A Chef-Driven, Neighborhood Pastrami Stand - Johnny's West Adams (+ Impromptu Pastrami Battle! Langer's vs. Johnny's vs. Brent's Deli vs. Ugly Drum) [Thoughts + Pics]

This bread makes me sad… it looks like a nice marble rye—why ruin it by over toasting!!! The potato salad looks like it could use some mustard mixed in. The knish looks pretty tasty! The texture of the dough looks a lot better than any knish I’ve had in LA. I’ll have to head over and check Johnny’s out once they open up during lunch hours (even though Langers is probably slightly closer to me). Thanks as usual for the intel and advance taste testing!

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Re gribenes/griven…

Chicken was the most common given economics. But in many regions, Jews also raised ducks and geese. And made three minutes from duck and goose fat and skin.
Often when we bought a duck even here, my mom would take some of the skin and fat render it down and right at the point where it would begin to fry sprinkle water on it and cover it and it would be a bit crunchy. You store the skin in the fat as it chillsL heat them up together and it gets crunchy all over again


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From Eater LA:

West Adams newcomer Johnny’s Pastrami has been allowing diners to hang out on its patio space lately, and is even selling cocktails from the still-closed attached bar space on property. Hours have also expanded, and now run noon to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

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it’s been really hard to get parking in that area

Yeah… the neighbors are getting salty about it too. On our last trip, I just dropped off hubs and went to go get a car wash. Came back and he was ready to go. We may bike our next trip…

Thanks for the report, Chowseeker. We are huge Brents fans but it is too far for us to get it to go and only have eaten there dine in as is Langers. It’s good to know that keeping the sandwiches in the box will ruin the sandwiches. We are close to the Pico Robertson area so will stick with Labels Tables. I’ve been wanting to try Johnny’s but will pass based on your report. The fat would really put me off and I hate getting my mouth cut up from overly hard bread (looking at you, Bay Cities).

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That makes me happy as I can only stop by on the weekends since I’m WFH (grumble). But seeing @Hungrydrunk and @Dommy 's comments about parking… that makes me less happy. I just wanna park, pop in and pop out. Are weekend daytime hours any better for street parking?

I went on a Sunday around 2pm, all the parking in front of Johnny’s was already taken. There wasn’t a lot of people at Johnny’s either. Luckily, I went with someone and they dropped me off to pick up our phone order.


Yeah… there are parking issues all over that stretch of Adams before they even opened. I though they would have a parking lot, but it appears they opted for the patio instead.

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Brent’s also does a wonderful job on their smoked fish, especially their in house BBQ Cod!


Hi @wienermobile,

Thanks for the info. :slight_smile:

Although Brent’s doesn’t make your go-to Pastrami Chili Cheese Fries like Langer’s does! :wink: :stuck_out_tongue: :smile:

Always nice to see a post from you!



Since @Gr8pimpin had posted about a special Pastrami Pop-Up with Ugly Drum, we figured we might as well try it and see how it was doing these days. :wink:

Ugly Drum (Pop-Up) at Pizzeria Mozza

It was good seeing the Mozzaplex up and running again after the riots that happened last month. Chi Spacca was still burnt and not usable, :frowning: but they were able to create a small outdoor patio for dining in the parking lot in the back, which is where Ugly Drum set up:

For our FTC’ers that are wondering, the Mozza team did a great job of social distancing: They had markers on the sidewalk (6 feet apart) from one end of Pizzeria Mozza, all the way around the Mozzaplex to beyond Chi Spacca. When we arrived, there were maybe ~30 - 40 people in line, and everyone was standing on the markers, social distanced and wearing masks.

We’ve had Ugly Drum numerous times before, when they were a mainstay at Smorgasburg. Today marked our ~6th visit to Ugly Drum.

Ugly Drum’s Achilles’ Heel has always been the Bread: From the early days, they were beset with dried out, terrible Bread. They transitioned multiple times to different Bread sources and it was just not good. The most recent Smorgasburg visit finally yielded a winner, as they switched to the excellent Bub and Grandma’s Bakery.

