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Katz Deli vs. Second Avenue Deli, A Comparison and Contrast

  • j

Recently ate at both these places.

The pastrami at Katz's is obviously the best in the city. I think few would dispute that. Therefore, if you're looking for a pastrami sandwich with nothing else, Katz's is the way to go. Thick, juicy, and absolutely delicious. Some of this difference is definetly do to the hand slicing, which gives a bigger cut, and probably keeps the juices in a bit better.

Is Katz's a Jewish deli though? I would venture no. Second Ave. is a real Jewish deli. You can walk in to Second Ave., order any Jewish item, and I guarantee you it is among the best in the city. Katz's to me is a one trick pony. They make an amazing pastrami sandwich. Their other stuff is certainly good, but pales in comparison to Second Ave. (and remarkably expensive). I'm talking about Matzo Ball soup, Corned Beef, Fries, Chopped Liver, pickles etc.. (Katz's hot dogs happen to be good as well, but you can find much cheaper dogs with the same quality)

Katz's lacks the Jewish deli atmosphere. I like the warmness and homeliness of 2nd Ave. This is obviously a very subjective judgment, but there's something about Katz's that just doesn't sit well with me.

Another problem I have with Katz's is the pricing. A pastrami sandwich is $12.45. (A sandwich and soda at Katz's will set you back more than $15 after tax). A pastrami or corned beef sandwich at 2nd Ave is $10.75. Add to this the fact that 2nd Ave provides a larger sandwich that is kosher (which probably increases meat costs by at least 50%) and you have the makings of a relative rip off.

If I'm grabbing something quick, I'll take Katz's, but for a meal, there is no comparison: 2nd Ave.

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  1. Nice post. One more reason I prefer 2nd Avenue:

    3 Replies
    1. re: jbeton

      My favorite part of the article:

      "Ninety-five percent of your friends abandon you. Jack is one of the three percent of the people who stayed with me."

      As for the delis: The great thing is, it's not an either/or proposition. Each has its own merits, as was well stated in the original post. I love both places. I'd re-title the thread "Katz Deli + Second Avenue Deli: Holy s**t, We Have It Great In NYC"

      1. re: MSPD
        ChowFun (derek)

        From "deli-challenged" San Francisco...I have to agree with you...Boy! You are lucky!
        I'll be in NYC around T'giving time for 10 days...and I intend to enjoy both places!!!

        1. re: ChowFun (derek)

          Having been born and raised in Berkeley, we got some great kosher Deli's.
          There is large Jewish Population and many wonderful places scattered throughout Berkeley and Albany.
          I live in Boston now, so I'm a bit hardpressed, but my memories don't fail. Ask some of your Jewish friends or Families where they go for the real deal.
          In the meantime, I'm going to make myself a nice Stromboli and take a nap.
          Bouna Fortuna & Ciao for now!

    2. Thank you for the detailed post. I wish that all posts here were so well put and helpful. Maybe this lurker will stick around longer :)

      8 Replies
      1. re: ChefUKnow

        Stick around. There are good posts here every once and a while. I agree this board would be improved if people would follow up to their questions and report on their dinners Opposed to jsut asking where to eat.

        1. re: ChrisZ

          Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army......

          1. re: Homey

            ...and "tip o' the tongue" for some old and some young!

          2. re: ChrisZ

            One of the problems is that there's no way to tell if your posts are being read, unless a bunch of people actually respond to you. The "reads" notifications that you see on other boards ("Post has been read 107 times") would come in handy here.

            Otherwise, what's the motivation for taking 10, 20, 30 minutes to write something that nobody -- as far as you know -- is bothering to read?

            1. re: Ju Hung Lo

              By posting results you are giving back to the community, and keeping the site as rich as it is. You also are letting folks who answered you queries that you read theirs and what you thought.
              In some of the longer threads, people will not respond directly, but to a different part and reference yours.

              I think that if your only motivation for posting is to be know that people are listening, this is not the place for you. Yes, it is gratifying when people respond directly, but that really isn't what the site is about.

              1. re: dude

                I understand (and agree with) what you're saying, and I do like to post my thoughts regardless of how they're receieved.

                Still, I think the fact that you can post often and never really get any feedback acts as a deterrent, especially for people who make their first couple of posts and have no means of knowing that they're even being read. The little "viewed" counter has to be a simple bit of code, and it would likely make a notable difference.

              2. re: Ju Hung Lo

                and 9 years later, some jerk reads it and prays you still have the same email address.

              3. re: ChrisZ

                I also like the meticulous detail of the post, as opposed to vague declarations like "the pastrami is good" or "this place is better than that place" without any supporting commentary or explanation.

