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Canter's Deli on Mad Men: Homesick for New York in LA

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Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

On the season seven premiere of Mad Men last night, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) dine together at the still-open Los Angeles landmark Canter's Deli. Pete says he discovered the deli in a "homesick moment" and that he "immediately felt divine" when he sat at their counter. Over pastrami sandwiches topped with coleslaw, Pete explains how such a New York-seeming place landed in LA: "The New Yorkers here, they brought as much as we need. The bagels are terrible."

The Canter's Deli story actually begins in Jersey City. In 1924 Ben Canter and his two brothers founded a New Jersey delicatessen which according the restaurant's history they lost after the stock market crash in 1929. In 1931 they tried again in a Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles called Boyle Heights before moving to Fairfax Avenue in 1948 and then to their current location in 1953 (just up the block from the '48 location).

[Photos: Canter's Deli]

To film the scene, Canter's not only let Mad Men's film crew into the restaurant, but they provided props and costumes. Co-owner Terri Bloomgarden tells Eater that the restaurant lent the show vintage waitress uniforms and the pink menus they used during the '60s. Everything else was pretty much business as usual. "We didn't do anything to the interior," Bloomgarden explains.

Not only were no changes needed to the deli's art deco interior, Bloomgarden says that the food Don and Pete ordered from isn't so different from what you would see on the menu today. They each order the Brooklyn Avenue, a pastrami sandwich topped with coleslaw, that's currently on the menu. Bloomgarden says that sandwich was on the menu since at least the '50s, and speculates that it may have been an original sandwich from the '30s location which was on Brooklyn Avenue in Boyle Heights.

Some 83 years and three generations of family ownership after opening in 1931, Canter's Deli is still alive and well. Back in 2008 they celebrated their 60th anniversary of being on Fairfax Avenue proper by offering corned beef sandwiches at the 1948 price of 60 cents. Below, the clip from Mad Men:

Video: Canter's Deli on Mad Men

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