Behind the Counter with Debbie Markowitz of Factor’s Famous Deli

To understand the secret behind what makes this landmark Los Angeles deli so unique, we’ll need to journey back over 60 years ago. The family legacy behind Factor’s begins in the 1950s, shortly after World War II. Herman Markowitz, a veteran of the Czechoslovakian army, was looking for his family in the liberated camps. There he met Lili, a Holocaust survivor, who he would later end up marrying. The duo moved to the United State’s seeking out a new opportunity. When they arrived, they purchased Factor’s Famous Deli in 1969 from Abe and Esther Factor. The deli has flourished in their family’s care ever since.

Classic Jewish-style delis embody a particular type of persona. Each has their own quirks, personality, and narrative history that makes them unique. When you first walk in, the ambiance is warm, welcoming, and timelessly old-school. The regulars are sitting at their usual spot, and are on a first-name basis with the staff. The smell of fresh, smoked pastrami immediately activates your craving for a Reuben on Rye, extra spicy mustard on the side for dipping. This is the quintessential deli atmosphere you’ll discover walking into Factor’s Famous Deli.

Factor's Famous Deli

Located on Pico Blvd for the past 75 years, Factor’s is a true Jewish-style delicatessen. Their menu showcases traditional deli favorites, including everything from Brisket Sandwiches, Corned Beef on Rye, and Stuffed Cabbage. The Matzo Ball Soup has a pure, flavorful broth with light, airy matzo balls. The Lox is smokey and refreshing, using high-quality salmon that is specially flown in from the East Coast. The pastrami is hand sliced, tender, and slow roasted to seal in rich, smoky undertones.

Over the years, Factor’s has become a staple deli in the Los Angeles community. Their historic building showcases their classic booths and their walls are adorned with sports memorabilia, movie posters, and photos of a myriad of celebrity visitors.  For their regulars, it’s the place where they come to have comfort food with their family, friends, and loved ones.

Debbie and Suzee Markowitz, the youngest of the 5 siblings, are now the current owners of Factor’s. We caught up with Debbie to understand the Factor’s family history, how things have changed over the years, and the unique relationship their restaurant has with the local community.

How did your parents meet?

My parents met after the war. My mother was out of the concentration camp, sleeping in school after they got liberated. My father was in the Czechoslovakian army. While he was looking for his siblings that were in the Holocaust, he met my mothers’ aunt in the camp who said: “I don’t know where your family is but I have my daughter and my niece sleeping here with me.” He waited for her to wake up, and that’s how they met.

They loved each other for so much. She’s been a widow since 73 and she’s never dated or re-married, it’s a really romantic story. My mother still lives a block away and she comes into Factor’s every day around lunch.

When did you realize you wanted to take over the family business?

I just started working here as a kid and I think it was just in my blood. I never turned back. I went to college and got a degree in child development, but I ended up coming back into the business. I really just have a passion for the restaurant.

Factor's Famous Deli

What makes Factor’s different from other delis?

It’s very unique here, 80 percent of our customers are our regulars. This is everybody’s go-to place. We’re part of their lives for every happy occasion or sad occasion, it’s really unique. It’s not like a random restaurant that you go to once a year. I’m talking about people coming in four or five times a week. Sometimes, people come in for breakfast and come back for lunch. It’s really unusual and unique.

So you must have a really special relationship with your customers?

I feel like I have 100 sets of grandparents and 500 sets of parents. I’m in my early 50’s and I’ve seen three generations coming through Factor’s. It’s really special. I’ve seen kids come in here with their parents and grandparents, and now those same kids are parents that are coming back here with their own kids. It’s all those relationships that are so special.

What’s the secret to making the Pastrami at Factor’s?

Our pastrami has always been good, but now it’s the best. We’ve changed the way we roast and heat it. It’s now slow roasted for 4-5 hours. The meat gets shiny, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth. Its then hand sliced a little thicker than the machine.

What about salads?

Debbie’s Chopped Salad is really popular, not just because it’s my namesake. It’s a really good salad that people really love. Made with turkey salami, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado, and really finely chopped lettuce. The key to the Chopped is that it’s not thin and soggy, but fresh and crispy.

Factor's Famous Deli

Why do you think people keep coming back?

People really like that the food here is so comforting and we have a lot of the traditional stuff. It’s Jewish-style but it attracts every type of race and religion. For some people, it’s the specialty items, where they can come in and eat Matzo Ball Soup and Stuffed Cabbage. For the new generations, the menu has expanded and we have a lot more healthy items. We have a vegetarian soup every day, we have a lot of vegan and vegetarian items like wraps, paninis, Mexican food, stir-fry. We’re not just a deli, anymore, we really have something for everyone.

Factor’s Famous Deli

Address: 9420 Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

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