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Mark of a great deli and man

The corner outside Al Langer's delicatessen near MacArthur Park is named in honor of the late restaurateur.

January 25, 2008|Ashraf Khalil | Times Staff Writer

For 60 years, Al Langer was an iconic presence at the corner of 7th and Alvarado streets. Since 1947, his Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant has been known as one of the city's best delis -- and an enduring symbol of stubborn stability amid a constantly changing neighborhood and city.

On Thursday, the city officially renamed the intersection outside the deli Langer's Square, in honor of the deceased restaurateur.

Calling the deli "an institution in my community for decades," City Councilman Ed Reyes said Langer "served up sandwiches with a smile for generations of families."

Langer died in June, less than a week after the deli celebrated its 60th anniversary. Over the years, the dining spot has become symbolic of Los Angeles' fast-changing demographics.

The middle-class Jewish residents of MacArthur Park were gradually replaced by Latino newcomers. Rising crime and drug dealing in the mid-1980s scared away some customers and forced the deli to close at night.

The deli received a much-needed boost in 1993, when the Metro Red Line opened with a stop nearby, allowing downtown devotees to take a quick ride over on their lunch hour.

"I'd probably have closed" without the Metro, Al Langer's son Norm told The Times last year. "The subway was the light at the end of the tunnel."

Members of the Langer family attended the ceremonies Thursday, which would have been Al Langer's 95th birthday. Norm Langer, who now runs the restaurant, called his father "the patriarch of delicatessens."

ashraf.khalil@latimes.com

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