Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jerry's Deli is the WORST

The following is a true story. It happened just last night.   And it's another of my rants. 

There is a truly mediocre delicatessen in Los Angeles called Jerry’s. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Mediocre and over-priced. It’s a chain and recently a number of them have closed (including the one in Westwood where several years ago a cook who had hepatitis made sandwiches).

I try to avoid Jerry’s. Judging by all the closings, so does everybody else.

On Wednesday nights after our improv workshop a group of us usually goes out to eat. We’re all tired of the Italian place we usually go to (how many times can you order chicken parmesan subs?) so for variety we decided to give Jerry’s another try. Last time we were there was about a year ago. My order should be up any time now. We were seated right near the bar where a fight broke out.

So seven of us roll in at 10:45. Again, all of this is true. A waitress is screaming at the hostess for putting another couple in her section. The entire place is practically empty.

In the bakery section there are like six lonely cookies.  This is how I picture a Jewish deli in Kansas.

We get a big table then wait ten minutes for a waiter in this empty eatery. The air conditioning is set to high. We’re all freezing. The waiter, when we finally flag him down, is sweating and forever mopping his brow. We ask if it’s possible to get separate checks? No. He explains if we put everything on one order everything will come out together. Okay. That made sense.

I order kreplach soup. They don’t serve it. They usually put out pickles. No more pickles. What kind of deli is this? A menu recommendation was the Monte Christo – a fried ham and cheese sandwich. Seriously? Applebee’s is more Jewish.

The waiter leaves to put in our order and disappears.  I'm guessing he's holding his arm pits up to a fan to reduce the sweat moons. 

Barbara and I have ordered soup. Our orders are up in five minutes. The rest don't get theirs for a half hour. Sure glad we didn’t do separate checks. When we ask the waiter supervisor where the rest of the orders are he just shrugs and says, unconcerned, “I dunno.”

One member of our party excuses himself to use the bathroom. He returns moments later. Someone was throwing up in there.  At least it meant his order arrived.

Barbara finishes her soup and leaves. Those six sad cookies will have to wait for another taker.  Five minutes later our galley slave-sweating waiter comes over with a glass pitcher to refill glasses. It slips out of his hand and the entire glass pitcher filled with water shatters on the table right where Barbara had been. I’m drenched and there are now shards of glass in everyone’s entrée. (Or, as Jerry's likes to call it -- garnish.)

The waiter apologizes and says he hasn’t felt good all night. He thinks it’s something he ate.  Oh, that's comforting.  Your waiter has such a high fever he could could fry your Monte Christo on his head. 

The supervising waiter returns, doesn’t offer to comp anything (I mean, no one was killed), but will remake the orders – like we’re going to wait around another half hour for potato skins.

Needless to say, we’re never going back. I imagine the comment section will soon be filled with similar Jerry’s horror stories. Meanwhile, I’m checking the LA Times website every hour to see if our waiter has come down with hepatitis.

The trouble is everything in the San Fernando Valley closes at 10, even the 24 hour restaurants. My kingdom for a Steak & Shake.

58 comments:

Richard Y said...

I am truly and always amazed at how places such as this survive - or in this case don't. But still there are eateries like this allover that keep plugging along with their bad service and bad food and people still frequent them.

Bryce said...

I think the last part of the post got cut off. You left out the part where you graciously paid your bill, left a big tip and wished the server your best!

Scooter Schechtman said...

Now there's your Cheers reboot!

Mike Barer said...

Reminds me of an experience that I wrote about a few years ago at a Steak restaurant in Palm Desert.

Dan Ball said...

Exactly, Scooter. This Jerry's is the kind of place I envisioned for the new CHEERS yesterday. It's got barflies only because they were there when the place was good and THEY'RE still treated well, but they've mostly been blind to the way things run. But now they're even starting to question things.

Canda said...

Ate at Jerry's in West Hollywood, near the Beverly Center, about 10 years ago, when it was pretty good. Went there with an old comedy writer. Haven't been to one since, but the California delis are going the way of the Stage Deli in New York. Does Canter's and Art's still exist? And thrive?

J. Allison said...

Jerry's is awful. Poor food and horrible service. At Canter's the prickly wait staff is part of the charm, but at Jerry's it's just laziness and apathy.

Lance Ballance said...

If Canter's is still around, that would have been my go-to.

Pete Grossman said...

Bummer! Would frequent the Jerry's Encino location back in the early 90s. Usually it was decent. They served a brilliant multi-layered chocolate moose cake that I'm still working off.

The odd thing I remember is that there was a guy who always brought in his detachable Porsche steering wheel to dinner with him.

Unknown said...

