Katz’s Delicatessen Review And History

Katz's Delicatessen

Katz’s Delicatessen Photo: Brian Kachejian 2017

There are thousands of reasons to visit New York City. At the top of that list stands maybe the most important: the Food!  New York City offers the best of everything. Every culture, every ethnic group, is represented in all of New York City’s five boroughs. However, certain foods are just pure New York.  In every borough of New York City, from Manhattan through Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, and towards Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, the glory of the New York Delicatessen stands in service to millions of hungry New Yorkers. New York Delicatessens do most of their business during breakfast and lunch hours. Bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll for breakfast and pretty much any meat you can think of on any bread for lunch.

There are many more options but those are the mainstays of the New York Deli diet, Most New York Deli’s close by five or six pm. New York Delicatessens are not dinner places. Of course, there are exceptions, and especially in the borough of Manhattan, many Deli’s stay open too late in the evening, just like almost everything else in the city that never sleeps.

I am one of those New Yorkers who dines at Deli’s daily. I usually hit my neighborhood bagel store or deli in the morning for breakfast, and it’s always a deli for lunch. On Long Island, every town has at least one delicatessen. There are bountiful, and despite many closing due to high rents, there are still enough to support the New Yorker’s diet.

As popular as delis are in the New York area, most are only known to the neighborhoods they serve. However, there is a delicatessen in New York City that is famous around the world. Yes, it’s a tourist spot but not tourist food. Katz’s Delicatessen easily stands heads and tails above any delicatessen in New York regarding quality pastrami and corn beef sandwiches. There are great places in New York that offer amazing pastrami sandwiches, but Katz’s Delicatessen offers the best. And they are also the most expensive. Nonetheless, you get what you pay for, and Katz’s Delicatessen sandwiches are worth every penny.

Katz's Delicatessen

Katz’s Delicatessen view from across Houston Street. Photo: Brian Kachejian 2017

Katz’s Delicatessen is a busy place. Katz’s Delicatessen is in lower Manhattan in the East Village at 205 E Houston Street. It’s not an easy place to get to, but it’s not that difficult either. The Houston Street location is a few blocks from the 2nd Avenue or Delancey Street subway stops on the F train. Walking to Katz’s Delicatessen from the 2nd Avenue stop takes me about twenty minutes. Katz’s Delicatessen is also not too far from Little Italy and Chinatown. It’s also about a twenty-minute walk, depending on obviously how fast one walks.

Once you enter Katz’s Delicatessen, you are greeted by a person who will direct you to ordering your food. You are either seated or directed towards a series of lines. The attendant hands you a ticket that you will use when ordering your food. At first, it can be daunting because the place is super packed. But they are organized and equipped to get you in and out faster than you would expect when first seeing the large crowds. There is a long counter that contains separate lines for a series of what they call cutters. The cutter lines that you stand on are for ordering sandwiches. There are separate lines that you must also stand on to order fries. You also must stand in another separate line to order beverages. It’s frustrating to have to wait in separate lines to order fries and sandwiches. If you are there with someone, you can easily just split the lines, but when you are by yourself, it’s very time-consuming. I usually order a sandwich and skip the fries and soda lines.

Katz's Delicatessen

Katz’s Delicatessen dinning room. Photo: Brian Kachejian

Cutter Line Katz's Delicatessen

View from the cutter line at Katz’s Delicatessen. Photo: Brian Kachejian

The other reason I usually skip the french fries and soda lines is the cost of the sandwich. Their signature sandwich and the reason for visiting New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen is to order their “Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich.” If you are a tourist or just can’t get there often, then the “Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich” is what you must order. Why? Well, it will be the best pastrami sandwich you have ever eaten. The taste of this glorious heavenly sandwich is why the twenty one dollar price tag will soon be forgotten.

You are getting a heavily stuffed sandwich filled with meat that Katz’s Delicatessen describes as taking 30 days to cure instead of their competition’s 36-hour curing period. This is not just some gimmicky promotional selling point; You can taste the difference. It is a fantastic sandwich. The meat is incredibly tender and easy to chew. The pastrami is graced with just the right amount of spice. Its quality meat is cooked perfectly. It simply does not get any better. Also included with the sandwich is a large helping of pickles bathed in a garlic oil glaze that will transport you to pickle heaven. A place where no pickles are left uneaten. You will understand once you take your first bite.

Katz's Delicatessen Pastrami sandwich

Katz’s Delicatessen pastrami sandwich. Photo Brian Kachejian

Katz's Delicatessen pastrami sandwich

Sitting on a bench across the street from Katz’s Delicatessen and holding my pastrami sandwich up in tribute to its greatness. Photo: Brian Kachejian

Katz's Delicatessen pickles

Katz’s Delicatessen pickles. Photo: Brian Kachejian

Katz’s Delicatessen offers an extensive menu of classic New York Delicatessen items. Their brisket is to die for, and the Matzo Ball Soup is the best I have ever had. If your just going there once, order the pastrami, if your going back (which you will want to) everything else on the menu is simply delicious.

A great deal of history has taken place at Katz’s Delicatessen. Many people know of  Katz’s Delicatessen as the place in which the famous Meg Ryan scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally was filmed. However, there have been many other motion pictures that filmed scenes at Katz’s Delicatessen, including the Beatles-themed film Across The Universe, Disney’s Enchanted, which starred Amy Adams, the mafia film Donnie Brasco, starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, and many more. My brother was in that film and played Johnny Depp’s double. Boy does have some stories.

Katz’s Delicatessen History

When visiting Katz’s Delicatessen, one will see signs stating that the Deli has been serving New Yorkers since 1888. When Katz’s Delicatessen first opened in 1888, it was named after the Iceland Brothers responsible for opening the store.  A few years later in 1903,Willy Katz became involved with the deli and changed the name to “Iceland and Katz,” Eventually Willy Katz brought out the Iceland Brothers and changed the name to Katz’s Delicatessen. In 1917, Harry Tarowsky became a partner, and the deli moved into its current location from across the street. A series of partnerships would occur over the years, changing as family members passed away and others were brought into the business. In the twentieth century, New York City residents were always loyal to the neighborhood stores. Katz’s Delicatessen continued through World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. It fed millions of New Yorkers while times changed as so did the neighborhoods. Robert Moses continued to build, and immigrants moved in and out.

The once proud neighborhoods of New York City have begun to change dramatically over the past twenty years. High real estate values and uncontrollable rent hikes have overcome the mom-and-pop shops that once lined every street. Companies like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have taken over so many wonderful places that offered real New York City cuisine. Katz’s Delicatessen is one of the last remaining restaurants from another era. It defines the history of New York City in so many ways. My father, who was born and raised on 29th Street, always said that New York had the best of everything. Katz’s Delicatessen proves him right!

Katz's Delicatessen sign

Katz’s Delicatessen sign. Photo Brian Kachejian

Katz's Delicatessen

Katz’s Delicatessen. Photo: Brian Kachejian


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