Remains of L.A.

Traces of L.A.'s past can still be found, in the kitsch of '50s diners and the decayed glamour of '40s hotspots… and sometimes the food is good, and there are nice people.

(1973) Izzy’s Deli, Santa Monica

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izzyssignDrove out to Santa Monica to have dinner with my friend Ari at Izzy’s Deli.

I used to live not far from there, and I don’t know why I never went. It should have been my regular late-night place, but somehow it was never on my radar. The place has a very nice, friendly feel to it, much more comfortable than a lot of 24-hour restaurants.

izzyschandelier-When you walk in there’s a deli to-go area, then a counter to sit at and lots of tables and booths. The booths have a design of orange circles. The walls are brick and covered in pictures of celebrities and New York City. The ceiling is wood and has two domes making room for two tremendous, fantastic chandeliers, metal and polished rounded wood and long oval lights.

-All the categories on the menu are named after people. Some of the specific items, too, like you see often in delis, sandwiches named after celebrities or friends. But all the categories are also named after people, so you have “Paul Moyer’s Favorite Salads,” “Arnold’s Beer Collection,” “Jill & Michael’s Side Orders,” “Marissa’s Desserts,” “Florence Henderson’s Fabulous Dinners.”

-I got half a hot pastrami sandwich, fruit, and a bowl of mushroom soup, which I chose because the mother of my friends Dorrit and Jerome makes an incredible mushroom soup and it seemed like this might be similar. The soup is, indeed, almost as good as their mom’s, which is the nicest thing I can say about soup.

-Ari, considering getting a side of fruit as well, asked the waitress, “What’s in the fruit?” Of course he meant what kind of fruit was included but for a moment the waitress and I both thought he honestly wanted to know what was in the fruit.

-Some lady came in and wanted to sit, but the waitress knew her and told her she couldn’t come and sit and stay for five hours as was apparently her wont. She started yelling–she had a very odd, babyish voice–and the waitress was threatening to call the cops, then the owner–Izzy himself!–came out and told the woman she could only get food to go. From what I could hear, I didn’t blame the waitress one bit for not wanting this woman around for five hours. The woman finally left, yelling that she would only go somewhere else if they’d recommend a place, because she wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood.

click to see it all big

click to see it all big

-Amongst the many pictures of New York and Celebrities, was a very odd picture I can’t figure out. It’s a bunch of guys playing basketball, and then they’re rising up into heaven and playing there too? I guess? It’s a very confusing picture. The name of it was “The Dream Unfolds.”

-I went to wash my hands before eating, and I did that thing where you lean against the sink without noticing it’s all wet and then the bottom of your shirt is wet. I hate that.

-When the sandwiches came, there were four kinds of Beaver mustard: Wasabi Horseradish, Sweet Hot, Coney Island, and Deli. I tried the wasabi horseradish because it was weird and green and I thought it might be crazy and make for a good story, but it really just tasted like wasabi and horseradish in mustard, so I went back to the deli mustard, which is what I most like on pastrami.

-Over by the kitchen was a beer fridge that had “Izzy’s Beer Collection” painted on the door. I think I already noted that in the menu it’s called “Arnold’s Beer Collection.” But I suppose it could possibly be two different collections?

-As we were paying, the song “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead was playing, and I started singing along to it sort of under my breath, and Ari also started singing along to it under his breath and, well, it was one of the nicest moments I’ve ever had in a deli.

What I Ate: Mushroom soup, pastrami sandwich with two kinds of mustard, fruit, a bite of pickle.

Who I Ate With/Things We Talked About: Ari; Magic the Gathering, the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which I am currently listening to on audiobook and the reason I didn’t mind driving to Santa Monica, Nate Silver, the way small children at his bakery like to poke their fingers into the saran-wrapped bundt cakes near the register when no one is looking.

What Sort of Ghost I’d Expect to Find if I Believed in Ghosts Which I do Not: An elderly couple, who moved to L.A. to be near their kids and grandkids, and walked to Izzy’s every single day for lunch.

433 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403


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