Years ago, when I first visited Canter’s, I didn’t take a lot of pictures because as soon as my camera flash went off, the hostess asked me to stop, explaining that “people pay thousands of dollars to take pictures in here.” She meant that movie makers and professional photographers rent it out as a restaurant backdrop that very clearly says “vintage Los Angeles,” which is what it is. Since that time, taking pictures of one’s food has become part of the dining experience for enough people that nobody on staff gave me a hard time when I photographed a recent breakfast.
Open since 1931, Canter’s is an old-style delicatessen that smells of salami and corned beef and pickles and is staffed by take-no-prisoners guys and gals who are equal parts service and entertainment. Open all night (but with only take-out service from 3am to 8am Sunday through Thursday), it is an opportunity to eat excellent kosher-style — but not actually kosher — fare. This includes the full repertoire of cured meats and smoked fish, matzoh ball soup, noodle kugel, and a vast variety of traditional pastries including hamantaschen, rugguleh, and black-and-white cookies.
Hot entrees include corned beef and cabbage and chicken in a pot. Chicken soup is like an idealized grandmother might make.
The sandwich selection is epic. I like traditional corned beef (on rye), the meat briny and just fatty enough to feel slightly sinful. Another good sandwich is chopped liver that is enriched with plenty of schmaltz.
Among breakfast specials is matzoh brei (here spelled brey), a felicitous balance of matzoh shreds that range from custard-soft to slightly chewy all enveloped in buttery scrambled eggs.