Local Delis in Decline: Get to Langer's STAT!

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Langer's Photo: Music2Work2/Flickr

The L.A. Times notes a declining demand for delicatessen food in the U.S., as a crowded landscape of cooler, in many cases better, restaurants tear customers away from time-worn dishes like beef tongue, matzoh ball soup, canned salmon, and chicken livers. Of course, this is hardly the first time someone's sounded the death knell for delis, as the title of David Sax's movement and book indicates and Michael Pollan's own deli-divination suggests. And while the food may not be missed at Junior's, the recent passing of this Westwood relic indicates some things aren't as sacred as we may have thought.

Take Langer's. We sort of figure the nation's best pastrami sandwiches are most likely foraged in adamantium by now, to remain L.A.'s forever. And maybe it is, but second generation owner Norm Langer admits that he's actually kind of sweating it, a concern that's extremely contagious around here.

Langer suggests that, despite the long lines, increased food prices are keeping the deli industry from being a massively profitable one these days, allowing that he's had to raise menu prices by 4%, which doesn't really cover the 9% food prices have skyrocketed in the last year and a half. At the same time, seafood and beef are noticeably more jacked in cost, making it hard to compete with chains selling cheaper product.

"At Quiznos, you can buy a sandwich for lunch for $5," Langer says. "That's a third of the cost at a first-class deli. The deli has a better-quality product, but you're going to be filled up with either option."

Of course, we like to think it will be a long time before this MacArthur Park icon is going anywhere. But just in case, you might want to get on that famous #19 sometime soon. You know, just in case. Because nothing surprises us anymore in the world of dearly departed legends.

Jewish delis in a pickle [LAT]

Earlier: Canter's Passing The Torch, Embracing New Dishes [GS]