Why New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen Serves The Best Pastrami Sandwich

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, there are certain foods that are simply 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 type of 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 to late in the evening, just like almost everything else in the city that never sleeps.

I am one of those New Yorkers that dines at Deli’s just about every day. 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 1 delicatessen. There are bountiful, and even though there are 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 of them are only known to the neighborhoods in which they serve. However, there is a delicatessen in New York City that is famous around the world. Yes, it’s a tourist spot, but it’s not tourist food. Katz’s Delicatessen easily stands heads and tails above any delicatessen in New York in terms of 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 located 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 either the 2nd Avenue or Delancey Street subway stops on the F train. It takes me about twenty minutes to walk to Katz’s Delicatessen from the 2nd Avenue stop. 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 in 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 a bit intimidating because the place is super packed. But they are organized and are well equipped at getting 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 on another separate line to order beverages. Its a little frustrating having 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 your by yourself, its very time consuming. I usually just 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 because of the cost of the sandwich. Their signature sandwich and the entire 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 simply can’t get there often, than the “Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich,” is what you must order. Why? Well because it will be the best pastrami sandwich you will ever have 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 as Katz’s Delicatessen describes as taking 30 days to cure as opposed to their competitions 36 hour curing period. This is not just some gimmicky promotional selling point, You can really taste the difference. It is an amazing sandwich. The meat is incredibly tender and easy to chew. The pastrami is graced with just the right amount of spice. Its quality meat cooked perfectly. It simply doe 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 pickels 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 a very wide menu of classic New York Delicatessen items. There 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.

There is a great deal of history that 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.

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 who were 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 in to the business. In the twentieth century, New York city residents were always very loyal to the neighborhood stores. Katz’s Delicatessen continued on 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. The mom and pop shops that once lined every street have been overcome by high real estate values and uncontrollable rent hikes. Companies like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have takes 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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