Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue has revamped its menu with 40 new items. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los…)
Canter's Deli regulars, thought you knew the menu at your favorite 24/7 Jewish deli? Think again. It's not all lox and corned beef and matzoh ball soup anymore. The 82-year-old Fairfax Avenue delicatessen says it's bringing its menu into the 21st century. And if that means offering panini made with gluten-free bagels, so be it.
Jacqueline Canter, a fourth-generation Canter and one of the restaurant's managers, says 40 new menu items have been added, including 15 panini and melts, new breakfast items, more burgers and now gluten-free bagels, gluten-free matzoh, even a house-made gluten-free bun for hamburgers.
"The whole family got together and decided it was time to update the menu," Canter says. "The customers of 80 years ago, they are not the same ones that come in now."
Among the new dishes is its pastrami panini. "We took the pastrami [sandwich] and made it into a panini -- pastrami, pepperjack cheese and spicy mustard on a jalapeno bagel." (It doesn't sound like anything you'd find at a paninoteche in Milan, but it does sound very L.A.)
"You have to see it to believe it!" says Canter, who adds that any of the breads for its sandwiches and panini can be swapped with gluten-free options.
"It all started when people came in and said, 'Do you have gluten-free bagels?' I listen to the customers' feedback," Canter says. "One woman came in and said her kid is gluten-free. A hamburger without a bun? That's no fun for a kid. So now you can get gluten-free matzoh brei, pastrami on gluten-free bread, egg whites and a gluten-free bagel. It's just a healthier crowd."
There are new cocktails in the adjoining bar, the Kibitz Room, too. Besides a frozen margarita and chocolate martini, there's something called a Kibitz Raspberry Fusion and Electric Iced Tea.
These aren't Canter's first inroads into contemporary L.A. tastes. Over several years, Canter's has introduced a variety of quesadillas. "Many of the people in the kitchen are Latino and we started putting on the menu what they like to eat." One new item is its pastrami quesadilla.
And adding pastrami to a Jewish-deli burger might seem obvious, but that's new, too, inspired by a Jack-in-the-Box commercial for a pastrami burger that once was filmed at the restaurant, Canter says. It's grilled pastrami, sauteed onions, tomato, pickle chips, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. Also new is the Hawaiian burger, Black and Blue burger and the California Burger.
In with the new means out with some of the old. Several items have been dropped from the menu, too. "The ones nobody was eating," Canter says. Short ribs and a pita wrap, for example.
And goodbye to Billy Gray's Band Box sandwich, named after the Fairfax comedy club that for three decades from the mid-'30s drew celebrities to racy acts from the likes of Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, Don Rickles and Jackie Gleason. It's an open-faced chopped liver and egg salad sandwich with coleslaw.
"It won't be on the menu," Canter says. "But you can still order it." Whew.
419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 651-2030, www.cantersdeli.com.
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