By Linda F. Cauthen
When Greenblatt’s Deli closed permanently a few days ago, many of us in West Hollywood felt like we had lost an old friend. This Sunset Blvd. establishment had been on the same block for decades, so long that it seemed like it would always be there, serving up those memorable pastrami sandwiches with a side of their homemade potato salad.
My own history with Greenblatt’s began in 1972, when I moved into the apartment building right behind the deli’s original location. This was about six months after I had made the big move from my hometown in Alabama to the Los Angeles area and I was on the hunt for cool new places to check out. Back then, the deli was located on the corner of Laurel Ave., in the spot that now houses The Laugh Factory.
My new apartment was the ideal launching pad for a young single girl new in town since I could score gourmet-quality takeout just a few yards away, with not only Greenblatt’s but Ah Fong’s in the same mall. The parking lot was also good for entertainment, as my kitchen window looked out onto a steady stream of celebrity customers. When you walked into the door of the tiny store, you never knew who you would run into.
According to the official site for Greenblatt’s, the deli opened in 1926, moving from a previous location in less-chic South Central L.A. This was when Sunset Blvd. was a dirt road west of Doheny, but was growing fast as the main thoroughfare connecting the movie studios to the east with the brand new luxe enclave Beverly Hills to the west. The location may have been considered out in the country back then but was soon joined by notable neighbors like the Garden of Allah (1927), the Chateau Marmont (1929) and Schwab’s Pharmacy (1932). The 1930s must have been a fabulous time to live or visit this neighborhood, with movie stars checking into the Garden or the Chateau to indulge in behavior that they hoped to keep hush-hush. Greenblatt’s kept these celebs well-fed while they hid from the public and the press.
Greenblatt’s proved to be so successful that in 1979 the deli moved into a larger location next door and added an upstairs dining room. This move allowed the business to devote more space to their growing collection of fine wines and spirits. Although during the deli’s early years in the thirties, the establishment was forbidden from selling intoxicating libations by Prohibition, management later made up for lost time by offering a tempting selection of premium wines as well as expert advice on how to serve and enjoy them.
After all these years, many of us in West Hollywood had come to take Greenblatt’s for granted, like that old friend who would always welcome you back, no matter how long you had been away. That’s why it was such a shock when the news came that the deli would be closing its doors permanently on August 11. Current owner Jeff Kavin is hoping that a buyer will take over Greenblatt’s and keep it going but in today’s business climate, that is likely to prove difficult.
Greenblatt’s wasn’t the only deli in Los Angeles, or even in West Hollywood, but it was a one-of-a-kind institution that can’t be replaced and will be sorely missed.