                It's nice to know that something is good or bad, of course, but even better when the poster proffers his/her analysis as to *why* it's good or bad.

                I have been inspired!

            2. My biggest problem with the 2nd Ave. Deli is none of the meats are hand sliced. I think if they hand sliced the patrami it would bring it closer to the 2nd Ave Deli. My favorite meal at the 2nd Ave deli is a pot of chicken soup with kreplach.

              1. i take issue with your contention that the sandwich at 2nd Avenue is larger than that of Katz's.. in fact, i disagree completely.. i've found the Pastrami at 2nd avenue to be consistently dry, thinly sliced, and relatively taseless, especially when compared with Katz's thickly hand sliced, well marbled, steamed pastrami.. world of difference..

                as for the dogs at Katz's, they're good.. i like them.. but they are exactly the same dog prepared for Papaya King, etc., but in a larger size..

                12 Replies
                1. re: jesse

                  You're right that 2nd Ave. is more thinly sliced, but that doesn't say anything about the actual sandwich size.

                  In my experience the 2nd Ave. sandwich is noticeably bigger than the Katz's sandwich. I know that a comparison was done about a year ago by the Daily News, which found the Carnegie to be the biggest, and if I'm not mistaken, 2nd Ave to be either 2nd or 3rd.

                  Katz's has one of the smaller sandwiches that I've had at delis. The quality is great, and the slices are thick, but still.

                  I wonder if anyone else can weight in with their opinions on this matter.

                  1. re: Josh

                    I really dont care about how thick or thin the meat is sliced or how big the sandwich is. For pastrami Katz is the clear winner by far.

                    1. re: Josh

                      All I can say is, you must not have tipped the deli man!!! My sandwiches must have been 4-5" thick. I've only eaten at the second ave deli once (my god, the matzo ball soup!), and I have no memory of such abundance. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it. Carnegie I can't speak to.

                      1. re: shrimpbird

                        I just looked it up at Daily News.

                        Second Ave. weighs in at 3 1/2 inches height

                        Katz's, at 3 3/8 inches.

                        So Second Ave. is bigger, but only by 1/8 inch.

                        1. re: Josh

                          For those who care,

                          Carnegie was the biggest at 4 1/2
                          Stage was next at 4 1/4
                          Ben's Best came in a 4
                          Then Second Ave
                          Then Katz's

                          1. re: Josh

                            Couldn't agree with the initial writer...katz's has an incredible pastrami sandwich but from the kosher deli standpoint you cannot beat 2nd ave deli and the heart attack on a plate ...2 potato pancakes surrounding pastrami, corned beef turkey salami and roast beef....thats a sandwich..chicken soup, knishes , cannot be beat...Though i do have to say the complaint about prices would be more truthful about 2nd ave deli....Ate there 2 weeks ago and was surprised at how expensive 2nd avenue deli was...

                            1. re: Josh
                              ChowFun (derek)

                              Thanks Josh..
                              But the height of a sandwich certainly doesn't indicate the actual WEIGHT of the meat itself...just the "architectural" placement of the protein!
                              Did this article actually offer REAL facts, or merely visual clues to meat placement???
                              When I arrive in NYC (Nov.22 to Dec 1st)...Pastrami on club at Katz's...then corned beef (not lean!) at Second Ave...(do they have club bread?) with a bowl of matzo ball soup....do I have this right?
                              I will be staying near Carnegie Hall (near Carnegie deli) which place has the best blintzes?

                              1. re: ChowFun (derek)

                                To be honest, I don't know but for some reason I think chances are better that Katz's would have a club roll. Maybe it's all the time I've spent staring at the deli counter while standing in the take-out line at 2nd Ave Deli.

                                While no disrespect meant to club rolls, may I suggest you opt for rye at at least one venue. Good rye bread is disappearing fast and you should enjoy it while you still can.

                                You are correct that the MB soup with noodles is a must at 2nd Ave but so is the chopped liver. Plesae give it a try.

                                No one place stands out for blintzes but there are many fine Ukranian places in the East Village to choose from. I've heard good things about the blintzes at Little Poland on 2nd Ave around 13th St. Lately, I've been going to Polonia on 1st Ave around 5th St for kielbassy. Unfortunately many of the old time faves, in an attempt to be trendy, have resurrected themselves into bizarre shells of what made them popular in the first place.

                                After your meals in the East Village, stroll around and pick up some sweets for later on. You can choose from old-time Italian pastries at Veneiro's or De Roberti's across the street on 1st Ave around 11th St. Or if you're in a chocolate or carrot cake mood, check out Black Hound which is just one or two blocks north of 2nd Ave Deli at around 11th or 12th St.

