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Los Angeles Area

Mostly Underwhelmed at Billy's

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Mostly Underwhelmed at Billy's

Will Owen | Jan 7, 2010 11:31 AM

Old friends called up to invite us to join them for their ritual NY Day lunch at Billy's Deli in Glendale. We had never been there but had read some encouraging words on this Board, and the guy insisted it was the best deli in LA County. He especially recommended the potato salad. Okeydoke, then...

I've had good meals in places that looked grubbier and more hard-used than this, though not by much, and the waitress was friendly enough, so we got comfortable in a large booth - we had two four-tops all to ourselves, which was nice - facing the deli case, and while waiting for the friends to arrive checked out the menu, your standard gigantic deli thing. By the time the others joined us we'd gotten our drinks, root beer for Mrs. O and water for me, and the waitress had established herself as a rough-cut comedienne. I am not going to go into my usual detail here, partly because I wasn't taking notes about who had what - I think our buddy M had the pastrami (which he also insisted was the best on the West Coast, dismissing Langer's as merely adequate), and I know that Mrs. O got two plates, a chopped liver and herring in cream. I decided to continue my hunt for patty-melt perfection, on grilled sourdough, please - sneer if you will, purist, but the waitress just said, "Oh, we call that the Frisco."

I did not ask for a taste of the pastrami, but the highly-praised potato salad was sweet enough to make my teeth ache, as was the herring. The patty melt was huge, and had just barely enough flavor to let me know it was beef; its only truly outstanding feature was how tender the grilled onions were and how many they'd given me. As for the offered condiments, there were two pots of mustard, one bland and boring and one vinegary and boring, and the mayonnaise, in little plastic containers of maybe a tablespoon each, was probably Kraft. The fun part came at the end, when our friends were getting deli-to-go items added to their tab, and the one lone counter guy was trying to fill their order, another order, and check out all of them and us and someone else simultaneously. It took us all a good bit longer to pay and leave than it had to get the food in the first place - good thing the joint was almost empty, or we'd still be there. But at least the older of the two waitresses kept our morale up by telling the same jokes the other one had told us...

Tab for the two of us, split willingly by the waitress, was a bit over $26 with tax but before tip. Mrs. O made a very good lunch a couple of days later from her leftovers, as I would have had I not been such a pig. This is a funny, grubby old joint, IMO somewhere downhill from Canter's, and despite the dusty fake sausages hanging over the sparsely-stocked deli counter - I'm sorry, it's just pathetic - I'll be more than happy to give it another visit. It surely can't be as bad as it looks... and maybe I'll hear another Tiger Woods joke.

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