the public. Services will be held at 11 am at Eden Memorial Park 11500 Sepulveda Blvd, Mission Hills, California. You can post your wishes to the Langer family below.

Though no fund has been set up, Norm Langer requests that any donations be made to charities that target the needs of children, a cause that Al Langer championed his whole life.
Here are a few in the Los Angeles area.

Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles

The Aliance for Children’s Rights

Blind Children’s Centre

The Children’s Clinic

Make a Wish Foundation

Alav Hashalom
Rest in Peace

21 Responses to “Al Langer 1913-2007 Pastrami Perfectionist”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I am sure that his love of deli foods did him no harm if he lived this long …

    Maybe pastrami is, after all, a health food …

    Couldn’t hurt …

  2. julia s Says:

    I only know of Al Langer and Langer’s through this website, but was so heartened by David’s tribute to Al in his write-ups of Langer’s. Our heartfelt sympathies to all the Langer family, and also to the city of Los Angeles, on the loss of a very special man.

  3. Shelly Says:

    When I was but a little boy, my father would take me to Langers when he was doing his hospital rounds at a hospital in the mid-town area of LA.

    Now, when I have a little extra time returning to the Westside from downtown at lunch time I always try to stop at Langers. It is the best place to eat between Beverly Hills and Downtown.

    I’m glad to hear that the restaurant will not be closing; so many do when the soul departs. We’ll miss Al, and I am sad about that, but I’ll write a firm contract right now for 94.

    Sleep well Al; thanks for the heartburns!

  4. Pat Weaver Says:

    As a native Californian, I can attest to the accolades from the Times to Langer’s. It is tops.Coming in second in my estimation is Nate N’ Als and a poor third is Cantors near the Farmers Market. The only other great Deli I ever encountered was an Italian deli in Wilmington, DE
    which made you swoon with delight as soon as you walked in. Unfortunately, most of it had to be takeout since they only had two tables. Hooray for the preservation of ALL Delis. Pat

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