                                Have a great trip and let us know where you ended up.

                                1. re: bk
                                  ChowFun (derek)

                                  Thanks for the leads!....
                                  What can I say..the Club bread thing is a memory of my Dad taking me to my first deli on Kings Highway in Brooklyn! (we lived at 12th street and Avenue R) (isn't that relatively close to Di Fara's?) I'll be heading over to Gertels for great rye, pumpernickel and my favorite ..Jewish corn bread!...
                                  and I have been dreaming of warm sfogliatelle from Veniero's..(unless someone can suggest a better place that has warm ones!)...none of these things exist here in San Fran....we have a lot of other wonderful things, but are sorely lacking in both the Southern Italian-American area (here the Italians are mostly Genovese (N. Italy) and the Jewish Deli/ Bread/ Baked goods area.
                                  Asia is ofcourse widely represented...so I certainly don't starve......but I miss "Mommy" food!

                                  1. re: ChowFun (derek)

                                    Well, Derek it's the least I can do for someone who introduced me to the sublime wonder of Golden Gate Bakery's Egg Custard Tarts and Coconut Tarts this past April at the SF Chinatown Lunch Series. Unfortunately I just missed out on the macaroons as Ruth L got the last bunch.

                                    I share your love of corn rye and haven't had a really good one since the Trenton, NJ bakery we used to schlep to closed decades ago. I may just make a trip to Gertel's myself and pick up some bialy's at Kossar's while I'm at it.

                                    While I enjoy Veniero's and sfogliatelle, I'm no expert. Fwiw, if you think you might have time on your trip, you should probably post a specific Italian pastry request in either the Outer Borough board or even the tri-state board as Hoboken still has some very good bakeries (and pizza) and is a quick PATH trip away.

                                    If you are taking bread home from Gertel's, perhaps you should also consider bringing home some other treats. You could get ready to cook blintzes at Little Poland or my usual haunt, the Pierogi Deli (1st Ave near 7th St) that is right next to door to the polish hams and sausages sold at the much beloved Kurowycky Meats Products. They should make the trip just fine in a thermal bag.

                                    Alas, I have yet to get to DiFara's but if you want to keepan eye out for what's going on in pizza, check out http://www.sliceny.com/

                                    1. re: bk

                                      Where is Gertels? What train stop? My dad is always pining for real Jewish corn bread and I'd love to bring him some next time I visit him.

                                      1. re: Mike

                                        53 Hester Street (between Essex and Orchard). I think the closest trains would be the F/J/M/Z at Delancey Street.

                    2. They are both overpriced and overhyped.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Tyrone
                        ChowFun (derek)

                        So where do you suggest I go...that has similar or better quality and improved prices?

                      2. Pretty accurate! But I find the pastrami sandwhich at Katz's the better value! Second Ave has the best Kasha Varnishkas and Derma! Now you all have to try Langer's pastrami in LA too. Different but equal to Katz's!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: wise1too

                          This is a 4-year-old old thread (dating back to 2004) when the 2nd Ave. Deli was still on 2nd Av. Now that it has moved to its new location on 33rd & 3rd, seems to me the quality of the pastrami needs to be re-evaluated and compared not only to Katz's but also to how it was in the original location.

                          1. re: RGR

                            Update 2010

                            I went here after hearing about it and its probably the worst place I ever went. Corned beef was expensive, dry and bland. Matzo ball soup was bland and I think was $7. My friend was scared by the over priced menu and ordered a salad with herring and then the owner comes and says "you come to NY and only order pickled herring?" Very rude in my opinion and I will never come back. Maybe it was good long ago but I lefy hungry, disappointed and with no money.

                            1. re: greycup

                              i think the chopped liver at 2nd avenue deli is a lot worse than the chopped liver at Katz. i liked both their matzo ball soups, i think i prefer katz because the soup at 2nd avenue deli comes with just one giant matzo ball. i actually think the pastrami at 2nd avenue deli is better seasoned but it's thinly sliced so i prefer katz. but the kishka at 2nd avenue deli is wayyy better than the kishka

                              1. re: daffyduck

                                The pastrami at the 2nd Ave Deli is Hebrew National

                        2. We finally made it back to 2nd Ave Deli. We had been to the 33rd St. location only once before a few months after they opened. During that visit, I ordered pastrami. I've written before on other threads that although I specifically requested "very fatty," what I received was next to shoe leather. Blech!

