VEGAS, BUBALA? Above, the original Canter's in Los Angeles, and at top, the Vegas version.
A few years ago, Jessica of Ritz Bites tipped me off to the weirder than weird news that Canter's Delicatessen, the Los Angeles institution, had expanded to open a branch in Las Vegas. On one level, this made a certain kind of sense: You can have anything in Las Vegas, from a scaled down Eiffel Tower and Brooklyn Bridge to restaurants serving the culinary creations of Thomas Keller, Joel Robuchon, and Daniel Boulud, so . . . why not a Jewish deli? On the other hand: Whaaa?
The original Canter's holds a special place in my heart. While I was in graduate school at UCLA, I lived a few blocks away from Fairfax Avenue, and spent many late evenings and early mornings there studying and writing. More recently, on a visit to Los Angeles, Anya woke up at 4:00 a.m. and refused to go back to sleep. Where to go for breakfast before dawn and entertain a sleepless toddler? 24-hour Canter’s, naturally.
Big, blown out photos of the original Canter’s line the walls, but otherwise, the Vegas incarnation, buried deep in the casino at
the Treasure Island resort, is a different beast than its mothership.
It has a vaguely retro/space-age Jetson’s chic, with a lot of stainless steel and curvy
light fixtures. Where were the illuminated autumn
leaves lining the ceiling? And, what about the trademark telephones?
None could be found. The sandwich menu was more or less intact, though
the tepid corned beef I ordered was disappointingly chewy.
Something (maybe everything) was lost in the translation to Las Vegas. No waitresses (you order at the counter). No bakery. No movie industry types or students (like myself at one time) or elderly Jewish couples. On the day I ate there, the deli had been transformed into -- of all things -- a sports bar. There was a Green Bay-Philadelphia game on, and every seats were turned toward the flat screen televisions. Burgers, not pastrami, seemed to be the most popular dish, with lots of Miller Lite sloshing and not so much Cel-Ray.
Canter's Delicatessen (Treasure Island, 3300 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, Nevada, 702.894.7111).