Ugly Drum specializes in what they call Pit-Smoked Pastrami. It is the type of Pastrami that’s more akin to a Texas BBQ Brisket than the usual notion of Pastrami that one might expect.

Classic Stack Sandwich (6 oz Pit-Smoked Pastrami on Seeded Rye with Deli Mustard):

First, the Bread-to-Pastrami ratio is all wrong. :smile: :expressionless: I think our Pastrami Sandwich experts would throw a fit (rightfully so) (@Gr8pimpin @LAgirl and others). We were starving after waiting about ~45 minutes in line, and even though I don’t eat a lot of Pastrami this felt really sparse. :frowning: (There was far more Bread than Pastrami.)

However, the Pit-Smoked Pastrami was outstanding! :heart: Not in a traditional Pastrami flavor, but also not the excessive, super smoky version at Johnny’s West Adams (and some other BBQ versions popping up). It had some smoke, but it was cooked to a wonderful tender consistency without having to rely on excessive fat and gristle like Johnny’s.

It had the tenderness, was succulent and lightly smoky. :slight_smile:

However, with Bub and Grandma’s shutdown due to COVID-19 outbreak at their facility, they were forced to use a new local Bakery called Bread Lab. The result?

Sadly, average Rye Bread, not totally dried out, but nowhere near as good as Langer’s Double-Baked Rye, and not as good as Bub and Grandma’s. :frowning:

At $15 (+ tax & tip), the QPR is rather bad for such a little amount of their excellent Pastrami. And if they don’t figure out a better Bread source, it’s just not a good deal. It’s rather mind-boggling and sad to see that for a business relying on their Pastrami Sandwiches (although, more about Pastrami vacuum sealed and shipped these days), they’ve never partnered with a good source for Bread until recently with Bub and Grandma’s and now they are at a loss again.

But even with the average Rye Bread, the Ugly Drum Pastrami Sandwich was far superior to Johnny’s West Adams.

The complimentary Pickle was excellent. Nice crunch, good flavor and piquant levels to go with the Pastrami. :slight_smile:

Potato Salad:

This was a solid Potato Salad. But nothing to write home about.

Ugly Drum
(See website and Instagram for Pop-Up locations until Smorgasburg re-opens.)

Johnny’s West Adams (Revisit)

For this 3rd visit to Johnny’s West Adams, we almost left before we ordered: As we were waiting in line (as they opened for Lunch), a massive group of 20+ locals / regulars showed up. It was more like 25 - 30 people, whooping and joking, wearing No Masks and Not Socially Distanced. :cry: :angry: (We counted 2 people out of that massive group that bothered to wear a mask.) Brilliant.

Then, to make matters worse, an employee from Johnny’s walked out of the kitchen, went over and started giving hugs and handshakes and fist bumps to the crowd. And after hanging out with them (maskless) for a bit, walked back inside the kitchen. WTH?! :pleading_face: :rage: The worst part is that person seemed like the manager, as you could see them direct other people inside the kitchen.

And you wonder why our COVID #'s are still so bad. :frowning: This is a slap in the to all our Frontliners risking their lives to save others every day (thank you @J_L @JeetKuneBao and others). If this is the way Johnny’s West Adams is drumming up business and not being careful during COVID-19, it’s one business we’re not going to bother returning to. (@Dommy @TheCookie @PorkyBelly @paranoidgarliclover and others.)

