Billy’s Deli Offers Excellent Jewish Cuisine

Amy Hirsch

Although most menu items have remained unchanged for more than 60 years, Billy’s Deli continues to attract a healthy crowd of enthusiastic customers.

Billy’s is among the few Glendale restaurants to have survived for such an extended period.

Generous portions of traditional Jewish deli menu items continue to be as popular as ever here.

From gigantic pastrami on rye sandwiches to huge bowls of steaming matzo ball soup, the full spectrum of deli items are served daily. The matzo ball is a large dumpling floating in chicken broth that has become known as “Jewish penicillin” for its benefit in relieving the congestion of a cold or flu.

Opening in 1948 as an eight-stool lunch counter, the restaurant was moved around the corner several years later to the present location on Orange Street, one block west of Brand Boulevard and just north of Wilson Avenue.

The origin of the name “Billy” remains unclear. Some say that the restaurant was named for a female cook from the lunch counter. Others believe that the original owner, Jack Whitten, used this as his nickname.

The restaurant faáade incorporates a unique collection of large ceramic tiles in the shape of typical deli food items such as loaves of Jewish ceremonial bread (challah), cut wheels of cheese, sausages and wine bottles. These were designed and produced by the son of the original owner.

Upon entering, a deli counter area displays a varied selection of meats, cheese and pastries. Included are huge slabs of roast and corned beef, pastrami, brisket and roast turkey and smoked fish. Additionally, traditional Jewish deli items such as matzo (a hard flat bread), horseradish, pickles and borsht (beet soup) are for sale.

Comfortable wood-paneled booths surround an area of tables for larger parties. The walls are covered with huge photo reproductions showing Glendale in the late 1940s to the early 1950s. Views of the city show that the old streetcar system was still prominent. Victorian-style lamps with fans hang from the high ceiling.

On a recent Sunday early afternoon, the restaurant was busy but no wait was required to be seated and service was prompt.

The menu offers a large array of choices. First courses include items such as gefilte fish, lox, herring, potato pancakes and matzo ball soup.

Sandwiches are served on rye unless requested otherwise and are available hot or cold. Choices include pastrami, brisket, corned and roast beef and turkey and ham available in many combinations. Items particularly typical of the traditional deli include chopped liver, egg salad, sardines and various sausages.

Those who prefer something other than a sandwich have many possibilities, ranging from roasted chicken or turkey, brisket, stuffed cabbage, chicken or beef in the pot, smoked fish plate and many others too numerous to mention. Side dish and salad choices are varied and come with dinners. An array of hamburger choices is available as well. Beer and wine are served.

Anyone able to find room for dessert may choose from a large selection of items from the bakery ranging from cheesecake to strudel.

Breakfast items include omelets, waffles, French toast and of course bagels with lox and cream cheese.

The service is efficient, from a diverse staff. The most senior waitress is Evelyn, who comes from the Bronx, and has worked at Billy’s for 27 years. She will provide her customers with an assortment of sometimes off-color jokes and an abundance of personal attention to make their deli visit memorable.

Portions are unusually generous and prices are very reasonable – in the range of $8 to $12.

Billy’s Deli is a true Glendale landmark and keeps its customers coming back for more.
Billy’s is located at 216 N Orange Street in Glendale. Phone (818) 246-1689. Open 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. everyday. Parking in the adjacent city parking garage is free for the first 90 minutes. Catering and delivery is also available.

The full menu can be seen at