Brent’s may be the best deli in America today.
Though I certainly haven’t tried every deli in the U.S., or even in California, I’ve been to many of those with glowing local reputations and I can say without hesitation that Brent’s outshines them all. I’ve also been to all of the famous Manhattan delis and none of them can touch Brent’s. There may be a deli in one of the boroughs – Brooklyn or Queens – that ranks high, but I haven’t found one yet that matches Brent’s.
The scene at Brent’s is frantic. At breakfast, lunch or dinner time expect your name to go on a waiting list, unless you want to sit at the counter. But it’s worth the wait. The location is in a strip mall and is kind of out of the way. But that doesn’t stop the crowds from gathering night and day, every day. The deli meats are the best available and are sliced to perfection; the breads are fresh; the smoked fish are the best cuts. And the ambiance is right out of the great Brooklyn and Manhattan delis of the 1940s and 1950s.
Owner and founder Ron Peskin was a close friend of my late brother-in-law, so we started eating at Brent’s within weeks after it opened in 1969. The restaurant was called Brent’s when Ron bought it. He kept the name because his oldest child is also named Brent. Ron had trained for years at other delis in the area. So, when he opened his own place, he was well versed in where to find the best purveyors and how to slice deli meats for the maximum flavor and texture. The original recipe for matzo balls at Brent’s was provided by my mother.