Original #19 Hot Pastrami Sandwich

The hot pastrami sandwich at Langer’s in L.A. is so good it has inspired fierce devotion among deli lovers, among them Nora Ephron, who wrote an homage to it in the New Yorker. “It’s soft but crispy, tender but chewy, peppery but sour, smoky but tangy,” she wrote of Langer’s version of the quintessential deli dish. “It’s a symphony orchestra, different instruments brought together to play one perfect chord.” The restaurant steams the well-spiced cured meat for hours before hand-cutting it into thick, tender slices. To make this popular variation, Langer’s layers the hot meat on twice-baked rye bread, still warm from the oven and slathered with Russian dressing, and tops it with Swiss cheese and a scoop of their sweet-and-sour coleslaw.


Russian Dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk


  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned

For the sandwich:

  • 8 slices seeded rye bread
  • 2 pounds pastrami, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Russian dressing 
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup coleslaw 


Make the Russian dressing: in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, and buttermilk. The dressing can be made in advance. Leftovers will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Make the coleslaw: whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, salt and 1/4 cup water in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise mixture with the cabbage, carrot, and red bell pepper and stir to combine. The coleslaw can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil; bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bread is warmed through.

Meanwhile, to steam the pastrami, bring a pot of water fitted with a steamer basket to a boil. Wrap the pastrami in aluminum foil and place in the basket; cover and allow to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the slices are thoroughly heated.

To assemble each sandwich, spread 1/2 tablespoon Russian dressing on one slice of warm rye bread. Add 1/2 pound of hot pastrami to the same slice, overlaying the Russian dressing. Top the hot pastrami with 1 slice of Swiss cheese and 1/4 cup coleslaw. Spread 1/2 tablespoon Russian dressing on another slice of rye bread and place it on the sandwich. Slice in half and serve.


Makes 4 sandwiches