205 E Houston St
(between Avenue A & Essex St)
New York, NY 10002
Monday daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (opens at 8:00 a.m. daily; closes at 9:30 Monday-Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and Sunday, and 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays)
Katz’s Delicatessen is a NYC establishment that is popular amongst the locals and tourists alike. Yes, it’s a total tourist trap, but a delicious one nonetheless. The deli was founded in 1888 by a Russian immigrant family who settled in the Lower East Side of NYC. So as you can see it’s been around for ages and still going strong. If you are ever in NYC, this is a place definitely worthy of your time. This really is one of the best sandwich eats in NYC.
As you walk into the deli, you are greeted by what look like security guards manning the entry way. Each person in your party is handed a ticket. Hold onto this ticket with your dear life. Do not lose it. The ticket is your only way out. I didn’t really quite understand the ticket, but read reviews from previous patrons about not losing the ticket. I’m a little curious about the consequences of losing your ticket, but was too much of a wussy to find out. Once you place the order, the person from counter who assembles your sandwich asks you for the ticket to write down exactly what you ordered. If you want drinks, or fries, or more to eat, take this ticket with you because they’ll need it. It’s essentially your restaurant tab, only that you have to keep track of it. Not them. Stressful, right? I think my hand was in my left pocket checking every five minutes to see if the ticket had disappeared. Silly. I know. I owe it all to my obsessive-compulsiveness.
We arrived to a very fast moving line at the restaurant. I think we lucked out because as we finally sat down, the line was out the door. Just missed the bus that dropped off all the tourists! We placed our order with a very friendly man who was helping us from behind the counter. [Conversely, you can also find a seat and be waited on. We liked the counter service better because it felt like a true deli experience.] He wasn’t rude or hurried like others seemed to have experienced from the reviews that I’ve read. He was chatty and explained to us that a Reuben sandwich can consist of either pastrami or corned beef. For those of you who are not familiar with a Reuben, it is a sandwich made with corned beef (traditionally), swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian or thousand island dressing, on toasted rye bread. Yummy, right? We decided to go with the pastrami since that is one of their specialty meats. I guess we couldn’t have gone wrong with either meats, because I hear their corned beef rocks, too! He also hooked us up with extra pickles on the side.
The restaurant/deli is a pretty large space with a lot of tables and chairs. There seemed to be a quick turnaround time with patrons coming and going, so we had no difficulty finding a table. Of course, there were only two of us, so it wasn’t hard. But I can imagine it might take a little longer to find a table to sit a large group of more than 4 people. We had the perfect seats in the house because when I looked up, I found ourselves sitting underneath the sign of where “When Harry Met Sally” ate at Katz’s Deli in the movie. Awesomeness. I haven’t seen the movie straight through, but do remember that scene. The trip to Katz’s has inspired me to watch the movie from beginning to end. So the sign explained why there were so many people taking pictures above our head. It took a few minutes to register because I was too awe struck by our ginormous Reuben sandwich.
After studying the Reuben sandwich, I couldn’t figure out how to properly eat the sandwich without all the meat falling out, or the sandwich bread getting all tore up during the consumption process. But I decided to just dive right into it mouth wide open first. My first bite was a successful one. I was able to get the right ratio of bread to meat to cheese to sauerkraut to Russian dressing. It was a delicious first bite. We both “oooh’ed and aah’ed” in sync after we swallowed our sandwich. I don’t think we spoke for the rest of the time as we were eating our sandwich. Not one word.
The pastrami was to die for. It was juicy, tender, and seasoned perfectly. Not too salty, but not too bland either. The Russian dressing was incredible. I would just like that schmeared over bread or crackers. It didn’t taste close to that bottled thousand island dressing stuff you get at a super market. The bread was slightly disappointing. It was a good rye bread that wasn’t too heavy on the rye flavor, but it wasn’t toasted. The sandwich would have been even more deliciousness had the bread been a little toasty. I mean, they had the man power behind the counter to toast up some freakin’ bread! Sigh. Oh well. The pickles were good, too! And I’m not even a pickle fan! The other thing about the restaurant that I wasn’t a fan of was the little itty bitty glass cup they give you for water. It looked like a glass cup made for a doll house. I’m not exaggerating. Okay, maybe a little bit. But it was really small! And they don’t have service to refill your water so you do need to bring your glass to the counter for refills. If you’re too lazy like me, just drink little tiny sips of water to last through the meal.
To close out your tab, go through the exit line and present your tickets. They add up what’s written on the tickets and give you the total damage. A Reuben sandwich costed us about $17 bucks. Yes. Seventeen dollars. The price seems a little outrageous for a sandwich, no? The price of that one sandwich costs more for a lunch for two at other places. But I digress. My point is, their specialty sandwiches are pretty pricey. Oh, and one last thing… CASH ONLY. So make sure you bring some cash with you. And a lot of it, too.
Despite some of the few things that annoyed me about Katz’s, I can’t wait for our next trip back to NYC so that we can try the other sandwiches. I’m actually really curious about their tongue sandwich. Call me crazy, but why not, right?