CLOSED: L.A.'s Iconic Dish: In-N-Out Cheeseburger Vs. Langer's #19

Los Angeles is full of people who care passionately about food, and there are plenty of restaurants happy to serve us. We don't all agree on what constitutes "good," but we do know we like our burgers, our froyo, our Korean BBQ, our pizza. (That's right, our pizza. We like it.)

The thing is, we don't have one iconic dish. Nothing that we can point to and say, "This. This is Los Angeles on a plate." So now we're going to find out. KCET Food came up with 16 contenders. You vote on your favorites. Here's the fourth match up:




Photos by Amparo Rios

Cheeseburger from In-N-Out: As if this needs an explainer.

The History: The first In-N-Out opened as a drive-thru shack in Baldwin Park. It is now an institution, a tourist stop, a restaurant residents of others states beg for on Facebook.

The Scene: Doesn't matter which one. There will be a line. Of everyone. All walks of life. (Though why people will wait in a round-the-block drive-thru line when parking and going in takes less than five minutes will always be a mystery to me.)

The Food: The cheeseburger there is the model copied by every other restaurant with a "California-style" burger on the menu. (See Umami Burger's "Cali.") Cheese, tomato, optional onion, a TON of lettuce, and "spread," which is mayo, ketchup, and sweet pickle relish. The knock-offs are ubiquitous, which is a sure sign of icon status.


#19 at Langer's: Even New Yorkers agree that New York's got nothing on Langer's pastrami.

The History: The restaurant opened in 1947 essentially in its present location, when MacArthur Park was bustling and had a strong Jewish presence. Though it's been a long time since the restaurant's had opening hours after dark, it has been a neighborhood stalwart through all the area's ups and downs.

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The Scene: It's no surprise that there are often lines here, too. These restaurants with their iconic dishes, people like them.

The Food: So, the thing to get here is the pastrami, which is widely considered to be the best in the U.S. (Though the corned beef's pretty darn good, too.) The restaurant also takes great pride in its rye bread, for what it's worth -- it's served hot, which is nice. And the most iconic sandwich on the menu is the #19, which is hot pastrami, Swiss, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on rye. It is truly a work of art.

Cheeseburger at In-N-Out
#19 at Langer's


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