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First visit to Katz's

OK, I've read all the great things about Katz's here for years and I'm ready to make my first trip there. Can you help with some basics?

Do I want the corned beef or pastrami? I like them both, with a slight preference for CB. Is the take-out experience substantially different from the eat-in? I'm going alone, and if there's no difference, I'd like to take the sandwich back to the room to savor it as I relax. How do I get there? What subway or bus line is nearby? Are there any must-try sides that I should order?

Appreciate any help you can offer. There's a youtube video of the counterman slicing pastrami and it makes me drool.

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  1. You're in for a treat, Hinterlander!
    My faves: Reuben sandwich made with PASTRAMI instead of CB
    Potato salad
    Potato pancakes (ya, they're made from the box, but they're really good)
    Macaroni salad
    Table pickles

    2 Replies
    1. re: LeahBaila

      Potato pancakes that are not hand grated don't count! Never had the pancakes at Katz', only eat them at Ukrainian National Home. They still grate them by hand. Katz' is all about the pastrami and salami ("send a salami to your boy in the army"). Chicken liver is good at Katz', good at Russ & Daughters, best at Second Avenue Deli (re-opening soon).

      1. re: financialdistrictresident

        I hear you, but these pancakes are so bad...so bad...they're great. Prior to first bite, I was hesitant...but it's hard to resist the greasy goodness.

    2. Stick with the pastrami, its their best product and you won't be sorry. Its better eating it there as it is nice and steamed but will still be good back at your room, just not quite as good. If you decide to eat there and still have half a sandwich leftover, they have brown/wax paper on all the windowsills above some of the waitress tables, so you can just wrap up the leftovers and take it back with you. If you take it to go, make sure to get extra rye bread on the side otherwise the pieces will fall apart by the time your ready to each.

      For a side, get a hotdog or a knoblewurst from the first station closest to the street. My MO is to get a hotdog and eat it while waiting for your pastrami sandwich. They are both great. Don't waste your valuable stomach space with any of their sides. Save it for the pastrami and pickles. The only other thing you need is a Dr. Brown's black cherry soda to wash it all down.

      Closest subway I think is the "F" on 2nd Ave and Houston. Further west on broadway is the "6" train. There are also buses running up and down Houston and all the avenues.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ESNY

        Second the pastrami, knoblewurst or a hot dog but I still think you should grab some fries or a knish for the side and some sour pickles. And two Dr. Browns just in case!

        1. re: ESNY

          Definitely get and eat your pastrami sandwich there. Katz's is an experience! The line, the counter, the ticket, the atmosphere...The decor alone is worth pondering. The people-watching isn't bad too.

          PS Go to hopstop.com for point to point subway directions to/from anywhere in NYC.

        2. such an easy answer-the pastrami!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1. Start with the Turkey,

            Nah just kidding. The pastrami, and maybe some fries. The hot dogs are great too.

            5 Replies
            1. re: joelm

              I'm in a similar situation. making the first trip ever to NYC Tuesday, katz's is the first stop, i'm getting a reuben (to start with)

              what should my pseudo-vegetarian wife order (seafood - ok)?

              how's the lox?

              1. re: scpierce

                Haven't had the lox, but there's always: knishes, potato pancakes, noodle kugel, potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw...

                1. re: scpierce

                  Get the nova at Russ & Daughters down the street. And white fish salad.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    +1 to the Lox R&D suggestion. It is right near Katz's.

                    1. re: tpigeon

                      Forgot to advise the OP there is no seating at R&D.

              2. Contrary opinion, probably voiced here many times, but I want to register it.

                I found Katz's an extremely unpleasant experience, and so did my friends, and none of us would go back. There was no line - chaotic jostling for place, that feeling you are not going to get food, no civility (sorry, not cute). Tipping the slicing person - at these prices, obnoxious. No deli is cheap these days with the costs of meat and real estate...maybe labor - but that includes Katz's with its complete lack of amenities.

                I say, check if the new 2d Avenue deli is open or look for other suggested delis with the Search function.