Nancy P...Ken I just heard you talking about this dining experience on WOR in NY, so I had to read it! I'm wondering did you leave a tip? You brightened my morning!

Great Big Radio Guy said...

It's a shame Langer's rolls up the sidewalks at 4pm...but then again, who wants to hit that neighborhood at 10:30 at night anyway? Get your fix there for lunch and save the late nights for Pinks or Mel's.

I'm Bradman said...

Did you thank the folks at Jerry's Deli for a fine Thursday blog?

Great Big Radio Guy said...

It's a shame Langer's rolls up the sidewalks at 4pm...but then again, who wants to hit that neighborhood at 10:30 at night anyway? Get your fix there for lunch and save the late nights for Pinks or Mel's. Or just stick with the Italian joint. You never had a good experience at Jerry's. I mean, they're still flogging the fact that Andy Kaufman bussed there once. And he died mysteriously.

Anonymous said...

Jerry's used to be decent. When there was only one of them. But when they expanded their stores they reduced their quality while upping their prices. Got to a point when I just stopped. A $16.00 sandwich is unacceptable unless it's at the Carnegie in NY where the sandwiches are two feet high and packed with perfect pastrami. BTW, Cantors is still opened, but the best deli in LA (not just my personal choice but Zagat's, too) is Brents in Northridge and Westlake. Great food and great service, too. You can barely finish half a glass of water without it being refilled.

Laurie Grad said...

Will take my Matzo Ball biz elsewhere.

Verna said...

Rant ON: The thing I don't get . . . is why no one tells the establishment or calls the health department? Why does anyone put up with this? The older I get the crankier I've become but even in my youth (and to the chagrin of people dining with me) I had no problem telling eating establishments or, (fill in the blank) that their food/service/etc., wasn't fit for pigs. But, that's just cranky me. And, once burned . . . I don't go back again, ever! Plus, don't we all know the only Jewish deli worth its pickles is in NY?

Michael said...

My niece's fiancé from Oregon had to go to the South for some training in his job and met his first major racist, who told him he'd like the restaurant because "there are no blacks here." When the time came, he paid the bill and in the tip line he wrote, "Here's a tip. Stop being a bigot," and left. THAT is a restaurant disaster, although Jerry's ranks up there.

Matt said...

Ken .. just for you .. I'm hitting Steak-n-Shake here in Indy and I'll have a Frisco Melt in your honor.

"This one's for Ken"

DwWashburn said...

Ah, Steak-n-Shake. They opened one here in Vegas about a year ago (at the South Pointe). Always packed, always a line.

Wheathead said...

Sadly funny, in a feverish way. But who goes to out to eat at 10:45? Besides you! Guess it should be called an INFAMOUS deli. I guess health inspection tours have fallen victim to the CA budget castration? On the other hand, it may be a newer form of population control.

Bruce Miller said...

Brent's in Westlake/Northridge!

BigTed said...

I've heard that L.A. used to be brimming with decent late-night coffee shops, like Ships (which was known for having a toaster on each table so you could cook your own bread). Now we're left with Norm's, where the food isn't just bad, it actually looks bad in their advertisements.

404 said...

Michael, as a proud Southerner I'm appalled at the experience your friend from Oregon had. Sadly, the stereotype of the racist Southerner holds true because it still exists down here. Has it gotten better? You bet. Is it only a Southern issue? Of course not. But that doesn't excuse what happened. Please let your friend know that a whole bunch of us down here aren't that way at all.

And I love how he handled it!

Janet T said...

When we lived in the valley we lived a few blocks from one Weiler's and worked two blocks from the other. I haven't found a decent deli since we moved.

Mr. Hollywood said...

Mel's in Sherman Oaks on Ventura is open til 1am.. good plpace ... try it out Ken ...

SharoneRosen said...

the service at Jerry's has always been the worst! I used to put up with them only because I loved their kreplach soup (just like I imagined my Bubbie would have made, if she wasn't such a rotten cook!). No more kreplach on the menu, I'm done with them.

As previously posted, BRENT'S Deli in Northridge and Westlake is superior to all other California delis.

Rock Golf said...

Not to be all Sherlock or anything, but it seems likely that the guy puking in the Jerry's john was your waiter.

RCP said...

If that's the face they're showing the public, imagine what's going on back in the kitchen:

"Hey, what does ex...expired mean?"
"Shut up and stir."

Trost said...

Those pastramis at the Carnegie will kill you. A couple pounds cholesterol on rye.

David said...

Add me to the list of Brent's fans.

Open 24 hours in the Valley: I'd go to Bob's or Du-par's before JFD. A little more upscale: Firefly in Studio City is open late, as is The Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks.

