Restaurant: Katz’s Deli
Last visited: September 3, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (Lower East Side)
Address: 205 E Houston St
Nearby subway stops:
F to Second Avenue Station
F, M, J or Z to Delancey/Essex St Station
Price Range: $10 – 20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Since 1888
- New York’s most famous deli
- “Must try” pastrami
- Multiple award winning deli
- “Best in City”
- Local & tourist favourite
- Frequented by celebrities
- Featured in When Harry Met Sally
- Long lines at peak hours
- Extensive menu
- Not Kosher
- 30 day cured meat
- Large portions
- Good for groups/families
- Breakfast until 11:30am
- Cash only
Monday – Wednesday: 8:00am – 10:45 pm
Friday: 8:00am – Open all night!
Saturday: Open all day and night!
Sunday: Open until 10:45pm
**Recommendations: Pastrami Sandwich on Rye
What better way to launch my New York series starting with one of their most famous and popular delis. Kat’s Deli! For many the salivation starts just by hearing the name. It was on my list, but I think I had the most requests for this post too. So here it is!
I remember walking down the streets in anticipation of this “must try sandwich”. Seeing the neon lights was like seeing the lights to heaven. Being the food focused tourist I am, it was one of the places I was looking forward to the most, and the whole experience was memorable.
It’s an old fashioned deli with an old fashioned recipe that has withstood the test of time. It’s a New York institution notorious for serving the “best pastrami on rye sandwich” since 1888. It’s reminiscent of a traditional food hall or cafeteria and there are long lines at peak hours, but don’t worry because it moves fast!
From floor to ceiling, and wall to wall, it’s visual proof that it’s frequented by movies stars, singers, rock stars, comedians, locals and tourists. It is apparently the place for pastrami sandwiches. Not only that but it’s where the infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally was shot! You know the scene where Meg Ryan has her pseudo-orgasm? Of course you do! But no, it wasn’t from the sandwich.
To me, they only vary slightly with little differences in the cut, cooking, and smoking temperatures. They both come from beef brisket, but from different parts, and Montreal Smoked Meat is supposed to be marinated, cured and smoked for longer. On the other hand Katz’s actually cures their meat for 30 days, which is significantly longer than most pastrami. For a great in depth article on the difference see here.
I’m not sure if Katz Deli is the “best pastrami sandwich in town” because I only went to two places for my pastrami research (the other being Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop), but I will say it’s delicious even if it isn’t “the best”. I also didn’t have time to try 2nd Ave Deli, which was probably most recommended by foodie locals. So if you’re on a mission to find “the best pastrami in New York”, I suggest you give that one a go too. That one is Kosher though so you won’t find the meat and cheese together.
Katz Deli is a must try in New York, but I wouldn’t hesitate that there could be better. It is a bit of a “tourist choice”, but it’s still solid and a tourist attraction in itself. When I threw the name out at New York foodies the reply was usually positive, but followed by a “yeah, uh huh, of course, but there’s better” kind of reaction. It is a classic and obvious choice for pastrami and it does set a standard, so overrated or not, it’s worth a bite and I’d highly recommend it!
Follow Me Foodie Travel Tip: If you’re in the area, you might as well go down the street and try Russ & Daughters and Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery as well.
On the table:
- Smoked to juicy perfection and hand carved to your specifications (ask for Mayo at your own peril) $15.75
- This is the “must order” item.
- Sure, it could get better, but I still found it fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
- It was piled high with pastrami and the slices were actually cut a bit thicker than expected.
- It is hand sliced upon order, as it always should be, and they let you sample a piece as you wait for them to prepare your sandwich.
- My teeth literally sunk into the tender, soft and buttery layers of sliced pastrami.
- It was moist, super soft and almost creamy and the fat to meat ratio was well balanced and marbled. The meat really only took a few bites before swallowing.
- It was smoked and then steamed and I could pick some slices up and dangle it around and have it fall apart in peices. I call this “raining meat snowflakes”.
- In terms of tenderness and texture, I really can’t imagine it getting much better, however the flavour wasn’t as stellar.
- The meat is cured for 30 days, without being too salty, but the flavour profile doesn’t stretch far from savoury.
- It just wasn’t as smoky or complex with flavours as I expected it to be.
- It had a black pepper and coriander crust, but I couldn’t taste many other seasonings and I guess it was a little peppery at times, but barely.
- It’s not smoky or spicy or anything either, but just a bit one note.
- The bread was regular rye bread and the mustard is a classic condiment, but otherwise I was most impressed with the texture more so than the flavour. I’d still order it again though and eat it happily.
- I don’t want to compare it to Montreal Smoked Meat, however if you’ve had Schwartz’s Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich in Montreal, then you might find that even better. Apparently it does have more flavour.
- If you’re in Vancouver, BC the closest you might get to this Katz experience is at Estrella’s Montreal Deli in Langley, BC. I mean it’s definitely not the same, but it’ll do the job in the context of Vancouver where Pastrami or even Montreal Smoked Meat isn’t as popular.
- It was served with probably the biggest home made pickles I’ve seen in my life. They were a bit intimidating.
- One was semi-sweet with a bit of licorice anise flavour and the other was a traditional crunchy sour pickle.
- If the soup weren’t surrounding it, this matzo ball would float away $5.95
- I don’t know too much about Matzo Ball soups, but it’s a traditional Jewish dumpling soup.
- It came with a giant softball sized Matzo ball which is the typical size for Matzo balls served at delis.
- Matzo balls are made with Matzo meal and this one was incredibly light, tender and almost fluffy. They can be dense as well, but this was a light and airy version.
- It almost tasted like a soaked sponge of seasoned bread. Every bite was juicy and it had absorbed the flavours of the chicken soup well.
- The key to a great Matzo ball soup is supposed to be a great chicken soup broth, or stock, with emphasis on rendered chicken fat.
- The chicken soup here was quite standard with onions, carrot and celery, but it tasted like it was enhanced with some chicken bullion cubes, and I missed the intense and natural flavour of actual chicken broth.
- Overall it was still a good Matzo Ball soup that wasn’t too salty or greasy, but I haven’t tried enough to say how much better this could get. The chicken soup could get better, but it was still okay.
- Potato Latkes (3) with sour cream or apple sauce $10.95
- These are Jewish potato pancakes that are also popular in Eastern European cuisine. I’ve had Polish versions served the same way.
- I actually found these quite expensive for what they were and it wasn’t something you’d have to try here, but they were good for potato latkes.
- It was pretty much 3 giant hash brown patties made of shredded potato and onions.
- The potatoes are also mixed with flour and eggs so it’s not 100% potatoes and onions. It was a bit doughy though and I did want more potatoes.
- They were fried crispy with a softer inside and it was a bit oily (given), but well seasoned with salt and pepper.
- It was good with both the sour cream (similar to how your would enjoy perogies) and with the apple sauce, which made it almost like a sweet and savoury dessert.
- The apple sauce reminded me of baby food though.