Tango Room and Langer's Deli
Few two places can be as different from each other as The Tango Room Bar (or "& Bar" as they put it) and Langer's Deli. It's fitting that they are next door to each other. You can knock back as many three dollar drinks as you can handle, then stumble over for a Langer's #19 pastrami sandwich.
Langer's consistently tops most accounts of best Deli in LA. I was embarrassed I have lived here almost nine years and have never tried it. When my friend John and I were on one of our food adventures this past Saturday, we decided it was time. But first, a quick stop at the Tango Room.
You could be forgiven for initially thinking the Tango Room is an add-on to Langer's a-la the Kibbitz Room at Canter's. As soon as you walk through the curtained doorway, and your eye's adjust, you will realize how unrelated they are. I don't know if I should have been surprised that every bar stool was taken on this gorgeous afternoon at 3pm. The Westlake neighborhood is a bustling slice of Guadalajara, in an otherwise sea of Koreatown expanse. We walk down the bar to find some space. It's all ranchero shirts tucked into weathered jeans, and those into boots, from end to end. Every set of shoulders hunched in the same manner. The men speak in hushed Spanish or silently hold vigil over pints of Bud ("authentic" Mexican beer will run you an extra dollar). You get the feeling that for these regulars, the Tango Room is a welcomed, soccer-game-blaring pitstop between the dual torments of work and home.
John's eager to eat, so we opt for single vodka sodas. The deal is a single pour for $3.50 or a double for $6. A bargain either way. I'm guessing the bartender doesn't normally get requests for cocktails. After I order, he comes back three separate times to confirm, mostly with sign language, that I do in fact want the vodka and soda "mixed."
Langer's is bustling but we get seated right away. Pastrami, delivered in some form, is what you order here (but please not the lethal-looking pastrami chili cheese fries, placed prominently on way too many tables we pass). Because it's a deli, I have to try a cup of matzo ball soup. The ball has a satisfying medium firmness, but when I get to the center, I get a grainy mouthfeel of being slightly undercooked. Matzo balls are not known for exploding with flavor, but I've definitely had tastier ones at other delis. The pastrami on the other hand is textbook: falling-apart moist, great balance of smoke and brine, and the fat is perfectly marbled. I always find coleslaw on a sandwich to be unnecessary. With meat this good, Langers could easily forgo both the slaw and Russian dressing, leaving just their specially-baked bread as a deserving platform to this heavenly cured meat offering.