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Jan 1, 2008 08:50 PM

Question about Katz's

Sorry to add yet another thread, but I haven't been able to figure out an answer from the research I've done. I'll be in NYC w/my family this weekend and really want to try Katz's for lunch. MY DH and I will want Pastrami, and will probably get hot dogs for the kids. I know about waiting in line for the sandwiches, but can we get the hot dogs that way too, or will we need table service? If the latter, how can we do both at once?

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  1. im pretty sure u get everything waiting in a line, i dont think there is any table service to speak of

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lau

      You can get everything you need in line. There are different stations for different foods. It will be pretty self explanatory when you arrive.

    2. There is definitely table service, and certain tables are reserved for that purpose. They are along the walls and have menus on them. The tables in the middle are for those doing counter service. As has been pointed out, you can get all your food and drinks at the counter. No need for your kids to stand in line. Grab seats at a table first and let your kids sit there while you get the food.


      1. There is a different line for hot dogs versus pastrami.

        6 Replies
        1. re: eternalX

          The hotdog line is closest to the window. Usually no line there. The cutters for the pastrami and other sandwiches are next to the hotdog line and usually includes 5 or so cutters. Do what I do. Get a hotdog and then eat it while on line for a pastrami sandwich.

          1. re: ESNY

            In this case, since they are getting the hotdogs for their kids, I think they should split up. One of them can get the dogs while, presuming there is a line for the sandwiches, the other waits there.

            1. re: RGR

              I agree. The kids are pretty little (4 & 7) so they'll probably stick with us in line. The 4 y.o. is the confirmed hot dog eater, the 7 y.o. may opt for a sandwich. I'm excited to finally try this place after hearing about it almost my whole life. I'd love to do your whole LES eating tour, but it will be Saturday so some of the places probably aren't open, and the kids would probably get bored anyway. We'll have to figure out a different afternoon activity.

              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                You and your 7 year old can share a sandwich. They are huge!

                1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                  Hey, Hungry,

                  You're right that your kids are too little to appreciate the entire tour. But you could go for egg creams at Ray's. (I find that one really hits the spot after a deli sandwich). Also, Il Laboratorio del Gelato and Economy Candy, which kids would like, are quite close to each other. All three places are open on Saturday.

                  1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                    Economy Candy is a must.

                    As for coordinating the lines and all that, just expect it to be food court style. There are different stations for different things.

            2. First advice is to get there before 12 Noon, or expect a painful wait experience and difficult time securing a table.

              The best part about going to Katz's for me, other than the obvious Pastrami, is standing on line for the sandwich and being served by my favorite cutter. There will be naysayers to what I will suggest to you, but the practice has worked well for me for over 25 years.

              Opt for self service. If you choose for wait service, your sandwich and experience will be ordinary, and for the service, you will also leave a gratuity based on the final total bill. Treat self-service the same, and the cutter as your server, tip him and you will receive a much better sandwich and extras if desired, all adding to the experience. I normally do no care about quantity over quality, but at Katz's it's different and all rules are thrown out the window and all I can get is fine by me, without any reservations on what others may think. I only go a few times a year, so I love everything I get, even the mustard.

              When you reach the front of the line and place your order for Pastrami, the cutter will pull a piece of meat and slice a few pieces for you and your SO to sample. If you do not like the piece selected, by all means tell the cutter and request a different piece for your sandwiches. This is what separates Katz's from others and adds to it's greatness in my opinion. For two sandwiches, I would suggest a minimum of a $5.00 gratuity, and have it visible for him to see, or hand it to him directly before you order. It will pay dividends in his service of a better sandwich, more samples of Pastrami and any extras you may request in the form of extra bread, new pickles, sours and tomatoes or a combination of all. Wait service, may or may not charge you for extras. I personally WILL NOT share my sandwich with anyone, not even a bite, but the sandwiches are large enough to be split. In fact, when I take out, I always request extra slices of rye bread to split the sandwiches at home. My experience with the gratuity while dining in(self service).....receives a couple or more of each pickle type, tomatoes and bread without even a flinch from the cutter. Not to brag, but to give you perspective from my practice, I always give my cutter $10.00 and his appreciation is shown in return by a larger, thicker sandwichs and enough samples for at least another half sandwich while waiting in line. In the past at table service, I would be lucky to receive a half of a pickle at most. I take the $10 gratuity as a part of the bill for me to be happy and satiated and not as buying my cutter off. If I went to Guss' or The Pickle Guys, I would have to pay about $7.00 for less, so I view this as a bargain.

