Excellent | Worth a Detour
Tarzana Armenian Deli
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
Los Angeles hosts the majority of the Armenian diaspora, so Armenian restaurants are fairly common. One of the first was the Tarzana Armenian Deli, a counter-service sandwich shop specializing in pita wraps. In fact, this place claims to be the “Original Pita Wrap.” Back in 1972 deli meats wrapped in strange new flatbreads must have seemed pretty exotic around here.
The sandwiches offer a thoughtful fusion of traditional American sub shop deli with subtle Caucasus-inspired touches — most famously, Armenian string cheese. String cheese is the star ingredient here; it comes in all the sandwiches. You can substitute Swiss, jack or provolone if you want, but that would be foolish. String cheese fits the wraps perfectly, adding bouncy texture and a salt rush to each bite. Thankfully, it isn’t nearly as eye-wateringly salty as the cheese you find in Armenia.
The menu is a lot like a normal American deli with Boar’s Head meats. You can get turkey, ham, roast beef etc. Here the sandwiches come on pita with mayo, Armenian string cheese, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and the California touch of avocado. We like to replace the mayonnaise with a schmear of house-made hummus for extra flavor of the Near East. Some deli meats take better to these wraps than others. Our first choice is turkey.
If you want an experience that’s closer to true Armenian fusion, you can get Armenian bastruma, which is a cured beef sausage, or soujuk, a dried beef sausage, as fillings to replace conventional deli cuts. These are good, but quite salty. Another option for Armenian flavors is a Lamachun wrap. Lamachuns may be the Armenian national dish. They are warm, thin, bubbly bread disks topped with a spread of ground meat and peppers. Here they are wrapped around tomatoes, thinly-sliced radish, pepperoncinis and string cheese rather than the traditional parsley, tomato and lemon accouterments. This is an excellent choice if you want a hot item … on those rare days when it isn’t over eighty degrees in the San Fernando Valley.
The deli has a small selection of Armenian groceries, but much of the shelf space is used for an impressive selection of potato chips to go with the wraps. A little cooler of sides is kept near the register. You can get tabouli, hummus or baba ganouj to make your wrap a meal. The hummus is light and lemony and the baba is smokey and creamy. The best choice is the peculiar spicy red eggplant spread. We can’t make a trip here without picking up a tub of this fiery tomato-based dip. It also goes well as a relish with all of the sandwiches. It’s basically a chili spiked eggplant salsa with parsley standing in for cilantro.
Directions & Hours
- Monday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Sunday: Closed
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|