Foaming Solvent said...

I looked at the Steak 'n Shake web site to see where the nearest one to you is, and found the Las Vegas one. But more interesting to me was the discovery that there is one in New York City, in Manhattan at 1695 Broadway. This surprised me. I went to Google Maps Street View and discovered -- of course! -- 1695 Broadway is right next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater where David Letterman tapes his show. Being from Indianapolis, David Letterman is a huge Steak 'n Shake fan. I would not be surprised if it turned out that he is the franchisee.

I wish there were a Steak 'n Shake in Seattle.

Here is Roger Ebert's love letter to Steak 'n Shake: http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/car-table-counter-or-takhomasak

Michael said...

Foaming Solvent - I don't think David Letterman is the franchisee for the Steak 'n Shake next to his theater, but I do remember him sending a camera in there so he could place an order and have them deliver food to him during the show when they first opened.

Jesse Matthew Bernstein said...

Go to Victor's Square deli across from the Scientology Celebrity Center. It's got great deli (way better than Cantor's) AND great Italian. Great for filling up before or after an e-meter session.

Anonymous said...

On the Westside, JUnior's Deli was terrific for decades but recently closed. But a new place opened in the same location - Lennie's - and the breakfasts are good but haven't tried anything else yet.

Igor said...

Trost wrote: "Those pastramis at the Carnegie will kill you."

And your point is...?

I mean, how cool would that be to die in the midst of eating a mountain-high pastrami sandwich?

To be fressed to death.

The obit would be classic. "And the important thing is, he died while doing something he loved."

The only question would be whether you should be buried with the second half of the sandwich, or if it's alright for your lunch-date to take it home and have it for dinner.

Igor said...

"Fressed to Death" - a remake of "La Grande Bouffe", set at a Yom Kippur break-fast meal.

"Oy, I can't eat another bite. But I'll try."

Mike McCann said...

I remained puzzled that are so few decent NY-style delis in LA. Who was it -- Marvin Davis, IIRC -- tried to open a branch of the Stage (or was it the Carnegie) and IT failed?? You'd think between the community of native New Yorkers and folks like you who love to eat like one, a decent place, at least as good as the ones you find in a bunch of New York suburbs (Epstein's in Scarsdale or Gold's in Westport -- where Paul Newman was known to go), would thrive.

Mike McCann said...

Ken,

Tell ya what, next time you come to New York, we'll have lunch at Steak & Shake, my treat.

BMR said...

Junior's gone, Jerry's blows and Canters is the worst of 'em all. What the hell happened to all the great deli in LA.?
My go to is Nate N' Al's and when forced to go over the hill it's Art's near valley and Brent's far valley.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Michael: Letterman is a good midwestern boy. Stands to reason he'd be a fan of Steak 'n' Shake. So was Roger Ebert, who wrote often about how much he loved eating there.

Do even the Chinese restaurants close that early in LA?

wg

Dana Gabbard said...

Years ago a friend and I ate at Jerry's near Beverly Center. Service was okay but what we joke about to this day was the young babe who dashed in as we were entering and made a quick order of soup and instructed them to bring it out to her as she waited in her car out front. Talk about the stereotype of a westsider!

I ate once at Brent's and it is quite good. Langer's is great but as mentioned closes at 4 p.m. M-Sat. Izzy's at 15th/Wilshire in Santa Monica is 24 hours and has an awesome dinner special 4 p.m.-10 p.m. that includes drink, soup or salad, selection among 14 entrees plus vegtable and potato -- $14.18 including tax. What a deal! Fromin's at 19th and Wilshire in Santa Monica is also excellent but closes at 10 p.m.

Anonymous said...

Did nobody mention trying The Hungry Heifer?

Malinda Hackett said...

I totally agree about Jerry's Deli....the worst!!

Friday Question:
I just watched the premiere of the new Meredith Stiehm series "The Bridge," and it got me thinking...lately I've noticed that new shows have a tendency to introduce several story threads which remain unresolved by the end of the episode. I understand you want certain stories to arc over the entire season or series but, what's happening to the idea of a self contained story specific to the pilot episode? Shows like "The Wire," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "The Sopranos" all had a great story in the pilot which was resolved at the end of the episode and that story helped set up the series as a whole. Why are some new shows choosing to stray away from this kind of structure? I watch mostly drama so I don't know how it is on the comedy side...

mdv1959 said...

In Jerry's defense, I go to the one in Studio City about once a month, (usually around midnight on a Saturday), and it's pretty good. In my experience all of the Jewish deli's in LA are over priced and mediocre, but Jerry's in Studio City is no worse or better than the rest. It's main attraction is that it's open until 1:00am and we're hungry.

