Katz’ s Deli
205 E Houston Street, New York City, Feb 23 2013
The first stop on our culinary adventure was Katz’s (pronounced Cats) Deli, a New York institution since its opening in 1888. We are conveniently staying on the Lower East Side only two blocks from Katz’s, so it was no problem to walk over for a sammich. To understand why I call sandwiches, “sammiches”, you may have to look over here at and algorithm from my medicine blog.
Katz’s is famous for both their pastrami sandwich, and their history of being a backdrop for movies. Two of the more famous scenes filmed in Katz’s are the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally, and the meeting scene in Donnie Brasco. The Meg Ryan scene is embedded below and linked to here. If you haven’t seen it, you may not want to turn it on at work, lol.
When you walk into Katz’s, you get a meal ticket, which you are instructed not to lose. All your purchases go on the ticket, and you have to present it upon leaving, regardless of whether you eat anything. I’m not sure what the penalty is if you don’t present the ticket.
I decided to try the famous Pastrami sandwich on rye, while Camille went for an order of potato latkes.
First, the bad. The latkes are heavily deep fried at Katz’s, and this unfortunately gives them the consistency of medium density fibreboard (MDF). Think of a potato+glue+sawdust mixture thrown in a deep fryer. Not good! Latkes should be fried with a crunchy exterior, but still maintain a soft, fluffy texture on the inside. They should not be a homogeneous mass. Plus, these sit like a brick in your stomach.
Next up was the sammich. Fortunately, this did not disappoint. Two thin slices of light rye, dijon mustard (not sure if commercial or proprietary blend) and a heap of pastrami. The meat was ultra tender and moist, and shockingly was not salty. The flavors were reminiscent of childhood, and somehow reminded me of hot dogs and bologna, which was pretty unexpected. There was also a mild smokiness to the meat, and a good ratio of meat to fat (about 25-30% fat). You can order extra lean if you want for a dollar extra. Overall, this was an excellent sandwich, and we ranked it near the top of our pastrami/smoked meat sandwich pyramid.
Pickles: When you order a sandwich, you get 3 half sour and 3 regular pickles. They were solid, but nothing spectacular.
Beer: I chose a Katz’s Ale to go with the meal and it was better than expected. Nice molasses and honey flavors, smooth and easy drinking.
Overall, Katz’s is as much about experience as the food, as there is a great deal of interesting history on the walls of this NYC establishment. Stick with the classic pastrami and don’t “have what she’s having” if it’s potato latkes. It’ll sound a lot more like a beached whale than an orgasm.