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Russ and Daughters vs. Katz's

Okay, so I know this question will probably draw out people's strong feelings on either side, but...
I am visiting for the week from the Pacific Northwest where there are no Jewish delis. I would like to go for lunch to a great Jewish deli, preferable LES, Village area. My only thoughts as of now are that I would like to bring home a good Jewish deli rye and that I probably will not eat a pastrami sandwich. Otherwise I'm open. Do you recommend one of these restaurants over the other (keeping in mind the probability that I will not have pastrami)? Is there another that I should go to instead? Are there specific menu recommendations at either?
I would appreciate your input greatly! Thanks so much.

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  1. Russ & Daughters is a shop that specializes in smoked fish. I like to buy some chubs there and take them to Katz to enjoy with my pastrami sandwich.

    http://www.russanddaughters.com/

    If you are not going to eat a pastrami or corned beef sandwich, then you probably don't want to go to Katz unless you just want a hot dog and a knish.

    Also, Katz DOES NOT take credit cards, only cash.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Scagnetti

      the matzo ball soup is excellent, as well.

      1. re: wleatherette

        Really? Oooh. Don't forget the brisket!

      2. re: Scagnetti

        I think Katz's does take credit cards. I was there for lunch just a couple of weeks ago and used one.

        1. re: Felixnot

          I called them and you are correct, they do. But they didn't use to.

          1. re: Scagnetti

            They have been taking credit cards for a long time. The trick is to pay, not at the cashier, but at the rear counter by the salami sales. Also gets you out quicker as you don't have to wait at the long cashier line.

      3. Considering they are less than 200 feet apart...why not go to both. Note, however, that Russ and Daughters is not a restaurant.

        That being said...the pastrami at Katz is excellent, but apparently so is the tongue and hot dogs. As for R&D, I go for the basic: lox on a bagel with plain cream cheese. There's no better interpretation (to my knowledge). Smoked fish is great there too.

        As for rye bread - the really, really, really good stuff simply isn't made anymore. I like the rye at Katz, but I know what people mean when they say it "isn't the same as it used to be".

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkstar1

          I fing excellent Rye at Polish stores in Brooklyn. Try Eagle Provisions, or any of the kiszkas in Greenpoint. W. Nassau (aka Kiszka) and Polam are good bets.

        2. R&D is not a restaurant Its a gourmet shop that sells appetizing

          1. russ and daughters isn't a restaurant, so by default katz's is your choice. however, r&d is a must-visit for the smoked fish, the beautiful dried fruit, and the various appetizers (herring, chopped liver, etc).

            1. Wow, you all are quick. Thanks for the responses. Does Russ and Daughters not have tables then, so if you get food there, such as the bagel & cc, you get it to go?
              Does Katz's have blintzes? How well would whitefish travel on an airplane? That might be risky...
              I can definitely go to both since they're so close together, and see what I'm in the mood to eat. Maybe something from each?

              1 Reply
              1. re: ScarletB

                No. No tables inside. Don't see why a smoked whitefish couldn't travel for a few hours on a flight. Why not have a sandwich at Katz and take stuff for the flight from R & D.

              2. How's the kosher salami at Katz's?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ScarletB

                  i've never had it, but they're famous for it. you'll see them hanging in the window.
                  r&d will sell you a cool-pack ($1.50, i believe) so that you can travel with your purchases.

                  1. re: wleatherette

                    I haven't had it either but I love the old world war two signs they still have: "send a salami to your boy in the army"

                2. my dad loves the corn rye at moishe's on 2nd ave around 9th. whenever i'm there, i buy a monster sized loaf for him, and he freezes most of it for future consumption. all of the other breads and pastries we've tried from there have been great, too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: littleguy

                    7th and 2nd.

                  2. Does no pastrami mean no meat? I always get an extra-lean corned beef sandwich, which is pretty darn good. That and an egg cream.

                    1. This is not a "vs" situation. R&D does amazing lox and "appetizing", and Katz's does amazing pastrami, corned beef, tongue--two completely different things. While you're at it, walk down Houston ("how-ston") Street and have a knish at Yonah Schimmel. And then go downtown and have a fresh bialy at Kossar's. And a pickle on Allen Street. (Used to live on Norfolk St next to Ratner's, but that's another story.) I second the Moishe's rec for rye bread.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: whs

                        That sounds great, but if you are short on time, I would skip the knish at Schimmel's. In my (limited) experience they are microwaved and can be a little on the leaden side.

