Stories on Rye collects more than 100 stories from the famed LA deli’s patrons and employees, capturing their experiences and memories at Canter’s since it first opened in 1931. Gina Canter’s beautiful illustrations celebrate both the place and its patrons, as voices from the past join the present, to demonstrate that nostalgia can be very much alive. Like the Canter’s booths that have welcomed movie stars and presidents alongside countless everyday people, the book contains a vast range of memories. Most significant, perhaps, is its connection to the Jewish heritage, such as the holocaust survivor who reunites with her family at Canter’s after being separated for over 40 years. Hilarious, touching and perhaps a little magical, Stories on Rye are a testament to the human spirit, and to a restaurant that shares its legacy with each of its patrons.
“In a crazy way I owe my life to this deli. In March of 1980, my mother, Candy, was a waitress at Canter’s. She was working the graveyard shift. My father and his friends came in for a late-night bite. And the rest is history. Seven months later they eloped. Thirteen years later, I came along. I’ve even eaten in the booth where it all began and it’s WILD. So, thanks Canter’s.”
“I have a story from 1971 about getting kicked out of Fairfax Theater for being rambunctious. My parents had to pick me up and we went to Canter’s afterwards; I was in a lot of trouble. We picked up deli food in silence before going home. We went to Canter’s a lot anyway.” - Slash
“No matter where we’ve lived, whenever we visit Los Angeles, we always make time to eat at Canter’s. We came to Canter’s over forty years ago for our first pastrami sandwich. We couldn’t help but notice all the old people eating there.
Today, while eating a pastrami sandwich, we realized we are now the old people.”
- Michael and Debra
“Canter’s is a lifestyle. The last twelve years I have come in sick, sad, hungry, full, drunk, mourning, all of it. I’ve shared pickles with Angelyne. I’ve taken dates here to see them under the bright tree ceiling. I’ve read numerous books in an anonymous corner while nomming on a pastrami reuben with no Russian dressing. I have slurped matzah ball soup at the front counter with my sick eyes swollen shut. And every damn time I get the service you can’t get anywhere in LA or the planet. Straightforward, real humans, some with more pizazz and others that are like your grandmother. And obviously the friken food keeps me fat and happy. You are my twenty-four-hour heaven and I love you.”
“My employees know I love Canter’s...they also know that if I have a meeting within fifteen minutes of Canter’s I’m going to bring them back a two-pound box of cookies. Love ‘em!”
“Attending Fairfax High School, all the cool kids spent first period at Canter’s. It was the 80s so it was mainly to use the upstairs bathrooms to put on shocking makeup, re-pierce those nose/upper ear piercings, put on racy garb and get ready without giving your parents a heart-attack! Me and my friends were smart because we knew the Kibitz Room had its own bathroom and we didn’t have to wait to get in front of the mirror. So, every morning we’d just pop in, grab a bagel and a coffee from the deli counter, and walk it over to the piano bar of the Kibitz Room. We would stare straight across both dining rooms to see the mayhem of kids running around there. I mean, there was a line of kids all the way up and down those stairs to the bathrooms. I remember it as if it was a class I took!”
- Rami Jaffe
“In 1994, about a year after my husband passed away at the young age of fifty-four, my children nudged me to start dating or at least get out of the house. A dear friend Debbie, who also lost her husband one month after mine, and I were commissioned to go to a jewish singles dance in L.A. We did with much anxiety and apprehension and, low and behold, I was danced away into the arms of a lovely gentleman named Harry. Long story short, we dated and had our first meal together at this wonderful establishment. Harry lived in West Hollywood and I loved deli food so we met at Canter’s. Harry, a child survivor of the Holocaust, was very comfortable with wholesome food rather than a posh place with silver and crystal. When he passed away in 2015, we celebrated his eighty-seven-year life at—you guessed it—your home. Twenty years of memories and a little heartburn!”
“1991ish...it was a Monday night. Jonny Depp walked up to my table and asked for a bit of my potato pancakes...I happily obligated.” —Lonna
“I came here from Germany after surviving the Holocaust. I was twelve years old. I was so impressed that so many Jewish people could be so happy in one place. The last time I saw so many Jewish people together was in the camps. I love the food here, the atmosphere, the friendly faces, and the staff. I still come here to this day with my children and grandchildren. I share many fond memories of Canter’s with my wife of sixty-one years. Never forget.”
“I came to Los Angeles for the same reason most do; to pursue my acting and film-making career. I moved in the late summer of 2014, and one day while looking for jobs in Hollywood, I stumbled into the famous Canter’s Deli. I loved the food so much I started to come every day and quickly became a regular. As luck would have it, a position was open as a busboy. I took it and was hired on the spot. Although I found another job that took me away from Canter’s, I would always find a reason to stop in. After a year of struggling in Hollywood, and the jobs being few and far between, I moved back to my home state of Oklahoma. Canter’s always gave me an open door to return. They knew I would be back. Fast forward two and a half years and boom I moved back to Hollywood. I started coming to my favorite deli and it was like I never left. They remembered my name and even my usual. It was home."