Saturday, January 06, 2007

open all night: canter's.


when i was younger, we'd inevitably end up at canter's deli after a night of clubbing, enjoy a post-mortem of carbs and more carbs, sometimes stumble out at the break of dawn to sleep away the hangover. now it isn't the first late night choice it once was, and seems more like the actual hangover, but it still holds a place in my heart; no matter how long i've been away, the food always looks and mostly tastes the same, the decor remains untouched, and the same characters work there. everything--from the items in the bakery display to the barflies in the kibitz room--look like they've been there since the late fifties but in a completely unfaded way; they haven't been sitting there since then, i've just travelled back in time. or, time stops the minute you walk in the door. it's my own personal ghost world.

canter's deli counter

canter's bakery counter

look, there's enid. it's not the best bakery in town, but there's an appealing quality about the squares of cheesecake with the plasticky gloss of cherry filling, the giant bearclaws, and piles of crumb-dusted rugelach, marbled ryes, and coffee cakes. the main room is 'sixties naughahyde banquette and fluorescent lighting perfect, with waitresses who have worked there since then or longer, the crowd is still somewhat lively and convivial. the side room that leads to the lounge, however, is another story. still vinyl-boothed and artificially lit, but in a somewhat dimmer way, like a photograph beginning to fade. it's always less populated, and almost always manned by the younger male servers (and by younger i mean mostly in their forties than the women in their sixties). there's a very transitional quality about the room as people wander into the kibitz room to listen to local bands, or to go outside for a smoke. no one seems inclined to stay very long, including the servers. it's like a quiet bus station lobby on late weekday night, in los angeles of 1974. jack webb would eat here. he probably did.

canter's back room

the menu is a little all over the place and expansive. they've got typical deli platters, sandwiches, boiled dinners...chicken milanese and eggplant parmesan? guacamole and quesadillas? obvs a menu like this isn't going to be stellar throughout, but it's not horrible. a little pricey, but it's late night, it's decent, and there's something quite comfortable about it. the staff is generally efficient and genial. possibly the only smiling face you'll have seen all day. $10 for a sandwich of just meat and bread (although a generous portion of meat on generally fresh bread) and all the pickles you can eat isn't so bad when it comes with unspoken empathy and kindness. and foodwise, there's always some happy surprise. the chinese chicken salad is really good. you can't go wrong with a fried baloney sandwich. i'm a big fan of their knishes, blintzes, and even the matzo ball soup, which is really just a tumor made of matzo sitting in chicken fatty broth. mmmm.

canter's matzo ball soup

not a leaden baseball, but not quite light and fluffy; could be hotter, but the chicken stock is good, if plain. and it comes with a side of warm saltines, which is magically delicious.

cyrano at canter's

canter's deli is never fine dining, but still an experience all the same. wouldn't be los angeles without it.

canter's menupage

419 fairfax (x-street rosewood)
la 90036

google mapped!


Barron said...

I always wanted to try Canter's. We would always end up at Okidog tho...

Santos said...

hi barron! (laughing) i'd end up at okidog only if things got completely out of hand--which they often did!

Jeanne said...

Aww, if only I'd known about this place when I went to LA in 2005! I love proper delis with pickles & pastrami as it's something you really don't see in London...

Pudgy Girl said...

Stunning! Your photos have captured the essence of Canter's so beautifully I can smell the pickle jar.