The LA Deli Power Rankings

The 18 best spots for pastrami, corned beef, and more.
The LA Deli Power Rankings image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Nobody outside of LA wants to hear about our great delis. We’re supposed to be the land of moon cleanses, algae flushes, and floating around in weight deprivation pods until we see our futures. How could we possibly know what a stack of great pastrami tastes like? Well, we do.

And yet, LA’s deli scene doesn’t just end at quality Reubens and matzo ball soup. We also have top-notch Italian, Greek, Armenian, and French delis that have been around for over a hundred years. Here are the best of the best, ranked.


photo credit: Jakob Layman



$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsClassic EstablishmentLiterally Everyone
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Brent's certainly has its iconic dishes—black pastrami reuben, stuffed cabbage, and a latke and blintz sampler—but this isn’t one of those delis where the quality drops off if you stray from a few specialties. Every page of this encyclopedic, 650-item menu hits—and that's exactly why we put it at #1. Plus, the people-watching is unmatched. Come any day of the week, and you'll find this Northridge institution packed with families, hungover college kids, book club gatherings, and solo diners who haven’t opened the menu in three decades.

There’s nothing more liberating than seeing the look on a New Yorker’s face when someone says LA has the best pastrami. So we’ll go ahead and say it again: LA has the best pastrami. And you’ll find proof at Langer’s, an LA landmark that has been making the best pastrami in the world for over 70 years. The pièce de résistance is the #19 sandwich with pastrami, swiss cheese, and Russian-style coleslaw stacked between two perfect pieces of rye bread.

This modern deli in Venice might not have an “Established in 1948” under its name or booths inside named after famous dead people, but it does have some of the most consistently elite bread, pastries, schmears, meats, and sandwiches in the city. Come early in the morning to eat a breakfast bialy at the coffee bar, at lunch for a spread of salads and smoked fish on their sunny patio, and right before they close at 4pm to snag some brisket and chili-rubbed chicken for an early dinner. Basically, you can order anything at Gjusta and feel very confident it’ll be among the best in class, deli-wise. 

Since 1925, this family-run Italian deli and grocer has been cranking out fantastic Italian sandwiches and sides to the Santa Monica masses. It’s hard to go wrong with anything here, but if you don’t get The Godmother at some point, your opinion of the place is void. Stacked with salami, mortadella, capicola, ham, prosciutto, and provolone topped with mustard and hot peppers, we aren’t overstating when we say this thing is a masterpiece. Lines are long all day every day so just call ahead to bypass the plebeians.

You could maybe argue this isn’t a true deli, but we don’t have time for that. We’re already in line for some of the best sandwiches in the city. At first glance, Larchmont Wine and Cheese seems like a high-end wine shop, but if you head to the back corner, you’ll be greeted by a casual little deli counter where magic happens. The sandwiches coming out here only have three to four ingredients apiece—a testament to their high quality. Just get here early. When they’re out, they’re out.

This cramped Italian deli in Pasadena slices its prosciutto and various cheeses to order and has endless shelves stocked with imported oils, vinegars, conservas, and dried pasta. But the reason most people are here is for Roma’s famous (and unnamed) sandwich handed out by the shop’s 84-year-old owner. The sandwich is only $6, and consists of cured meat (capicola, mortadella, and salami) and some provolone on a freshly baked roll. It’s the most iconic cold cut in Pasadena, which means you should try to get there before 1pm if you want one.

Part-deli, part-bakery, part-Greek grocer, this 70-year-old landmark in Pico-Union works for pretty much any occasion, like a quick lunch or a celebratory group dinner. If you’re with a bunch of people, you’ll order some moussaka, saganaki, and a feta pizza at the deli counter in the back and then push as many tables as you need together in the adjoining dining hall. A night here is always fun, a little drunk, and downright delicious.

Beverly Hills has worked long and hard at maintaining its reputation as a superficial void in the heart of Los Angeles. It's why Nate 'n Al is such an enigma. Open since the 1940s, this classic Jewish deli is one of the few authentic-feeling places in the area. It's also a great spot to post up and nurse a hangover. Their stuffed cabbage will forever have our heart, but the bagel and lox is equally consistent. Come weekends, the scene here is alive, but what’s a Sunday in BH without spotting an 85-year-old in Juicy sweats.

Open since 1959, Cavaretta’s is a classic, family-run Italian deli in Canoga Park that’s one of our favorite quick lunch spots in the West Valley. You can’t go wrong with their Famous Italian Combo (a sub filled with mortadella, salami, capicola, provolone, and all the fixings) or the house-made lasagna. What sets Cavaretta’s apart most are their desserts: eclairs, New York-style cheesecake, and the best cannolis you’ll find in LA. If you aren’t walking out at Cavaretta’s with at least two boxes full of sweets under your arm, reconsider.

