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Nov 16, 1999 11:43 AM

Pastrami at Katz's: still good after all these years

  • j

I'm sure there have been threads about Katz's and pastrami but I can't get the flavor out of my mind.

I ended up at Katz's last Friday night; our impetus was that a one person in our party had never been to Katz's. I warned him about the surly nature of the counter people and was pleasantly contradicted by the nice behavior of the guy that made my pastrami sandwich (on rye with mustard, of course) and my friend's reuben. The counter man kept giving us slices of pastrami to try, each time with a fresh plate. When I requested juicy, not lean, he got a new slab o' pastrami cut 2 giant, steaming slices and served it to us, with a stack of napkins. He made my sandwich and I was in heaven. The fat and juice soaked thru the bread as I ate it--decadent! Someone next to me ordered it on what looked like french bread which I thought was weird at 1st but then realized it would hold up better to all the juices.

It was pricey ($8.95 for the sandwich alone) but I had the other half for lunch the next day so I think that's a good deal. A sour pickle and Dr. Brown's diet Cherry soda rounded out the feast.

It's nice to know some things don't change too radically over the years......... (Ok, go ahead and tear me apart with how crazy I am and how lame Katz's is.......:-)

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  1. I'm with you! Katz's has been my fave ever since I first went there 8 or so years ago.

    1. not french bread...CLUB BREAD!

      2 Replies
      1. re: barry
        Jessica Shatan

        Interesting! I wonder what the origin of club bread is? Never heard of that before. If I use that term at Katz's they'll know what I mean?

        1. re: Jessica Shatan

          Don't know the origin of club bread, but it's a staple of true Jewish delis. They should know what it is at Katz's.

      2. Not lame at all.....and you made the right decision going for the fattier, juicier cut. Those who ask for lean may as well just put it on Wonderbread with mayo!!

        8 Replies
        1. re: Michael
          Jessica Shatan

          Thanks--yes, I don't get why one pays extra for the lean, like it's better. What's up with that?

          1. re: Michael
            Christian Hunter

            Hello, everyone. Christian Hunter here, with a review of the Pastrami sandwich at Katz's.

            It was with a bit of trepidation that I went down to Katz's Delicatessen the other day for a pastrami sandwich after a two year hiatus, knowing as I did that ownership has changed hands and that there were questions about the quality of this New York institutions food. It turns out, the questions are warranted.

            I stepped up to the counter and ordered a pastrami sandwich, and was given a "taste" on a little plate, with no fork to lift it with. The purpose of this practice is a question that's been lingering in my mind. Anyway, once made, I grabbed my sandwich and my ticket, found a table and dug in. My first impression was of a weak and spongy piece of rye bread, notable for it's absence of seeds or for that matter, flavor. Then the taste of the pastrami hit. It was fatty, moist, with a decidely "commercial" flavor and texture; the meat had very little structural integrity. I realize I may be splitting hairs here, but the great pastrami sandwiches I've had do not self destruct as you hold them, poised above the plate. This thing exploded, leaving a plate full of broken pastrami pieces, and with no forks on the table(forks are on the waiter service only tables, inexplicably), and no plastic utensils in sight, I sat there, a bitter, lonely figure, picking up the pieces of pastrami with my bare hand.

            Not that it was bad. It just wasn't the transcendent, peak pastrami experience that I, or many of Katz's other customers are counting on.

            1. re: Christian Hunter

              "I sat there, a bitter, lonely figure, picking up the pieces of pastrami with my bare hand.

              Not that it was bad"


              Mediocrity can indeed be far more depressing than "bad"

              1. re: Christian Hunter

                I think some psychological testing would do you good. You've got this "hand" thing. First you deliberate over the evil intentions of the deliman giving you a taste of pastrami without a fork. Next you whine over the lack of forks on your table. (By the way, the silverware is right in front of the drink station, next to the trays). I think your jealosy of the full service tables is evident. Face it, you need full service. You can't stand up to look for a fork.
                Pastrami to the Proletariat!
                P.S. Where do you find that "commercial" pastrami that is fatty and moist? All the pastrami that I see is dry and leathery.

                1. re: Christian Hunter

                  I can sympathize with your bread complaint - took my parents to Eisenbergs deli on Fifth Avenue at 22nd for pastrami - the pastrami and corned beef was ok but not great and the sandwich was manageable size, not one of those gross objects with enuf meat for 3 meals - but the rye bread was just awful, cottony, commercial, like you say, no seeds. Yuck - it really ruined the sandwich experience for us. It there any deli around that uses good gutsy rye bread for these sandwiches?
                  I don't understand the fork thing- fingers always struck me as a superior utensil and look, you have an excuse!

