The first few nights we were in Los Angeles in June, Tawn and I stayed at the Travelodge Culver City on Washington Place just east of Sepulveda Drive. As down-market as you would expect a Travelodge to be, this one has received well-deserved high rankings in TripAdvisor and other review sites. In addition to the really tasty Metro Cafe located downstairs from the motel, just around the corner was the timeless Johnnie’s French Dip Pastrami. Of course, I wanted to try it.
Established in 1952, Johnnie’s is this small shack of a diner. As their menu explains, the jukeboxes are originals and some of the waitresses are, too.
The restaurant is open until 2:30 am and an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. A wide mix of people stop by, young and old, well-off and those barely making ends meet. They all are there for one thing: good, honest food. The menu is simple: burgers, dogs, and sandwiches, with the pastrami taking center stage.
Complimentary dill pickles, sliced thick.
Combine the pickles with a root beer float made with hand scooped ice cream and, despite it sounding like the food cravings of a pregnant woman, I was in heaven!
The ambience is all chrome and naugahyde. The pastrami boils for a while then finishes in a steam bath, coming out moist and thinly sliced. What’s that machine on the left? Well, for you youngsters out there, that’s how a real milkshake is made!
The pastrami on rye arrived. While pastrami is generally a fatty meat, I found my cuts to be quite rare. The fat that was attached was well-cooked and not overwhelming. Compare the construction of this sandwich to a pastrami I tried at a wanna-be place in Bangkok called New York Cheesecake, which served me only a thin layer of meat topped with a third slice of bread and several inches of lettuce and other veggies. Needless to say, Johnnie’s came a lot closer to satisfy my pastrami craving. As for the flavor, it was fantastic.
Tawn ordered a veggie burger. What’s that!? A veggie burger at a place like Johnnie’s!? Well, as my dearly departed paternal grandmother used to say, if we all liked the same things the world would sure be a boring place. Truth be told, it was a pretty tasty veggie burger probably thanks to all the burnt-on beef bits on the grill!
Overall, we could debate whether Johnnie’s has the best pastrami in LA or not. People have different preferences, of course. I just know that Johnnie’s hit the spot for me, filling a need for good pastrami that I had been carrying with me for many months. Next time I’m back in LA, I may return. Or I may seek out some of the other recommended pastrami shops. We’ll see.