And the icing on the cake: Some of the idiots in this crowd just lit up the ganja in broad daylight, flooding the waiting area (for all of us ahead of them waiting for food) with smoke. :angry: :frowning:

Green Goddess Salad (Asparagus, Gem Lettuce, Broccoli, Scallions, Pickled Shallots, Croutons):

The Green Goddess Salad was way overdressed on this visit. :frowning: Also there were 2 pieces of Broccoli that started yellowing, so the absolutely pristine Green Goddess we had last time has started to falter. However, even with the overdressing and a couple of pieces of old Broccoli, the rest of the Salad was still delicious and the Asparagus was perfect. For a Fast-Casual “Burger Stand” this remains a highlight. :slight_smile:

Knish with Gravy (Stuffed with Potato, Caramelized Onion, Sauerkraut & Pastrami):

Thanks to @Gr8pimpin for the perspective, it’s good to know that Johnny’s Knish is not really a traditional Knish. :wink: But it remains very good, a flaky Pastry crust, it arrived piping hot with a soft Potato, Caramelized Onion and Pastrami filling. We couldn’t really taste the Sauerkraut on this visit, but this was still delicious. Another highlight. :slight_smile:

Matzo Ball Soup (Chicken Broth, Shredded Chicken, Cappelini(sic), Vegetables, Dill):

Their Matzo Ball Soup has improved. The Soup itself is still really flavorful with a big punch of Dill. The Chicken meat within was fresh tasting.

But the big improvement was their Matzo Ball on this visit, which mirrored @TheCookie’s experience: Soft, light, delicate. Great texture! The addition of Butter still tastes unnecessary and out of place for our taste buds (like restaurants that think using Truffle Oil elevates a dish), but the Soup itself was very good. :slight_smile:

Hand Cut Fries, Johnny Style (Thousand Island, Pastrami, Cheese):

We were excited to try this since @A5KOBE had been talking about it, but unfortunately the first bite ruined the entire thing:

Lighter Fluid. :sob:

It was awful: Super heavy Lighter Fluid flavor, and the Pastrami tasted desiccated. Terrible. :frowning:

Pastrami - Full Sandwich (on Tartine Marble Rye with Mustard):

Close-Up of their “Sand Paper” Crusty Bread: :frowning:

Their Pastrami Sandwich has gotten worse. First, the overly toasted Marbled Rye Bread (see above) was even crustier and drier on this 3rd visit. Not a good match.

There was even more fat and gristle on today’s visit (see above pic). :cry: :frowning: And notice how soaked in pure fat / grease the bottom of the Pastrami Sandwich is:

Normally we would love “Pan Drippings” and I think FTC can celebrate decadence, but in Johnny’s case, it’s excessive to the point of being a major turnoff.

However the worst part about this is the same problem that ruined their Johnny Style Fries: Lighter Fluid! :sob:

We had the same experience @TheCookie had: It wasn’t “smoke,” it was straight up Lighter Fluid that permeated both sides of the Pastrami Sandwich as we tried to eat it. :nauseated_face:

Perhaps it was because we were the first batch of customers in the day (we arrived just as they opened), but FTC warning: You might want to wait past the first batch of people to get your Pastrami Sandwich. :frowning:

Our 1st and 2nd visits didn’t have this issue at all. But on this 3rd visit (and the first time we showed up just as they opened), we got Lighter Fluid Pastrami. It was inedible. :frowning:

Their Pickles remain terrible as @Dommy has noted as well. Soft, insipid Pickle slices.

Potato Salad (Red Potato & Russet Potato, Hardboiled Egg, Paprika):

The Potato Salad was the same as before, a touch too tart and it wasn’t as creamy and balanced as our favorite types of Potato Salad.

Johnny’s West Adams showed some promise early on, but this 3rd visit was the worst experience by far. Their best menu item, the Green Goddess Salad was rushed, overdressed and the Broccoli had some yellowing pieces. The Johnny Style Fries were inedible as was their Pastrami Sandwich because of Lighter Fluid. :frowning: Without the Lighter Fluid, the bite of excessive fat and gristle we had mirrored the texture and greasy problems we had on the 1st and 2nd visits.