                          This time, I eschewed the pastrami; instead, I opted for knoblewurst. (It and pastrami are my favorite deli meats.) I've previously taken home half links of knoblewurst from 2nd Ave., and the quality has been excellent. When I ordered my sandwich, I asked that the knoblewurst be heated. The sandwich I received was top-notch!

                          2nd Ave Deli photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                          19 Replies
                          1. re: RGR

                            I've liked their tongue, too, but man is it expensive! I also like their matzo ball soup and kasha varnishkes (the latter is a fair bit more fatty than I prefer, though).

                            1. re: Pan

                              my favorite thing there is their kishka.

                              1. re: Pan

                                I like tongue but don't get it very often. I've never had it at 2nd Ave. nor eaten it in any other deli. But I have taken sliced tongue home from Mill Basin Deli in Brooklyn, as well as from a deli near our house in NJ. When making sandwiches, I prefer it mixed with other deli meats rather than on its own. I also like to take slices, slather on some deli mustard and then wrap each slice around a tiny gherkin. Sounds odd, I'm sure, but it's really tasty.


                                1. re: RGR

                                  I am also a huge tongue lover. Have been my entire life. Whenever I go to Katz's it's a tongue sandwich for me...on rye with lots of deli mustard and a bowl of half sours.

                                  My Grandmother used to make the most delicious dish — warm sliced tongue in a fantastic raisin ginger sweet and sour sauce. Would give my right arm to enjoy that once more in my lifetime. Unfortunately she never wrote down any of her recipes. I've tried it at many a Jewish deli, but never like Grandma's.

                                  1. re: pbjluver

                                    Three times recently I went to Katz's and three times they said there was no tongue. Is it me?

                                    1. re: addictedtolunch

                                      The last time I was in Katz's, there were several tongues on the counter that a man was prepping, over by the casher in the back. On occasion, my Precious Jewish Mother enjoyed a tongue sandwich. Besides being an awesome sight, this brought back sweet memories for me. So, give it another try when you can. My personal preference is THE PASTRAMI SANDWICH on rye with cole slaw and Russian dressing, with Dr. Brown's Cherry Soda--oh yeah....

                                      1. re: addictedtolunch

                                        The profit on the tongue is less than the other items. Tongue is not always in supply. Katz';s pre-slices the tongue and portion controls it. At least that's what they have done the past 2 years. Japan is buying up all the tongue they can, and it is driving the price up. But If Katz's charged $20 for a tongue sandwich , no one would buy it.
                                        My mother used to cook tongue when I was younger. It was the grossest looking thing for a kid to look at. I happen to like the taste of tongue, and unlike most, I like the tip of the tongue that is less fatty.

                                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                                          Last I checked, 2nd Av. Deli was in fact charging about $20 for a tongue sandwich. How are they able to do it?

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            Dunno,, I think Katz's is still $15.95

                                      2. re: pbjluver


                                        I've never had tongue warm. It sounds as though your Grandma's recipe was similar to the way many people make stuffed cabbage, i.e., sweet and sour sauce. I use my grandmother's recipe for stuffed cabbage passed down to me by my aunt, and she didn't use raisins. Actually, I don't like raisins. In any case, I never order stuffed cabbage in Jewish delis because I know it could never measure up to mine.


                                        1. re: pbjluver

                                          That recipe is called "tongue Polynaise" (ie. Polynesian, not Polish). You can still get a variant of it in some neighborhood delis.

                                      3. re: Pan

                                        Isn't everything there very expensive? I went there soon after they reopened at their new location, and haven't replenished my bank account enough to go back since.

                                        1. re: FoodDabbler

                                          Yes, I agree. But the tongue is especially expensive.

                                          addicted, don't get tongue at Katz's. Stick with pastrami, or if you want something else, brisket (juicy only) or corned beef.

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            i'm not a tongue expert but I didn't like the tongue at Katz

                                            1. re: daffyduck

                                              I've never gotten tongue there, but I don't think I've ever seen or heard a good comment about it, whereas everyone knows Katz's is known for pastrami.

                                              1. re: Pan

                                                FWIW i like 2nd avenue deli's tongue more. Katz doesn't heat theres up. but there's tasted a lot better after heated. you could try it cold first and if you don't like it ask them to heat it up.

                                                1. re: daffyduck

                                                  2nd Av. Deli is known for their tongue and Katz's is not. There's sometimes a reason for reputations. I think I'll stick with the pastrami (and sometimes brisket) at Katz's.

                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                    Actually, my Mom used to get her tongue sandwiches over at 2nd Avenue Deli, and she knew what was good. Go to Katz's for THE PASTRAMI...oh yeah....