                      2. Not sure if it matters for you... but as far as I know, Katz is not technically kosher

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mr_fro2000

                          Forget technically. Katz's is not kosher.

                        2. Hey all,
                          Thanks so much for the lively discussion. To answer the question, no, no pastrami does not mean no meat. I just know that I would never be able to eat a giant pastrami sandwich, so I was thinking smaller. Maybe the kosher salami. And I don't care if it's kosher or not.
                          And, thanks for the pronunciation on Houston :) Never want to look the foolish tourist...
                          I actually would like to go to Kossar's for a bialy - I love bialys! Unfortunately, I only have one day left, and the weather tomorrow is supposed to be horrible. So, it might be R&D and Katz's at the same time, for different items. I'll need to figure out where Moishe's is, and see if I can hit it too.
                          You all are awesome - thanks!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ScarletB

                            fear not. R&D uses/sells Kossar's bagels (and I think bialys).

                            1. re: ScarletB

                              You have not had a bialy until you had one from Kossar's. Hopefully R&D has them. Have a great time!

                              1. re: prunefeet

                                Apropos to bialys: Mimi Sheraton (ex NYT food critic) has written a wonderful book called "The Bialy Eaters", which traces the origins of the bialy--she goes around the world tracking down all the iterations of bialys she can find. She writes extensively about Kossar's!

                                1. re: whs

                                  Yes, I have been wanting to read this.

                              2. re: ScarletB

                                moishe's is very easy to get to from katz's/r&d. just walk west on houston to 2nd avenue, make a right, and walk until you hit it (it's at 7th st, i think). this should take you about 10 minutes, max.

                              3. Katz's bread is not particularly good. Fine for the sandwich, but nothing to take home. If you can't get to Moshe's, just forget about the bread. If you can't eat a whole sandwich at Katz's, just take 1/2 with you. It will keep for several hours. (Plus once you taste it, you'll be surprised how much you can eat).

                                1. R&D makes excellent sandwiches. They will also pack their products to survive a plane trip. When they're not crowded (i.e., any time except rush hour or weekends), the atmosphere is fine, if slightly snarky.

                                  Katz is always like rush hour on the subway -- cacaphonous and hyper. Their best products are, for me, the garlic sausage (Knoblewurst) and the boy-in-the-army salami. I'm only a moderate fan of their pastrami, but I'm outvoted. The meat cutters and waiters are famously rude.

                                  Neither R&D nor Katz is cheap.

                                  Walk down Essex Street to Grand and get some bialys from Kossar's. (It's a substantial distance.) Better yet, walk up 1st Avenue to 7th St. to Kurowycky's for the best kielbasy and ham in town -- maybe in the world.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: KRS

                                    I don't find the cutters rude at all. I always tip at least $1 and get good service.

                                    Scarlet, you can get a bowl of matzo ball soup and 1/2 pastrami sandwich as a special. They might even give you a half a sandwich without the soup, but there's no guarantee.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      I never found them rude either, quite the contrary.

                                  2. i love reading these posts about katzs..believe it or not, my grandfather was one of the original owners and then my dad took it over..send a salami to your boy in the army was a saying my grandmother made up for my dad who was a bomber pilot during world war two..his picture still hangs over the cash register in his uniform....go..enjoy the pastrami, sit at the table that harry and sally sat at..and enjoy!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: karins

                                      How fabulous!

                                    2. I think that a sit-down at Katz's and then a stop down the street at Russ and Daughters is your best bet. Sitting down and eating in at Katz's is a lot easier than fighting your way through the throngs at the counter, which is an NYC experience on its own, but can be harrowing! Sit at any of the tables along the left side and towards the back - there is table service and the curmudgeonly waiter will come along. ALL of the sandwiches at Katz's are HUGE - if you don't think you can finish one, the half sandwich and soup option (only available to eat in) is a winner. Just because you don't think you can finish it is no reason to reject it outright!
                                      After lunch, a trip to R&D is necessary - a favorite item of mine, though not one that would travel very well, is the pickled lox with cream. But the any of the whole fish, dried fruits, babka, halvah, bagels and bagel chips would be good to go, packed up real good and brought home to make all your friends jealous.

