Johnnie’s Pastrami is a Culver classic

“The meat is juicy and full of flavor, cooked to perfection. The bun has bounce, and the condiments compliment it magnificently. There are pick- les on the side – crunchy and with a nice kick.” (Photo by Brett Callwood)

Johnnie’s Pastrami was founded in 1952 by brothers Eddie and Eli Passy, so it has just celebrated its 70th anniversary. In this era, when restaurants come and go with increasingly alarming frequency, that’s hugely impressive. That said, this place really is more than a restaurant now. It’s as much a part of Culver City as any iconic landmark, and the customers just keep showing up. Johnnie’s Pastrami is bucking the trend – loyalty does exist in business.

In ‘62, Eli Passy left the business and brother-in-law Bob Bass took over. Bass became the sole owner when Eddie Passy died in ‘94, and it remained in Bass’ hands until he died in 2012. At that point, his wife Sue took over. So the restaurant’s ownership remained in family hands. wrote that, “According to family members, the secret to Johnnie’s success was to take care of your employees and believing the customer was always right. It helped to create a cheerful dining experience, too. Members recall that when good songs would come on the jukebox, both Bob and Eddie would dance while they were cooking.”

When we dropped by Johnnie’s on a Wednesday lunch time, there were no owners or staff dancing to jukebox tunes. Hungry customers were waiting for their meals, and the staff were focussed on their jobs. That said, the vibe in the place is still joyous.

There’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek surliness about the staff. Like “whaddaya want?” but with a smile and a wink. That’s actually awesome, and it enhances the old school diner feel. When you are sitting, there’s a short but tantalizing menu to peruse.

Naturally, the speciality here is the pastrami sandwich. We reviewed that in 2017 and wrote, “The sandwich is prepared with Johnnie’s own house-made sauce and seasoning, which adds a zing to the flavor. It’s heaped with hot pastrami, and the meat is amazing. Peppery and salty, but also moist and full of meaty flavor, you’ll need a fork to eat all of the pastrami that falls off the bread with each bite.”

Five years later, we opted for a cheeseburger. We were interested to see how they are with classic American diner food outside of their signature dish. We weren’t to be disappointed. 

The meat is juicy and full of flavor, cooked to perfection. The bun has bounce, and the condiments compliment is magnificently. There are pickles on the side – crunchy and with a nice kick. The fries on the side (not included with the burger) are crispy and, as is generally the case with a burger, the perfect accompaniment.

Johnnie’s Pastrami can do no wrong.

Johnnie’s Pastrami is located at 4017 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City 90230. Call 310-397-6654.