                7 Replies
                1. re: yebo

                  the line is not for everyone - That's why KAtz's also has full table service. (just ask which tables )

                  1. re: yebo

                    yebo, Katz' is a NYC institution that doesn't change. That is the charm of it. I don't like Katz' counter and don't eat red meat. I get the pastrami "to go" for others and you don't have to tip at the counter. It is the only place in the city I have EVER bought pastrami. Other delis??? Katz' is THE place for pastrami in NYC. For me, it's off to Russ & Daughters for nova and whitefish. I am also counting the days until my beloved Second Avenue Deli re-opens. I hope they hire some of their old staff back.

                    1. re: jvish

                      Amen! You don't go to Katzs for white glove service. You go for an "only in NY" experience.

                      By the way....stay away from the knishes!

                      1. re: yebo

                        In my experience, the choatic jostling is typically from the tourists who are freaking out that they might not be standing in the right line. If you see a meat cutter, just stand in front of him. How hard is that? And you don'thave to tip, just like you don't have to tip at a restaurant. I appreciate the job slicing the cutters do and the awesome pastrami I get and I tip them for it. Is a dollar or two that obnoxious?

                        1. re: yebo

                          I think you need to lighten up. Counters are fairly standard when getting deli meat or appetizing, here it's applied to sandwiches.

                          Dont let this person freak you out, you stand infront of a cutter and order. They usually give you a little meat while waiting and I dont find them rude one bit. They have old school New York senses of humour which seem to be dissapearing with the latest influx of "polite" midwesterners. They joke around a bit if you joke back with them. As for tipping, does $1 or $2 really seem that bad? Considering you are not getting waiter service and not tipping there, bug deal.

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            I agree with you. "There's no line" is nonsense. There are always several lines.

                            As far as tipping is concerned, you're also tipping because the meat they offer you is a sample. I have sometimes asked for another slab because the sample was too fibrous or whatever. That's some serious service. Those guys deserve a tip, in my opinion.

                          2. re: yebo

                            That's the point. What makes it special is that it is chaotic.

                          3. Pastrami or corned beef? neither, get yourself a tongue sandwich. Oh so good. Ask for a slice from the guy behind the counter if you have never had it.

                            1. Katz's is a chain. Not fantastic. You won't get a smile or smoked meat sliced to your taste.

                              19 Replies
                              1. re: lamaranthe

                                Katz's is not a chain. And it is fantastic.

                                Also people go to Katz for Pastrami sandwiches, not smiles. You want smiles, go to TGIFridays. Kidding aside, I have no problem joking around with the guys behind the counter, and they smile back(they also probably smile becuase most guys my age don't order tongue sandwiches at 12 am). If you go in there with a pretentious attitude, no they probably aren't going to smile for you. I also have never, ever had a problem getting my meat sliced the way I want it. Then again, I always throw a couple bucks in the jar. I like my tongue a certain level of thicknenss, they will give me samples until it is just right and go from there.

                                1. re: artfuldestruct

                                  You shouldn't miss the experience. But Second Avenue is different, at least it used to be, and you might prefer that. If it's open, compare the two.

                                    1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

                                      It's reopening in a new location - don't know whether it has or not.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Just past by the new location on E. 33 St. between 3rd Ave. & Lex. and they're still working on the space (as of Saturday 11/17).

                                    2. re: artfuldestruct

                                      Amen to you both, it's NOT a chain I've just read the whole string of postings & nobody mentioned the turnstiles? I haven't been to Katz's in a couple years & right now I'm really bummed I have Thai food for lunch but I've learned not to read Chow while hungry! Go to Katz's, get the pastrami & the noodle knugle for your wife & a knish, why are people down on the Katz knish?

                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                        The way it works at lunch time, I thought it was a chain. Or a factory. I also thought I was entitled to my own opinions? Sorry if I hurt some feelings.

                                        1. re: lamaranthe

                                          How did you find it different at lunch?