                                      1. Hi all! Thanks so much for all of your input. I am now back home in the Pacific Northwest, but wanted to let you know what I ended up doing.
                                        First stop was Moishe's, which I hadn't ever heard of, but, thanks to littleguy and whs, I will now plan to stop in every time I visit. I got a rye bread, a challah, and some hamentaschen to bring home. Good stuff, and brings me back to the Jewish bakeries I went to as a kid in LA, although with NY style.
                                        I then walked over to Katz's and had lunch. First of all, someone should've warned me as to how the ordering process works there. Talk about feeling like a stupid tourist. Everyone was very nice, though, and helpful, but I felt like some dumbass without a clue. Anyway, I had a kosher, or "soft," salami sandwich and a chocolate egg cream. Salami was good, egg cream was fantastic, pickles were terrible. Experience was great!
                                        And the absolute best part of it is when I went to have them wrap up my other half of the sandwich, a cutter, who apparently does not normally wrap, started chatting with me and asked why I had salami, not pastrami. I had only eaten pastrami once and wasn't sure I was a fan, so he gave me a slice, and it was perfection. Moist, flavorful, not too fatty or salty, just incredible. So we started chatting about my job and where I'm from and where he's from etc. and I thought he was working the entire time we were talking; turns out he was making me a pastrami sandwich to take to the airport. So unbelievably nice!! I was too full, though, so I packed it in my suitcase and hoped that it survived the plane ride home. Today my husband and I grilled the pastrami sandwich on our panini press and enjoyed the hell out of it. Really fantastic.
                                        That's my long story. I wound up looking in the windows at R&D and will definitely hit it next time (along with pastrami at Katz's), but I had suitcases full of bread, bagels, sandwiches, etc. and couldn't squeeze more in there.

                                        Thank you all so much for your input. I had a wonderful food experience in NY and was able to hit a few of the places I had hoped to. I brought a dozen back from Tal's as well, and am salivating thinking of the dumplings at Dumpling House.
                                        Looking forward to my next visit. Thanks again!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ScarletB

                                          Sorry we didn't warn you! The recommendation is to get counter service, not table service (which is available on the sides), tip the guy $1, for which you'll be amply rewarded with a sample slice of juicy fatty pastrami and an enormous sandwich. Hang on to your ticket, and pay on your way out. Of course, you've figured that all out by now.
                                          One of my earliest Chowhound posts was a reflection on my own bewildering first experience at Katz's (and first time ever eating pastrami), and is fun to read now: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/204397

                                          1. re: ScarletB

                                            You got great service at Katz's. I hope you tipped well. :-)

                                          2. And, by the way, when I went to pay I was told that they don't take cards.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ScarletB

                                              fwiw, last time I went to Katz's I paid with a credit card. However, to use one you have to go to the counter towards the rear (perhaps where they take mailorders). Only cash is accepted at the register.

                                              Speaking of mailorder, you can send yourself a salami or some pastrami by ordering online at http://www.katzdeli.com/shopping/inde...

                                              oh and btw, Russ & Daughters also does mailorder <s>
                                              http://www.russanddaughters.com/

                                              glad you enjoyed your visit

                                            2. Next time, when you go to R&D, try the wild pacific belly lox, which they make themselves. 99.9% of what people call "lox" in this country is actually smoked salmon. Real lox is salt-cured, never exposed to heat or smoke, and as a result it has an amazing silky texture, especially with wild salmon. R&D is one of the few places in the US you can still get lox, even in Manhattan it's very rare. There was an article about lox/smoked salmon in the NY Times a couple of years ago, in which R&D is prominently featured.

                                              R&D will allow you to taste any of their smoked fish until you find one you like; it's a lot of fun to experiment there!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Raflab

                                                Thanks for the suggestion - sounds delicious! I will definitely be hitting R&D next time I'm in town, probably this summer.

                                              2. To go to Katz's and not get pastrami sounds sacrilegious - but I am in St Louis where I can either buy or make pastrami, but I can't get tongue, so .......