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Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City has perfected the delicious pastrami dip

The pastrami dip has been perfected since 1952 at Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City
The pastrami dip has been perfected since 1952 at Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City
Edward Simon

When most people think of pastrami, they envision a deli sandwich of cold sliced meat, piled high on rye bread and served at places like Langer's, Brent's Deli, Katella Deli and Canter's. There is a second school of thought, though, as to what makes a great sandwich and that is the way places like The Hat and Johnnie's Pastrami do theirs, serving them as a pastrami dip.

The pastrami dip is the specialty at Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City
Edward Simon

Johnnie's Pastrami was opened in 1952, a scant few miles from what was the MGM Studios lot in Culver City. Walking into Johnnie's, a lot of it looks the same as when they first opened. The classic juke boxes are still operational, while the aqua Naugahyde on the counter stools is a color that puts the restaurant squarely in an earlier era. The studio crowd is the same, with the only difference being that they are coming from Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox studios now.

Another thing that hasn't changed in years are the crowds at Johnnie's, waiting for their hot pastrami sandwiches. Johnnie's is especially popular with the late night crowd, serving meals until 2:30 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and staying open until 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. That makes it a great choice for those working a late night shift or just looking for something to eat after a night of clubbing.

Johnnie's does their pastrami on a French roll as a pastrami dip. The meat itself is thinly sliced and dipped in the jus to warm it up and add flavor. Then the roll is dipped, being dipped much more lightly than most other places do. Johnnie's will do a double dip on the roll if you want, but most people opt for the regular dip. With the regular dip, the roll does not become soggy, stopping the need to rush through eating the sandwich before the roll falls apart.

The meat itself is cooked perfectly, thinly sliced, tender to the bite yet not falling apart. The smoke flavor and the pepper on the pastrami are also lighter, making for a sandwich that appeals to just about everyone. Of course, extra 'kick' can be applied with a liberal dose of Johnnie's own hot mustard on the sandwich. A nice extra on the sandwich is a slice of Swiss, adding the slightly tart cheese flavor to the juicy pastrami's taste.

Of course, you can also get pastrami on rye bread at Johnnie's, but it just is not the same as on that dipped French roll. Besides the namesake pastrami dip, Johnnie's has hot corned beef, hot dogs and several burgers. Johnnie's even has their own version of the L.A. original, the chili size. A popular choice for many is Johnnie's hot dog, char-broiled for a different taste and texture than most dogs in town. The dog is available plain, with cheddar cheese, chili or both.

One of the few non-meat options on the menu us a charbroiled veggie burger. Fried fish, shrimp and chicken sandwiches are also available for those who prefer to stay away from red meat. For healthier eating, a char-broiled chicken sandwich served on a toasted French roll is a great way to keep the calories down.

Johnnie's Chili can be ordered several ways. Besides the chili size and a chili burger, the chili can make an appearance on the hot dog. It is also available as a bowl of chili and beans or just a straight bowl of chili. Johnnie's also has a tamale covered with their signature chili. Finally, it is also available as a big seving of chili fried, straght or topped with cheddar cheese.

Even though the pastrami sandwiches are huge, overstuffed with their delicious pastrami falling out of the sides, many people also opt for a side dish or two with their sandwiches. First at the table, coming with the menu, is a side of some very good kosher style dill pickle slices. The pickles are so popular that Johnnie's sells them to go, by the pound or by the gallon. The French fries come in an order large enough for two to share. The crinkle-cut fries are very good, crispy on the outside but still extremely hot and soft on the inside.

At lunch and dinner time, the crowds can get heavy, but Johnnie's had added two outdoor covered patios for guest to dine in. The wait is worth it, though to get some of the tastiest pastrami around. With the jus keeping the pastrami moist, Johnnie's pastrami is a far cry from the dry pastrami and rye sandwiches that many delis serve. Johnnie's has been around serving the same basic menu for over 60 years now and judging by the crowds, they will be around for a lot longer.

Johnnie's Pastrami

4017 South Sepulveda Blvd.
 (Between Washington Blvd. and Washington Place)

Culver City, CA 90230

Ph: (310) 397-6654

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