There are certain rites of passage every Angeleno will inevitably endure - instantly regretting that decision to hike up to the Hollywood Sign, waiting around all day for 45 seconds inside the Infinity Room, driving to San Diego on a Friday night. Even when they’re terrible, these activities are essential to the LA experience, and go a long way towards defining what it means to live here. Well, we’ve got another one to add to the list, but it’s a good one: Lunch at Brent’s Deli in Northridge.
This iconic deli in The Valley has been around since the ’60s and has come to define not just Jewish food for a generation, but an entire section of the city itself. And with tremendous comfort food that goes toe-to-toe with the best Jewish staples in town, Brent’s is more than just a bucket-list experience. It’s a pilgrimage everyone needs to be making again and again.
LA’s worst-kept secret is that we have the best collection of Jewish delis in America (you OK, New York?) and Brent’s is a long-standing member of that pantheon. And much in the same way spots like Langer’s, Canter’s, and Nate ’N Al reflect their own areas of the city, so too does Brent’s. Walk into the gigantic dining room on Parthenia St. any day of the week and you aren’t just in the center of the neighborhood, you’re in the beating heart of the entire San Fernando Valley. Large family gatherings, weekly book clubs, and solo diners who haven’t opened the menu in three decades, all crammed into a space that feels more like a museum than an actual restaurant. The servers aren’t staff, they’re family, and the people sitting around you are neighbors. No matter where in the world you grew up, a meal at Brent’s feels like you’ve come home, but with food that’s better than anything you could get as a kid.
Like many Jewish delis, Brent’s menu is absolutely massive - to the tune of over 650 different dishes. While we can’t fathom what chef training is like, we can help you narrow down your order. Whether this is your first time here, or you’ve been coming every week since 1967, all meals start with the black pastrami Reuben. Perfectly marbled black-pepper pastrami topped with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and hot sauerkraut, sandwiched between grilled rye bread - this isn’t just our favorite sandwich at Brent’s, it’s one of the best in the entire city. It comes with a side of steak fries, but you’re going to want to swap them out for curly fries. This isn’t to say the steak fries are bad, it’s just that Brent’s curlies will absolutely change your life - or at least your personal hierarchy of deep-fried potatoes.
From there, make sure both the stuffed cabbage and latke and blintz sampler hit your table. We used to think no restaurant could touch Nate ’N Al’s stuffed cabbage, but that’s no longer the case. Every time we eat Brent’s version, the ground beef becomes more flavorful, and the cabbage leaves seem more tender, but above all else, our desire to purchase a bottle of their homemade sweet-and-sour sauce grows stronger. The latkes are always good, but it’s the sweet cheese-filled blintzes that will have your entire table stabbing the plate with their forks like a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole.
You could spend an entire year at Brent’s perfecting your order (a mission we endorse), but at the end of the day, a meal here goes beyond the food that’s put in front of you. It’s about experiencing a restaurant and a group of regulars so intertwined that they’ve become a whole new community. And that certainly beats a quick photo in the Infinity Room.
Black Pastrami Reuben
This is Brent’s signature item, and one of the most iconic sandwiches in the city. The peppered pastrami mixes with the bitterness of the sauerkraut to form one of LA’s great power couples, and unlike so many others in this town, they’re in it for the long haul. Oh, and swap out the steak fries for the curly fries. You won’t regret it.
We don’t care how hot it is when you visit Brent’s, make sure this dish hits the table. The cabbage itself is tender, but never soggy, and the ground beef stuffed inside basically melts in your mouth. That said, it’s the house-made sweet-and-sour sauce poured on top that brings it all together.
Split Pea Soup
Curb appeal - 1/10. Taste appeal - 10/10. If you get one soup at Brent’s, make sure it’s this one.
Latke And Blintz Sampler
Honestly, if a Jewish deli can’t nail a plate of latkes and blintzes, you should probably just close your menu and leave. Luckily, you’re staying for a while at Brent’s.
Ortega Brisket Melt
On those rare occasions when we don’t feel like the Reuben, this is our other go-to sandwich. The brisket itself isn’t quite as game-changing as the pastrami, but it’s still good, and the combination of grilled onions, melted jack cheese, and ortega chilis on top gives it a nice punch of heat.
Chicken In The Pot
If you’re rolling in with a big group, you’re going to want this on the table. Served in a giant crock that was last seen in your aunt’s kitchen in 1987, it’s basically a fully braised chicken with carrots and boiled potatoes, plus an entire helping of matzo and kreplach (meat-filled dumplings) soup on the side. God bless.