A weekday lunch at Factor’s Deli is like buying a ticket to the most stimulating living museum in the country. There are bickering neighbors, retired talent agents still sending emails, and at least five people who went home with Robert Redford in the ‘80s. Each one will tell you a different dish is their favorite. That’s par the course at this historic Jewish deli in Pico-Robertson, considering the menu has over 100 items on it. For us, it’s all about the classics: corned beef on rye (with plenty of spicy house mustard on the side), lox, and the best, most decadent matzo ball soup in the city.

Legend has it that Philippe The Original invented the French dip sandwich. While we can’t prove that, we'll still claim this century-old deli as one of the few LA tourist traps that's always worth it. On weekends or during Dodger games, you’ll have to stand in a fast-moving line for one of their hot sandwiches loaded with pastrami, roast beef, or turkey on a crusty French roll. We always order ours with a slice of Swiss cheese, which helps the sandwich stick together even after a long soak up the rich jus (ordering your sandwich "wet" is non-negotiable).

In operation since 1961, Mario’s is an old-school Italian deli in Glendale and it’s your best bet for giant, meat-stuffed sandwiches and hot plates in the neighborhood. If you don’t get there before 11:30am, be prepared to wait. But even if you get caught in line, this place is worth it. The Bad Boy Sub is their signature sandwich and it’s huge, with your choice of meat (get the pastrami), mustard, mayo, avocado, spicy peppers, and every other fixing available. Be sure to pick up some imported Italian olive oil on the way out.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

$$$$Perfect For:Lunch

Busy Bee is an old blue-collar deli in what is arguably one of the most blue-collar areas of LA (San Pedro near the port). The odds of seeing someone in line wearing a fluorescent safety vest are approximately 99.99%. Hot and cold sandwiches are listed on a faded Coca-Cola letterboard menu, and both have a following. We like the cold cut Torpedo with extra mustard, and the sleeper-hit BBQ chicken, which is slathered in marinara and somehow works. If you’re debating between the meatballs and pastrami, know that getting both on the same sandwich is a badge of honor here. Grab some mac salad, a whole pickle, a big cookie, and an Arizona tall boy on your way to the register.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Kardashians, LA has the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia. And that means we have some of the best Armenian food around. One of our favorite spots is Tarzana Armenian Deli, a family-run institution operating since 1972. They claim to be the originators of the pita wrap, and in the spirit of generosity, we’ll give it to them. Because either way, those babies are delicious.

Ventura Boulevard. has a handful of old-school Jewish delis that each respective neighborhood swears by. The best among them is Art’s. This Studio City classic has been in operation since 1957, and features an enormous menu (please standby, we’re still counting the dishes) that’s filled with every classic in the book. We highly endorse a weekday soup and sandwich there—the “I Want It All” chicken soup with klepach and matzo ball is a masterpiece—but your focus should be on the sides. Mayo-y, decadent potato salad, cole slaw, and macaroni salad—if you see us leaving Art’s carrying multiple to-go pints, know that our picnic is about to be way better than yours. 

Open since 1949, Eagle Rock Italian Bakery & Deli is a Northeast LA landmark where you can stop by for fresh-baked bread, imported giardiniera, and other Italian goods. But if you arrive at this to-go only spot hungry, go for the Italian combo sandwich. Stacked with a variety of cured meats and cheese, lettuce, and tomato, this sub will easily keep you full until dinner—even if you get the small $10.50 version. Whatever you do, don’t walk out the door without a box of crunchy, tart cannolis.

We love Eastside Market because even after 85 years, this Italian deli on the outskirts of downtown still somehow remains a local secret. The sandwiches coming out of here are the messy, old-school red sauce variety that is hard to find elsewhere in LA. The #7 (roast beef, pastrami, and cheese) is probably our favorite, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the D.A. Special (sausage, meatball, roast beef, and pastrami) is your one-way ticket to an all-day nap.

In no world does Canter's deli food compare to that of Langer’s, Brent’s, or Factor's, but doesn't matter when you stumble into this Fairfax landmark at 3:30am. You’ll see drunk club kids standing in line next to your 70-year-old landlord, and the band you just saw play at The Roxy passed out in a booth by the bathroom. It’s a complete mess, and also an LA rite of passage. And if you feel like you have one more round in you, head to Kibitz Room, the attached bar in the back that’s every bit as weird as you’d think.

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