Monday, March 16, 2015

Got a Yen for Deli Food? Lenny's Is the Place!

Enough matzo ball soup for two! (Photos by Jefferson Graham)
A recent trip to see the delightful documentary "Deli Man" at the Royal in West Los Angeles left us craving deli fare--not exactly surprising, given the subject matter. Our initial plan was to go to Canter's, the beloved 84-year-old LA institution on Fairfax. But traffic and the logistics of bringing five hungry souls from disparate locations together on a Saturday night dictated a change in plans. We decided to save Canter's for another day and go to Lenny's Deli on Westwood Blvd. near Pico.

Casing the baked goods. (Photo from Lenny's website)

Lenny's opened about two years ago when another venerable deli, Junior's, shut its doors after 50-plus years. We'd lived a stone's throw away from Junior's when my son Sam was small and had loved the place--especially the glassed-in bakery counter where I'd often stop by on a Friday afternoon to pick up a loaf of challah, plus a butter cookie with rainbow sprinkles for my son and a giant black-and-white cookie for my husband. The counter is still there, enclosing the same tantalizing rows of cookies and pastries. The adjacent deli counter in the spacious entry also remains, with its long shelves replete with sliced meats, smoked fish, cheeses, pickles an other requisite deli fare. In fact, a lot about Lenny's looks very familiar. Same Naugahyde-seated booths with wavy glass  partitions, showbiz pics on the walls (we sat beneath a photo of Sammy Davis, Jr.). Was this Junior's redux?

Memphis "Piano" Joe plays his heart out.

Not quite. A jazz-playing keyboardist filled the place with music that made you want to dance and sing--or at least try to name that tune. Our waiter, Sixto, couldn't have been more different than the stereotypical sassy Jewish waitress who practically orders for you--he was as accommodating as could be, supplying us with generous portions of sliced half-sour pickles and sauerkraut, extra bowls and plates for splitting up the generous portions of soup and meat-filled sandwiches, takeout cartons for leftovers--all with a wide smile, as if we were his only customers, although the place was packed.

Lenny's Bagel Brunch Platter, with lox, whitefish and cod.
As for our food, we loved it all and ate beyond capacity, because that's what you do at a deli. We went for the traditional menu: matzo ball soup; corned beef, pastrami and turkey on rye (not together, of course); lox, whitefish, bagels and cream cheese. Then, stuffed though we were, we couldn't resist ordering a chocolate egg cream and a slice of carrot cake.

Not to hard to guess what this is.
Still, since a deli these days must be all things to all people, and this is, after all, LA, home to possibly the most health- and body-conscious population on the planet, the menu contains plenty of choices for the vegan and gluten-free set, such as Tofu Veggie Scramble and Kale Salad, plus sugar-free and gluten-free desserts. The menu proudly proclaims that Lenny's serves "cage-free eggs only!" and "organic or locally grown products" when available. However, though I was pleased to see a deli with a conscience, it didn't stop me and everyone else from eating as we pleased for one happy evening.

Here's the audio of what we thought of our visit to Lenny's. My hubby, Jefferson Graham, a tech writer, videographer and photographer for USA Today, couldn't resist taking over the microphone, but he's so good at it, I let him. You'll also hear from photographer Mike Ansell; his 93-year-old father, Norman, a deli connoisseur of longstanding; Jeff's mom, Judy Graham, a talented knitting guru with a popular YouTube channel, Knitting Tips by Judy; yours truly, and Jeff, who, by the way, took most of the pictures. I dedicate this post to him. 

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