                                          I've been going there my whole life and I've always found everything to be the same.

                                          1. re: CornflakeGirl

                                            What chain in the modern era would possibly set up a system like Katz's? Get a ticket when you walk in the door, stand on line, order food, have the counterman mark down what was ordered, eat your food, pay upon exiting....This system would make a consultant's head spin.

                                          2. re: lamaranthe

                                            It your use of the word chain, which signifies a franchise like Applebees, that is what people are critizing. Not your opinion of how you are treated there. If you think its operated like a factory or a cattle call, that is something different.

                                        2. re: lamaranthe

                                          ...a chain? are you sure?

                                          maybe you are thinking about Ben's

                                          1. re: pbjluver

                                            Ben's.... not THAT is some tasteless food and rude service! Give me Katz's any day.

                                            1. re: lamaranthe

                                              ...............What? What are you talking about? Are you posting in the wrong topic?

                                              I think the employees and Katz's are awesome. I almost always get the same two slicers that I make sure to go to. They give me a mountain of pastrami while myself and whoever I'm with wait. It's great. I love it. I won't go in if I see tourists out the door. In fact, I think Katz's is one of friendliest and most unique places in NY and that's why I tip my meat cutter every time. If it's so hard to give a tip for the best pastrami in NY, then Katz's doesn't need your business and the cutters don't need to waste their time on you.

                                              1. re: lamaranthe

                                                No way it's a chain, but the name may have been ripped off in another state- it ain't a copyright.
                                                I'm not a worshiper of the place, and don't love everything there, but it absolutely is the best pastrami to be had.
                                                On the tipping- it's just a buck, a fun thing, and interesting that it supposedly generates a thicker sandwich (I sometimes doubt it though).
                                                One dissent here- get the pastrami on club and pay at the door and leave to have it elsewhere-once you've shopped you've had the "experience", seen the place, and don't need to sit there to eat it. I enjoy the sandwich more somewhere else.

                                                1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                  I find sitting in the immediate area to be somewhat sparse. That bench outside of American Apparel is not exactly the nicest spot to eat a meal. Maybe if you walked to Grand St park to watch football/soccer. I'll try it sometime.

                                                  The tipping and sandwich size thing is strange. For instance, my girlfriend was once given a sandwich that was at least 1/3 thicker than mine as we conversed with our cutter. It's nice of him to the that, but it was sort of funny since I ended up having to finish it anyway.

                                                  The atmosphere is usually cool if it's not busy (or they're not shooting a commercial for some place... I kid you not. I was there for it.)

                                                  In terms of other food, nothing else is transcendental.

                                                2. re: lamaranthe

                                                  A chain? What in the heck are you talking about? And you do SO get the pastrami sliced to your taste. You ask for it how you want it (I ask for juicy; someone else might ask for lean), the cutter gives you a sample, and you tell him whether you like it or find it wanting in some way or other ("That's tasty but a little too fibrous." and "That's somehow a little dry." are two things I've told them), and in that case, he gets another slab and gives you another sample. And like MVNYC, I do often get smiles out of the cutters by joking with them and also showing them how much I appreciate their product.

                                                3. If you go with a friend have them grab a table while you get the food. It's a mad house in there.

                                                  1. Pastrami or corned beef should be the first timer's order. BUT, Sometimes I like to switch it up and go for brisket on a hero. A real sleeper that not too many people even know about.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sam_the_man

                                                      i absolutely love their brisket with a little mayo and some coleslaw...mmmm...god this thread is making me hungry.

                                                    2. Self serve is a must. Waiter service is for tourists only. Taste and tip. Pastrami ("extra fatty") on rye. Share a table with a stranger and slather with mustard (the sandwich not the stranger). Sour (not half sour) pickles on the side. Forget the fries. Dr. Brown's black cherry soda. For dessert a knoblewurst well done with mustard and kraut with a large chocolate egg cream. That's the way NYers do it.If anyone tells you otherwise...fuggedaboutit.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: guttergourmet

                                                        Yeah Dr Browns is a must, I prefer the Cream Soda though.

