To celebrate 80 years, Canter's deli offers 80-cent corned beef
If you can make it there by midnight Tuesday, here's what you'll get for eight dimes: Thick slabs of corned beef sandwiched between two slices of mustard-slathered rye, a sour pickle, a dab of potato salad and a chocolate-chip rugelach.
How long the lines will be when you get there is anybody's guess. They started forming midmorning and stretched up and down the block well before the deal started at 4 p.m.
The family-run deli, which opened in 1931 in Boyle Heights, was ready for the onslaught with 5,000 pounds of corned beef on hand.
Canter's is a place that takes pride in staying the same. Its current location -- in the former Esquire Theatre -- hasn't changed too much since the family moved in back in 1953.
"We like to keep everything the same, exactly the same. Nothing has changed here. The decor is exactly the same," said Jacqueline Canter, a granddaughter of one of the deli's founders.
The traditions don't change either. The deli's been marking its milestones with similar meals at five-year intervals since it reached the half-century mark.
Bradford Smith, 45, showed up with his wife and two children Tuesday -- and not just for the bargain. "I like the 80 cents and I like the food," said the American Airlines baggage handler. Pastrami, he said, was his favorite. "Whenever we go on a trip, I come here and get a sandwich to eat on the plane. I have the number programmed in my phone."
Nancy Weiss, 72, of West Los Angeles said she heard about the special and decided to make her first trip to Canter's in a long time.
"I haven't eaten in Canter's for maybe 25 years," she said. "I used to come. But it's been a quarter of a century. I thought, 'Well, my goodness, here's my chance.' I'm looking forward to it. Down memory lane."
That's exactly what Jacqueline Canter's brother, Gary, who has worked at the deli since he was 13, hoped would be the draw.
"Coming to Canter's is like family," he said as he sat in the booth amid the clatter of silverware, the clink of ice cubes, the hum of dozens of conversations. "You came here as a kid and got a cookie at the bakery. It's memories. Food is love."
-- Nita Lelyveld
Photo: The line stretches down the block for Canter's 80-cent anniversary special. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times