              Since this will be a first for your Family, walk west a couple of blocks West and stop by Yonah Schimmel for a Knish if it is open over the weekend. Forget the naysayers and buy some for walking or take home. The knishes are still very good and very cheap.....when the dissenting opinions come out, tell them to go to Brooklyn and purchase better knishes for you and deliver them to your home if they feel so strongly about the demise of Yonah Schimmel.

              22 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                Hey, fourunder,

                Have you ever looked at my "LES Food Excursion"? It contains much of the info you have provided. Table service is, indeed, for uninformed tourists! lol Natives always order at the counter. However, my view differs from yours in this respect. From my experience the tip -- which, btw, is not mandatory but, rather a tradition -- need not be more than $1 or 2 per sandwich. I have always just put it into the tip cup and have always received exemplary service from the cutters, including gargantuan amounts of meat and a boatload of pickles and sour tomatoes. I do suggest to those taking my "tour" that they share the sandwich because that will leave room for all the other tastes along the way. And, btw, Yonah Schimmel's is one of the stops.

                1. re: RGR

                  Can you give a link for the LES Food Excursion? Thanks!

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Hey, fourunder,

                    I'm aware that you are a relative newcomer. I have really enjoyed reading all of your very intelligently-written posts and understand your frustration with the moderation on this forum. I definitely know of one instance when your posts were deleted because mine were swept out on that thread as well. But I'd be very disappointed if you decide to cut back on posting because you have the kind of background that adds depth and a great deal of thoughtfulness to discussions.

                    With regard to my LES eating "tour," I originally created it for Hounds who are visiting NYC (some for the first time) and want to try foods that are considered emblematic. I'm delighted to say that it has become famous on this board, and even natives have posted that they've taken it. In fact, you can Google it! lol I've sometimes posted it in full on various threads, and other Hounds often link to it.

                    I'll make it easy for you -- and for Scarlet B. Here it is:

                    LES Food Excursion

                    For the quintessential NYC deli experiences, no place beats Katz's, on the corner of Houston (pronounced "how-stun") & Ludlow Sts. You're there specifically for the pastrami sandwich. When you enter, you will be given a ticket. Instead of opting for table service, do what the "natives" do and get on line for counter service. When you reach the counter, put a $1 for each sandwich in the counterman's tip cup – though not mandatory, it is a tradition -- and order pastrami on rye. He'll give you a piece to taste. If you like it (the best pastrami is juicy and has some fat on it), tell him o.k., and he'll make your sandwich, give you some sour pickles, and punch your ticket. Then, continue along the counter for sides – the cole slaw is good -- and drinks. Find seats at a table in the center of the room. (Tables along the wall have menus on them and are reserved for waiter service.) When you’re done, take your ticket to the cashier in front, where it’s cash only. To pay by credit card, go to the counter at the rear where the salamis are sold. Note: For the purposes of this tour, unless you have a gargantuan appetite, it would be best to share one sandwich in order to leave room for more tastings along the way.

                    When you exit Katz’s, turn left and continue along the same side of Houston St. You will come to Russ & Daughters, famous for all sorts of smoked fish and many other goodies. It's not a restaurant, but they make sandwiches to go.

                    After leaving the Russes, continue west a couple of blocks until you reach Yonah Schimmel's. Get a tasty potato knish, and make sure to ask them to heat it up.

                    Now it’s time for the quintessential NY drink – the egg cream. So, reverse yourself and head east on Houston until you come to Avenue A. (Note: Avenue A becomes Essex St. on the south side of Houston.) Turn left on A and head north until you get to the block between 7th St. and St. Mark’s Place. Look for a hole-in-the-wall candy shop, closer to 7th, with an overhead sign jutting into the street that says, “Belgian Fries.” (The place’s official name is Ray’s, but there is no signage to that effect.) One of the women behind the counter will make you a delicious chocolate egg cream.

                    When you’re finished licking your lips, go back to Houston St. and make a left (east) one block to Norfolk St. Turn right and walk down Norfolk until it ends at Grand St. Two places to look for at the corner of Grand and Norfolk: Kossar's, for freshly baked bialys (another very NY food) and the Donut Plant (self-explanatory).

                    Next, walking west along Grand St., you will come to Orchard St. Turn right. At 87 Orchard, snack on a pickle from Gus's World Famous Pickles.

                    Then, continue to 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, where you will find the Tenement Museum. The tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. (
                    Once you have finished the tour, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, right next door at 95 Orchard, is a must for some of the best gelato anywhere.