                                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                                          And I prefer Cel-Ray.

                                                          Unlike some other folks posting here, I also like to get cole slaw as a side to my pastrami sandwich.

                                                          My take is that their turkey, corned beef, brisket, and several other items are quite good, but the pastrami is great, and if you're visiting the place for the first time or from a distance, there's no good reason to get anything other than pastrami, a beverage, and if desired, sides.

                                                        2. re: guttergourmet

                                                          Sure, NYers who frequently engage in competitive eating competitions...

                                                          I agree with just about everything gg says here: self service, pastrami on rye, sour pickles, Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda. If you can suck down a knoblewurst after all that, I salute you.

                                                          1. re: guttergourmet

                                                            Sorry, as a native Manhattan, me nor none of the other natives would waste their time on line if we are with a big party. We know how it's done, we don't need the show. If I'm by myself or with taking tourists to see the place - the line is fine. but if they are busy and I'm with people table service is the way to go.

                                                            1. re: joelm

                                                              Agreed. With a large party, waiter service is fine, and I've found that when I requested a juicy pastrami sandwich, it came delicious and juicy like I wanted.

                                                            2. re: guttergourmet

                                                              Yes. In regards to the line, I would just go somewhere else if it's ridiculous that day. I don't really like eating with 1/4 of Houston and LA.

                                                              I do like getting my sandwich at the line because of the little tasting plate and the fact that the sandwiches come out magically thicker if you tip.

                                                              1. re: JFores

                                                                I've said it before, but I think the tipping thing is an urban legend. I used to hold out the dollar or two when I ordered the sandwich, but for a long time I have stopped that practice. I don't tip until after I get the sandwiches and I still get my "taste" and the sandwiches are just as big.

                                                                The best kept secret of Katz's, however, is that they take credit cards, but to use them you must pay at the salami sales counter, not the exit cashier. And then there is no waiting on line to pay at the exit either.

                                                                1. re: bobjbkln

                                                                  I do exactly the same thing - tip after getting the sandwich. Last time, I tipped $2 for a sandwich, and the cutter gave me extra pastrami and more pickles. :-)

                                                            3. We went this weekend for what must be the best CB & Pastrami sandwiches we've ever had!

                                                              Our only complaint is that they don't give discounts to those named Katz! (We had to ask...it's in our blood).

                                                              1. The only thing I like about Katz's is ordering at the counter.
                                                                I find the ticket cashier to be fun, even when there's a line.
                                                                Other then that, the food itself has been dissapointing for a number of years now.
                                                                I always go home feeling really ripped off, and saddened for the demise of NYC, not to mention what passes for good deli these days.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                  I just find this bizarre. Disappointing? Whose pastrami do you like better?

                                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                                    Pastrami hands down with a frank too. although the frank is a little pricey at 2.50 or 2.95, still quite good. i always order takeout and always tip 1-2 dollars to the counter guy to get a great taste of what my sandwich would be like. and yes the dr browns black cherry. funny story, i order take out last week, pastrami sandwich, and i like to eat it at home, approx 15 blocks away, i jumped into a cab. my girlfriend said why dont we walk, i said i gotta get home while the pastrami is till hot. she looked at me like i was nuts. but hey she's from the south, what does she know about fine cured meats.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        well that is the rest of the planet, anything more specific?

                                                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                                                          For some serious old-school pastrami, or brisket, I recommend David's Brisket House at 533 Nostrand in Brooklyn (near the A train). Friendly Bangladeshi-Jamaican crew running the place now. Excellent meat, same sodas at Katz's, just half the price, and I hear they keep it halal.


                                                                    1. u should bite the bullet and try both. with pickles. make sure u get an order of fries as well.

                                                                      1. the 2nd avenue deli opening day 12/17.
                                                                        i've never had their sandwiches, but im goin to try em. i heard they were real good.

                                                                        1. How is Katz Brisket Overall? Is it juicy?

                                                                          1 Reply