After having Ugly Drum before this, it was clear that Ugly Drum and Pitmaster Eric Black’s Pastrami is a far superior product. We were still willing to return to Johnny’s for the Green Goddess, the tasty Knish and maybe the Matzo Ball Soup (without the Butter Matzo Ball). But seeing the massive group of locals appearing today, and the complete disregard for COVID-19 safety precautions by an employee of Johnny’s (walking into the crowd, hugging, fist bumping, hanging out talking to them maskless and gloveless, and then walking back into the kitchen)… we’re in no hurry to return.

Johnny’s West Adams
4327 W Adams Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 840-3048

Langer’s Deli (Revisit)

We were so upset by the Lighter Fluid Pastrami and the terrible experience at Johnny’s (we had to throw out the food, that’s how bad it was), we immediately drove over to Langer’s Deli to salvage our Lunch.

As before, their Curbside Pickup is fantastic. Call ahead and just stop right in front of the store at the curb and they’ll bring out your food to you. :slight_smile:

Hot Pastrami on Rye (w/ Mustard):

Glorious. This is what Pastrami should be! :heart:

Succulent, tender Pastrami, the Double-Baked Rye Bread is fluffy, soft and a perfect match! I love the lightly smoky and peppery seasoning, not overly salty, and there’s just a pleasing mouthfeel, just enough fattiness and lean, but moist and tender.

Still the best Pastrami Sandwich we’ve ever had! :heart: :blush: :heart:

#88. Hot Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese Grilled on Rye Sandwich:

Since we showed up about 5 minutes before our pickup time, we were able to get our food as soon as it was ready out of the kitchen and unwrapped their #88, which is Langer’s take on a Reuben Sandwich, so the Bread was still golden brown, toasty and lightly crunchy! :heart:

The Corned Beef is even more tender than the Pastrami on this visit, and I love the tang of the Sauerkraut, melted Swiss Cheese and the Grilled Rye combination! I inhaled my half, it was so good! :heart:

Langer’s Delicatessen remains the gold standard for Pastrami Sandwiches, easily outclassing Ugly Drum and Johnny’s West Adams for Bread, Flavor, Texture, Balance, Deliciousness. :blush: Even without the Lighter Fluid, the grease bomb factor at Johnny’s after 3 visits remains the same, but if you’re in the mood for a Texas BBQ “Brisket Style Pastrami” as @Gr8pimpin aptly calls it, then it’s fine (if you don’t get the Lighter Fluid batch), but in that vein, Ugly Drum’s is far better executed by Pitmaster Eric Black, you get the deliciousness and smokiness without overwhelming smoke and far less fat and gristle.

Langer’s Delicatessen
704 S. Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Tel: (213) 483-8050


Nope. Won’t be going to Johnny’s now or when the pandemic is over. Foul. Thanks for the warning.


My sandwich last week was nothing like that. We didn’t have that fat and grease nor lighter fluid taste. Crazy!!

Yeah I have definitely decided that I much prefer traditional pastrami. I even like the fatty cheap stuff like at Johnnies Pastrami on Sepulveda. Yep, they use the cheapest lowest quality fatty pastrami money can buy. I think theirs is like what Johnny’s used to serve, the French roll dip.

This smokey stuff is pointless to me. I’d rather have a smoked brisket.

Their pickles, (at Sepulveda Johnnie’s) are really damn good, though maybe not as crisp as I’d like. They sell them by the pound too.


Hi @Gr8pimpin,

Yah, our 1st and 2nd visits were also fine (like yours) with no lighter fluid issues, but this 3rd visit turned out to be like TheCookie’s visit. :frowning:

(And did you finally make it out to Langer’s yet?!) :wink:

I’m pissed about the no masks and no social distancing and an idiot manager if this is true. Action needs to be taken.


I think I’ve decided since I’m unable and, most of the time, unwilling to drive all the way down there, that I’m totally UNWORTHY of having a really good pastrami.

@Gr8pimpin, You probably already know but just in case, Langer’s ships overnight via Goldbelly. The bread and pastrami holds up well. When I’m too lazy to drive up from SD. Expensive but worth it.