                  1. re: Christian Hunter

                    This is just a partial answer to your experience, but if you want lean pastrami, just ask for it, and they will give it to you.

                    1. re: Christian Hunter

                      I'm afraid I have to wholeheartedly agree with this review. It may seem sacreligious to many to say, but when we went there a week ago, we swore - never again!

                      The Pastrami is less the texture and taste you expect, but more like meat jelly. It's just not good. I've had way better Pastrami than that - even the packaged supermarket stuff is superior. I really don't understand why everyone's so in love with the food there. Yes, it's worth a visit for the character of the place, but the food is gross. They pile the meat on and if you manage to eat over half of it, you end up feeling really sick. And don't even start me on the corned beef - it's griddled full of fat, so much so that you can hardly chew through it.

                      Whoever owns Katz's now is getting away with serving meat which probably costs half as much as what it should, and people are eating it up and paying top dollar convinced they are getting a genuine experience - idiocy!

                      By all means go there, but stick to a creaming soda and some fries and save yourself the stomach ache.

                      1. re: petaj

                        Well you are responding to an almost 11 year old post The interesting thing is that the sandwich cost $8.95 in 1999.

                  2. "Club" is what rolls are (were) called in every Jewish
                    delicatessen in New York, as in "salami on club". They always added 25 or 50 cents to the price of a sandwich.

                    I'm also amazed that Katz's makes "Reuben" sandwiches, which were absolutely unknown in New York until about 25 years ago, following a Craig Claiborne piece in the Times. The Reuben is antithetical to the Jewish delicatessen experience for the obvious reason that no Kosher, (or even Kosher "style" joint, like Katz's) would put Swiss cheese and corned beef on a sandwich together. But they've started making egg creams at Katz's, too, I guess...

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Jon Wolfe

                      I, too, was amazed that a Reuben was on the menu on Katz's! When my dear non-jewish friend said that's what he wanted I was getting ready to chide him until we saw it listed up there on the wall! I don't get it just like I don't get how Sammy's Roumanian would serve egg creams after a big meat meal complete with schmaltz instead of butter!

                      1. re: Jessica S.

                        Sammy's has never claimed to be kosher, nor (I think) has Katz's. They're simply Jewish or "Jewish-style." Although I somehow doubt you'd be able to get a BLT at Katz's.

                        1. re: Dena
                          Phyllis Rock

                          We will be visiting NYC, from San Diego, CA. Staying at the Marriott Marquis. Dec. 19th to the 26th.
                          Suggestions please, the best clam apizza, ethic restaurants, how is Sammy' Roumanian or other restaurants of this type, also fun, entertainment restauants, suggestions near the theater district, the best bagels for breakfast. And a great Chinese and other Asian restaurants, does Emeril LaGasse have any restaurants that you would reccomend?
                          Thanks, Phyllis and Alan

                          1. re: Phyllis Rock

                            The best--the only!--clam pizza is at Lombardi's in the unfortunately named Nolita, and is very fine. I love Sammy's a lot (skirt steak with garlic; shredded black radish with schmaltz and gribenes; garlic sausage), although it's fairly controversial among chowhounds--keep in mind that although the food is great of its type, the place is something of a tourist trap, and if you're not careful you'll end up spending $100 on vodka.

                            1. re: j gold

                              "The best--the only!--clam pizza is at Lombardi's in the unfortunately named Nolita, and is very fine. "

                              Unless, of course, you want to make a special trip to Pepe's in New Haven...

                              1. re: MU

                                Here is a very New York experience for you! Lunch at The Grand Central Oyster. Sit at the counter. Sitting at the tables is not the same. I like to have some Cherrystones on the half shell with a Sam Adams, followed by an Oyster Stew. Being part of the activity and watching everything going on is all part of the experience.WARNING,WARNING Will Robinson this is not inexpensive.

                              2. re: j gold

                                arturos on houston has always made a delicious clam pizza

                        2. re: Jon Wolfe

                          are you kidding me? i assure you i was eating reubens in NYC more than 25 years ago. indeed more than 35 years ago as well.

                          i keep hearing claims like this, and i truly wonder where they originate.

                        3. Was just there about a month ago and while I thought it was good, I was a little underwhelmed. From the surley service, the tourist vibe, the expense and my wife very average kinish I don't believe I would be returing any timesoon.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: fitzpth

                              surly service? certainly they don;t fawn over you, but they've never been mean or unpleasant in my many years of going there