                    If your sweet tooth is still not completely satisfied, the final stop on this tour should do it. Continue ahead (north) on Orchard, crossing Delancey, then one more block to Rivington St. Make a right and you will find Economy Candy at 145 Rivington.

                    Note: It’s best not to take this tour on a Saturday since some of the spots are closed because of religious observance. Also, Donut Plant is closed on Mondays.

                    Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

                    1. re: RGR


                      Hopefully you will get to read this know what.

                      An excellent Itinerary for any new visitor to the city or resident. I applaud your comprehensive efforts. I am proud to say I have patronized all with the exception of the Gelato and candy.. I would mention by name, but again, you know what......

                      My ventures to the LES always begins first with a stop @ Kossar's and Donut Plant. Then it is off to my pilgrimage @ Katz's.

                      It may seem contradictory to mention this is in the same thread, and be off topic, but my trips to the LES on Grand Street include a stop for Roast Pig and Roast Duck in a Chinese BBQ Store........$4.00/lb for the pork and $8.00 for a whole duck......amazing stuff.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Where is this Chinese BBQ store exactly?

                        1. re: eternalX

                          eternal x,

                          Just so you know......the store is completely tiled...meat counter on one side, bakery and coffee on the other . There are a few tables to sit.....but it is not a pretty place and somewhat cluttered and rough with dry goods stored about.

                          I cannot say if they actually cook the meats there....I am sure they do some and maybe all, .........but I have been there on Sundays and The Roast Ducks and Pigs were not ready... so they told me.......Later when they were available, I saw them taking the ducks out of boxes similar to the ones delivered to a local store in New Jersey. This tells me either the store in NJ receives their ducks from this store, or both stores receive them from a commissary of sorts........The RP I have never received hot out of the box oven, so I cannot say it is made there either and the scenario is the same.

                          Either way, if you can get past the appearance of the store, the BBQ is excellent and just like every other BBQ store in Chinatown...only cheaper. Again the prices anywhere else in the city is $6.50 for the pork and $14-15 for the ducks.

                          I know this much.....I cannot purchase and roast either the pig or duck cheaper myself.....or make it as tasty. Of all the International Versions of Roast Pig I have ever eaten..... Chinese Baby Suckling is the absolute best and Chinese Roast Pig is second for the reasons of moist meat and the crispiest skin that cracks and melts easily in your mouth and without any fear of cracking or chipping a tooth.

                          BTW.....they will cut the duck up any way you wish. Halved, quartered or pieces. This is a DOLLAR extra. The Roast Pig, make sure you see the piece you are getting and it meets your expectations. If you want lean or fatty ask. If you want from the section with ribs(back or above belly, ask. Generally, two rib section is about or a little over a pound. Sounds a bit like Katz's, don't you think?..........and yes, I tip the choppers and bakery clerks here, but I know am in the minority with the quizzical look they show me.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Thanks for all the additional information. The wife is Chinese and so I'm pretty used to the cluttered, disorganized and bright, neon white restaurants and eateries (her mom always tell me "Chinese people don't care about the ambiance, just the food" :)). We're headed to Seattle on Tuesday but I'm sure we'll head to this BBQ place as soon as we get back! Thanks again!

                      2. re: fourunder

                        Hmmm.... :-))

                        To keep that from happening, every post should include specific discussion of the chow as you've done here. :-)

                        People can adjust my tour any way they wish, i.e., leaving out stops, doing it back to front (if you like to start with candy and dessert! lol), etc. I'm considering tacking on suggestions for additional spots. For example, the Essex St. Market has been there for several generations and should be included. But any changes will probably have to wait until spring because I have to check things out myself, and being a weather weenie, I hate walking around when it's cold.

                        Btw, nothing wrong with naming names. I'm not a big fan of Chinese food, but others on the board are, so can you be more specific about the Chinese bbq store?

                        1. re: RGR

                          RGR and eternalX,

                          ON MY WAY TO KATZ'S ON HOUSTON STREET I STOP FIRST AT......

                          Please forgive me, but I cannot tell you the names of the two BBQ places, but I will direct you to the locations........I just go there on auto-pilot, so I do not pay attention to the signage. After my stops at Kossar's and Donut Plant, continue west on Grand Street until you cross Allen Street. There is a a restaurant in the middle of the block that has Wonton & Noodle soups and Roasted Meats and a Full Menu offering. I believe they lean towards Cantonese. Roast Pig, Red Roast Pork, Soy Sauce Chicken, Roasted Ducks, Ribs and Chicken Wings. All Excellent, but more expensive than the next recommendation.