Nancy said...

This review is hilarious! I'm looking forward to your LA book of bad restaurant reviews.

I miss the deli in the Brentwood Country Mart where they honored the memory of writer Carol Sobieski. The real deal in food and feeling.

Live large -- order in and have it sent from 2nd Ave Deli in Murray Hill. It doesn't get any more authentic than that.

Zucky's sign is still up but it ends there -- a bank?

More kvetching-stream-of consciousness a la carte please?

Chris Holtz said...

Friday Question:

I was listening to the Nerdist Writers Panel and I just wanted to know how they're able to get their hands on the pilot scripts and read it before it airs this fall?

What's the big deal of not releasing the pilot script before it airs?

I can't see it negatively effecting the Nielsen ratings.

Carson said...

I'm guessing this was in the Studio City Jerry's? It sounds like them. I stopped eating there years ago when I ordered delivery and it was clear that my order was someone else's cancelled order. From the day before. It was cold, congealed and the mashed potatoes had a crust from age. This is the same Jerry's that's been closed down by the Food and Safety Inspectors several times before the place caught on fire.

Next time, why not go to Art's Deli? It's close and it's kosher, so you know the food is safe. They also have pickles and the waitstaff doesn't salt your food with their sweat.

Jeffrey Mark said...

I have always loved Canters on Fairfax. My grandmother lived on Hayworth right behind the alley. Every trip down to LA included a nosh at Canters. This was the early '70s when it was great. Years later in the early '90s an aunt of mine worked as a waitress there and always had everyone in stiches with her jokes. I haven't been back since 2008. It was pretty good then, but not like its heyday when I was growing up.

The only closest thing to a decent NY-style deli here in the East Bay Area is in, of all places, Berkeley. Saul's. It's been opened for over 25 years same location so I guess people love it. I've been there a few times. Eating a corned beef sandwich in Berkeley somehow not quite the real deal. I live in Oakland...with a pretty good Jewish population, but not a single Jewish deli. I'll be down in Long Beach next month...any good delis there? Anyone?

RareWaves said...

Have you called Gordon Ramsay of Kitchen Nightmares? I'm sure Jerry's won't take the criticism any worse than Amy's Baking Co.

Ed from SFV said...

24 hr. Diner on Magnolia, just west of Lankershim in North Hollywood is nothing to scream about, but has never been a train wreck for me.

Little Toni's a few blocks South of there on Lankershim (Vineland and Camariollo each intersect there)is very good and open until 2 am most nights.

I had nothing but bad experiences at the Jerry's on Ventura in Studio City. Waaaaay overpriced for the lousy service and food.

Chris J. said...

For the record, Jerry's in the Marina is just as horrible. Last time I went, I didn't think I was going to get out alive.

Johnny Walker said...

Wow, I'm surprised you guys stuck it out as long you did. Reading it I felt like I was watching a horror movie: "Why don't they just run...?!?"

Whenever I go to LA, one thing I enjoy is all the great food -- but I guess I take it for granted that my friends know the good places to eat... I didn't realise you had your own little slices of England waiting to be discovered/lived through.

I thought I'd check the reviews to see how isolated your group's experience was. This review was posted FOUR YEARS AGO, and seems to sum up the tone of the others perfectly:

"If you want to get treated like CRAP, come to this place. I emailed corporate after getting one of the worse experience as far as service goes in a restaurant, but never went anywhere. It's sad because my wife and I like the food here. We just drive further down to Solis or another location."

Wow. Four years. How is this place still open? And why doesn't corporate give a rat's ass about their reputation?

Cap'n Bob said...

I wonder if it's any kin to Jerry's Restaurant, a place a friend and I stopped at late one night while traveling south on I-5 through Oregon. Worst food imaginable.

Bad delis? An alleged Italian deli opened in Tacoma years ago. I went in and ordered a meatball wedge. They didn't know what a wedge was. Okay, so make it a meatball sub.
"Do you want lettuce and mayo on that?"
I predicted they'd be gone in six months. I was optimistic.

olucy said...

Well, I think Edward Snowden might have found a safe place to hang out.

Mark said...

It's a coffee shop, not a deli but if it's after ten the Studio City Du-Pars should be a quick shot down the 101

Mike said...

@olucy: I think it was Ken that joked that Osama Bin Laden hid for years on the LA Metro.

Jerry's Deli has the Würst?

Mike Botula said...

I'm not sure where the decline and fall of the great delis began, but a common note struck has been, "they stopped putting the pickles on the table." That is the sure way to oblivion.

J Carter said...

And now I'm really missing Eddie Saul's.