Tag Archives: pastrami

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

NYC Food Adventures: Junior’s

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Is Junior’s Cheesecake worth its accolades?

I love cheesecake. My guess is that most people who have tried cheesecake, love cheesecake. But I was a relatively late convert to cheesecake. My first real experience with it did not come until after college. Before, I had been reluctant to try it. In my childhood, my mother made a frozen ricotta cake which I wasn’t terribly fond of, so when Sara Lee frozen cheesecakes hit the Argentine market, I’m going to guess around 1980, the time of a cheap dollar and lots of imports, I refused to even try them. I loved the Sara Lee strawberry shortcake (no longer produced), but the idea of cheesecake seemed, to me, to be an abomination. After that, cheesecake just went into my long last of things I knew I wouldn’t like, so I didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was doing my junior-cum-senior year abroad in Egypt that my interest in cheesecake was awoken. It was all because of Lola, another foreign student at the American University in Cairo who would quickly become my best friend. She craved cheesecake. She talked about it incessantly. So much so, that we spent a fair amount of time looking for cheesecakes in Cairo – never to be found. So when we returned, I had to try it. I actually can’t remember the first time I did, but soon enough I became, like practically everyone else, a cheesecake aficionado. Over the years and decades, I have eaten and baked many a cheesecake. To be honest, most of them taste pretty close to each other. They are made with sweetened Philadelphia-style cream cheese, flour, sugar and eggs. Variations come on the crust – graham cracker is traditional, but I’ve preferred it with vanilla wafers -, and on the toppings. These can be anything: chocolate, fruit, caramel, peanut butter; you name it. But, I keep going back to plain New York cheesecake. Sometimes simpler is better.

It should thus not be surprising that for my first stop in New York City, I chose Junior’s for dinner. Among the myriad of restaurants and bakeries serving cheesecake in NYC, the two most often mentioned as having the best cheesecake in town (and therefore, the world) are Junior’s and Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. Junior’s, which started as a coffee shop-style restaurant in Brooklyn back in 1950, has since opened two other locations in Manhattan (and one in Connecticut), one of which was just a couple of shorts blocks away from our hotel.

There was no wait to be seated, on that Sunday evening in February – but Junior’s offers an online waitlist for those times when it’s busy. The 49th St. & Broadway location where we dined looks like an old-fashioned coffee shop; there are booths, tables and lots of waiters buzzing around. The immense menu has everything you’d expect in a restaurant of that kind and more: burgers, soups and salads, lots of different sandwiches – including four different Reubens -, seafood prepared in a myriad of ways, roasted or fried seafood and meats, BBQ (?!) and a couple of odes to its Eastern European cultural origins: Hungarian beef goulash and Romanian steak. In addition to a myriad of cheesecakes, Junior’s serves other desserts, ice cream sodas, malts and shakes. If you are looking for that 1950’s diner-style experience from so many Hollywood movies, you’ll find it here. Most of the crowd were foreign tourists, however, judged by the myriad of mostly European languages we heard spoke and the location near Times Square.

Junior's Pastrami Cheeseburger

We weren’t particularly hungry, however – I’d brought us a sandwich to share in the plane – so we decided to split a pastrami burger ($23) and two slices of cheesecake. The burger was impressive as far as size went, but not particularly great. It wasn’t as juicy or flavorful as I’d had hoped for. The pastrami itself was very tasty, the slices were fairly thick and had a pleasant smoky flavor. Ordering a pastrami sandwich might be a better call here. The burger was served with steak fries and onion rings, which were remarkably under-seasoned. Their ranch dressing was superb, however.

Junior's classic cheesecake

The cheesecakes, fortunately, were much better. I just loved their “famous No1 original cheesecake,” aka New York cheesecake ($9/slice). It was light and very creamy, and most importantly, had a very different flavor from most cheesecakes. It tasted like it was made from some type of farmer’s cheese, it had a more savory, aged? flavor and was less sweet that most cheesecakes I’ve had. Perhaps they use neufchatel, the French cheese American cream cheese is set to imitate? I don’t think I would have liked it as a kid, but as an older adult, it hit the spot. The cheesecake is made with a thin sponge cake crust, rather than a graham cracker one, which improves the whole experience. In all, I was quite happy and considered bringing one back with me. However, that might have been a disaster and Junior’s ships them country-wide, so I might order one for Thanksgiving or another holiday meal. I think I will also try to recreate it, and I’ll blog about my tries when the time comes.

Junior's Brownie Cheesecake

The “brownie explosion cheesecake” slice ($9.25) we ordered was much less successful. I was envisioning a cheesecake with little pieces of brownie baked in, but instead it consisted of two layers of brownie with some cheesecake in the middle. The brownie was good, but very dense, and too rich a dessert for this stage in my life. Plus, flavor wise, the brownie overwhelmed the cheesecake.

Service was good but hurried. The experience in general was quite positive. I’d go back.

626 Broadway @ 49th Street
Manhattan, NYC

Sunday – Thursday 7am – 12am
Friday – Saturday 7am – 1am

StoneRidge Ranch Pastrami Review

It didn’t make it into the sandwich

Stoneridge Ranch Shaved Pastrami - 14 Oz
For my second attempt at a home made Reuben sandwich, I decided to try pastrami. Safeway didn’t have much in the way of choices, so I ended up ordering StoneRidge Ranch shaved deli style pastrami pretty much by default. This time, it ended up being a good choice.

As advertised, this pastrami comes in very thin, irregular pieces. It has a subtle flavor, with only a limited chemical pungency and tones of sweetness. Unfortunately, I can’t say how well it holds up to the rye bread as I opened up to taste it, and ended up eating half the bag on its own (and the next day, the other half). As half a bag ended up being my dinner, I’d say that the package ($11 at Safeway) should produce two generous sandwiches.