                          On the East corner of Grand and Orchard there is another restaurant that is good, but I only go there for a quick fix of limited Dim Sum selections.

                          On the West Corner of Grand and Orchard is The BBQ Shoppe with Chinese Baked Goods and a Vegetable Stand in front of the store. This is where you will find the Roast Pig for $4.00/lb. and the Ducks for $8.00. In NJ, these items are $7.50/lb. and $15 respectively for the same items, These prices were in effect as of November, but they may have risen nominally. This shop also has Custard Tarts, Coconut Buns, and Baked Roast Pork Buns for .50-.60 cents and good coffee as well. They have all the meats, except the wings, as the restaurant mentioned above, but much cheaper with the same excellent quality. This extension area of Chinatown is a real bargain for produce, baked goods, meats and fish...........probably the cheapest and freshest in the city from my experience. This store also sells innards and noodles for anyone interested . They come in aluminum tins and will be on the counter......the price.....a buck or two......nothing higher. Kidneys, livers and etc.


                          1. re: fourunder

                            Thanks, fourunder. With those directions, anyone who is interested can easily incorporate these places into my LES tour.

                            1. re: RGR



                              For your LES Excursion tour you should mention the Chinese area on Grand Street from Allen Street to the Bowery. There is excellent shopping for everything Asian, meats, seafoods, produce, dry goods and fresh made soy products. The prepared foods and Street carts start at a buck for noodles, fried rice and spring rolls......then there are the BBQ stores and the Apothecary with herbs and teas. Last, there are some great Chinese Bakeries with many items starting at .50 cents. If you haven't tried yet, you must try a curry turnover.....A Chinese Style Empanada made with beef or chicken, baked in puff pastry.....the cost....a mere .60 cents.

                              1. re: fourunder


                                As I mentioned previously, I am not fond of Chinese food and rarely eat it. So, when it comes to my tour, I would not feel comfortable including places in that cuisine category. Or for that matter, any place I have not personally tried. Of course, whenever my tour is discussed on a thread, others are free to chime in and suggest places in the area that they feel are worth a visit -- as you are doing here. :-)

                                1. re: RGR


                                  Perfectly understandable......I'll get my walking shoes ready for the Spring.

                                  1. re: fourunder


                                    Perhaps we can meet up.... :-)

                                    1. re: RGR


                                      Will I have to share my Pastrami Sandwich?

                                      1. re: fourunder


                                        Never! You've made it quite clear how you feel about sharing. But no problem. I will bring Mr. R. along who always shares with me because it helps keep his weight in check! :-))

                                        1. re: RGR


                                          Wink, wink.......I actually will share anything, even my Pastrami sandwich from Katz's..........I worded the content in the original reply for dramatic effect.

                                          1. re: fourunder


                                            I was thinking that you would be one amazing fellow if you can down an entire pastrami sandwich and still continue eating your way along the tour without exploding. Even with sharing pretty much everything -- I always get my own egg cream -- by the end of the tour, I'm stuffed!

                          2. re: RGR

                            Wow, thank you very much for the comprehensive tasting tour of the LES. I've been to Katz's once, and sure felt like a bumbling tourist as I stood in line not knowing the process. Contrary to popular myths, the cutter behind the counter was extremely friendly and helpful!

                            I am going to be there in two weeks for work and think I would like to do as much of the tour as my belly will allow. Can you tell me how long it might take in all so I can budget time, and about how much mileage is covered? I will probaby need to do this in the evening - will that be a problem?

                            Thanks again!

                            1. re: ScarletB


                              The last time I checked out the tour, we did it on a Sunday. We got to Katz's between 11-11:30 a.m. and, iirc, we finished between 1 and 2 p.m. (Note: That did not include the Tenement tour which we took many years ago before I began participating on Chowhound.) The egg cream stop at Ray's involves the furthest detour. The other places are relatively close to one another. Depending on how late in the evening you go, some places may not be open.

                        2. re: fourunder

                          "tell them to go to Brooklyn and purchase better knishes for you and deliver them to your home if they feel so strongly about the demise of Yonah Schimmel"

                          Umm the knishes @ katz's are better than YS...

                        3. there are separate lines for hot dogs and sandwiches,, and another line for french fries and soda. you can get table service, but a dollar tip to the counter man, will get you a much bigger sandwich than table service . Be careful not to lose the tickets they give all of you , or you'll have a big problem