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May 29, 2008 03:33 AM

Londoner's first pastrami sandwich at Katz's

Just wanted to say I found the CH threads on Katz's very helpful in preparing me for my first pastrami sandwich there. London sandwiches are nothing compared to NYC's.
It was actually my first pastrami sandwich ever. I went with hubby, baby and sister. Hubby headed straight for waiter service seating so I had to holler at him to sit elsewhere. The place wasn't too busy (weekday late afternoon) and had a mix of locals and tourists. Each counterman had only about 2 people waiting in his line. I chose a counterman who looked sort of old and world-weary. The counter was quite high (I'm really short) and I sort of had to jump up and ask for a lean pastrami on rye with mustard. I didn't want to look stupid waving a dollar bill above my head (I'm sure if I were taller I could have nonchalantly held it in my hand in the counterman's view), so no tip incentive apparent but the man still cut several pieces for me to taste. I was holding a piece out to my hubby to try and get him to taste (he was too embarrassed: he isn't as enthusiastic a chowhound as moi) and to my surprise the man in line behind me popped it into his mouth and said 'that's good'. I was a bit shocked and the guy shrugged and said 'hey, your fella wasn't interested!'
I remembered to ask for a pickle. When the guy handed down the tray, it had the sandwich and a plate with about 6 pickles on it. I had to slam dunk the tip into his cup. That counter is really a bit too high. I had a Dr Brown cream soda as well. Hubby had a sweet potato knish, ice tea and insisted on having fries. Sis had chilli dog and capuccino(don't ask, her eating habits are a mystery to me). A few tables of locals were chowing down corned beef/pastrami. A trio of Japanese ladies were seated around a single pastrami sandwich, delicately nibbling away at bits of meat picked out from it, after they had photographed the sandwich from all angles. A guy in a suit and tie, wearing latex gloves disinfected his table and seat with alcohol wipes before eating his sandwich.
It was interesting and the sandwich was great. I couldn't finish it. I've attached a photo.
Thanks, chowhounds, for directing me to Katz's.

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    1. re: raji212

      I'm trying to shed excess post-pregnancy weight! I found the meat moist and tasty, even though it was lean. They also had extra-lean, but I thought that would be too saintly.

    2. medgirl
      That was a very entertaining post!. I'm glad you enjoyed the experience of Katz's as well as the actual sandwich.I'm impressed that you knew to get a Dr Brown's cream soda. Now that you're a 'Pro', next time, try one of their combo sandwiches. From what your hub ordered, I'd have to say you are gastronomically faaaar apart :-}

      1. Thanks for the coloful report and the photo, medgirl. That bit about the guy snatching the piece of pastrami intended for your husband is priceless! And so New York, in a good way, of course! lol

        Like raji, I was shocked when I read the word "lean," but I sympathize with your reason and am happy you found the pastrami to be moist. Dr. Brown's cream is my favorite, so you definitely made a wise choice there.

        "London sandwiches are nothing compared to NYC's."

        Boy, are you ever correct about that! From our experiences in your country, the British idea of a sandwich is one or two sliced of meat and/or cheese, so sandwiches in the US, especially in delis like Katz's, must be a total shocker for you! Even we natives consider a Katz's sandwich to be humoungous, so my husband and I always share one.

        In any event, glad to hear you enjoyed your Katz's experience.

        1. As I have said a number of times, the tipping stuff is just an urban legend. I have stopped holding out the tip (I tip after I get the sandwiches) and have always gotten my "taste" and the same thick sandwich as the more obvious tippers.

          5 Replies
          1. re: bobjbkln

            While it's true that tipping the counterman is not required, and you will get the taste and a thick sandwich even if you don't tip at all, it is a tradition.

            1. re: RGR

              I agree that one should tip. I just don't think that it is necessary to hold the tip out while one is on line, as one doesn't put it into the cup anyway until after receiving the sandwich. I believe in tipping, not bribing. And my point was, so do the carvers.

              1. re: bobjbkln

                I certainly have never thought of the tip there as a bribe, especially since you will get a fine sandwich even if you don't tip. That tip just says what a tip normally does: "Thank you for your service."

                1. re: RGR

                  We're getting carried away here in explanations, but the Urban Legend I was referring to was the oft-repeated instruction to Katz virgins to hold the tip in their hand when ordering so that the carver sees it. (That seems more like an attempted bribe than a tip to me). I was just confirming that one should tip, but no need to make your intention to do so clear in advance thinking that it will get you something you would not get otherwise.

          2. Yes, be sure to get back to Katz's when lean ain't an issue- you will be very happy. I personally just went again yesterday and boy oh boy, good as ever. I specifically asked for the hottest slab of steamed meat, cut from the center. I do wish they'd toast that bread though, but what are ya gonna do. I've got a couple of pics from Katz's on my new food-porn-for-the-soul blog. Long live Katz's..


            5 Replies
            1. re: FuDee

              I must jump in and say that, while I agree the rye bread used at Katz's is rather flimsy and does not provide good support for the sandwich, nevertheless, imo, serving a pastrami sandwich on toasted bread would be an abomination. But, hey, it really is all about the pastrami, so who really cares about the bread?! lol

              1. re: RGR

                When I went last year, I actually asked for my sandwich on club instead of rye, and it held up fine. I'm planning to return to NYC in a few weeks, and I hope to purchase about a dozen club rolls when I go back to Katz's, on top of my meal there.

                1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                  The first time I tried the moist fatty pastrami at Katz's, I literally became speechless! I just kept showing my "thumbs up" motion to the man, and he laughed and gave me a whole batch of fatty pastrami in my sandwich! :D

                  You know you can actually purchase the prastrami by pound at the counter at the back. Ask for the moist ones again and try them first. They will vacuum seal the sliced pastrami very tightly in plastic bags using a big machine. All you need to do at home is to boil the sealed package (without opening) and the prastrami comes out exactly like the hot slices you get in the store. I brought my family there and they purchased like 3 lbs (in six 1/2 bags) to bring back to Japan.

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    Fantastic tip about Katz's pastrami by the lb. kobe, thank you!
                    My visiting relatives are going to be very happy to learn they can recreate this gem of a sandwich at home!

              2. I have been eating at Katz for almost 60 years now and get the club bread most of the time. I don't understand why people shun it as it holds up so much better against both meat and mustard.