When it comes to classic delis in NYC most people either flock to The Carnegie Deli in midtown or make the trek to the LES to Katz’s. I have been to both on more than one occasion and can tell you without hesitation that Katz’s is the Nordstrom to Carnegie’s Macy’s; they both serve up solid versions of deli classics, but the pastrami on rye at Katz’s is a religious experience, and the atmosphere is electric. Carnegie’s service is stodgy and in your face (on purpose) and the clientele are regulars and lots of overweight Midwestern tourists…not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A few things you need to know about Katz’s:
- It’s cash only and not cheap, so bring at least $20 per person
- You order at the counter and there are multiple lines, one for each meat cutter
- There are separate lines for soup, drinks (sodas) and fries, and beer, so don’t queue up at the front like a douche
- Water is free and can be found in the back near the restroom
- The sandwiches are huge and can be easily shared
Once you get to the front of the line, your meat cutter will offer you a few sample slices while you wait and then you’ll know why you came. Just get the pastrami on rye with a little deli mustard and a side of the pickles both ways (kosher and dill) and get ready for sensory overload.
Just one look at the crust and the moisture dripping off the meat; it’s enough to get me really excited again. The first bite was one of those food experiences that will be etched into your brain forever, and even though you have no business eating the entire sandwich (calories and cholesterol be damned)…you will.
Aside from the food, the restaurant itself is just cool and dripping of nostalgia; it’s been around for years and people from all over the world (rich, poor, celebrities, dignitaries, etc) have eaten here as evidenced by the many photos on the wall. The place seems untouched by modern progression and probably looks, smells and feels the same as it did in the 60’s.
This picture was taken at 2:00 pm on a Wednesday, so you can see the kind of business they do; so be prepared to wait for a seat in the seat yourself area, or go all fru-fru and get sat in the waited section and pay someone around $10+ to handle all the madness for you…but come on that’s half the fun!
I highly recommend a visit to Katz’s, even if you’re only in the city for a day; take the subway and just follow your nose!