NYC Food Adventures: Katz’s Deli

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Yes, we had the Pastrami Sandwich. And yes, it was as good as they said.

Katz’s Deli is perhaps New York City’s most famous restaurant. At least, it’s the one “must visit” restaurant in every list I looked in preparation to our trip to NYC. It has appeared in several movies, most famously, in the “orgasm” scene in When Harry Met Sally. Katz’s claims to be the oldest deli in NYC, and it has operating at its present location for almost a hundred years. Mike and the girls had visited it back when we last went to NYC in 2016, after the Democratic Convention in Philly, and had brought me a sandwich from there – I had been so exhausted after the convention that I barely left the hotel room. But I wanted to go myself and really savor that very famed pastrami sandwich.

As Katz’s is such a famous destination, it can also be impossibly busy – with lines which sometimes are supposed to near 45 minutes. Fortunately, it was pretty empty when we arrived before noon on a cold February day and I was able to find a seat right away.

katz ticket

Katz’s has a somewhat confusing system of serving customers, but it works fairly well. When you go in, every person is given a red ticket at the door. The cost of what you order will be written on the ticket by either the people at the counter, where you order, or your waiter if you get waiter service. When you are ready to go, you present the ticket to the cashier at the exit, and pay the amount written on it. You can put all your purchases on a single ticket, but just make sure to keep your blank ticket with you and return it to the cashier when you leave. If you don’t have your ticket, you’ll be charged $50.

Katz's deli

You have a choice of ordering your food at the counter and finding your own table where you can seat, or getting waiter service. Most of the available tables are for counter customers, but there is a small section at the back of the store (walk all the way back, and then go to the right, towards the bathrooms) where they have table service. If there is more than one of you, you can find a seat while someone goes to the counter and orders for the rest.

Katz' deli

Katz’s very long counter is divided into several sections. If you are ordering a meat sandwich – or, I presume, just meat – you go to one of the “cutters” who will give you a sample of the meats you are interested in (make sure to tip him a buck or two), for you to choose. They are most famous for their pastrami, but they also have corned beef, brisket and others. We’d been considering a combo pastrami-corned beef sandwich, but after tasting the pastrami, Mike knew that’s all he wanted. After ordering your sandwich, you can go to the other parts of the counter to order other dishes and drinks.

pastrami sandwich

Katz’s sandwiches are both expensive and huge, large enough to share as long as you are not starving (then, you might want your own or you might want to get a second dish). They are so filled with meat, that I found it easier to just eat the pastrami and forgo the bread – though Mike went for the sandwich experience. The pastrami was really very good, only slightly fatty, and just tasty and smoky (thought not overwhelmingly so). Sandwiches come with two types of pickles, full and half-sour, but as we don’t like pickles, they were wasted on us.

Getting to Katz’s on the subway from Times Square/Rockefeller Center was very easy, so it’s worth the trip, at least during those times when there isn’t much of a wait. You can algo get Katz’s goodies through a variety of delivery services, and they do ship nationwide.

BTW, there is no discount if your last name is “Katz“. We asked, as apparently lots of other people have (for those who are not in the US, Katz is a very common Jewish last name over here).

Katz's Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street

New York City
(212) 254-2246
Monday - Thursday: 8:00 AM - 11:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM - Sunday 11:00 PM


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