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Katz's not only downhill but off the map!

Just came back from dinner at Katz's. Everything except the pastrami and pickles were bad. Brisket dry and tastless. Potato Latke cold and bland. Matzo ball soup dark and tasteless. Cole slaw and Macaroni salad delivered in large buckets from Sally Sherman. The russian dressing was no good. Gave up on the knishes, last year they were dreadful. Has anyone found this to be the case or do I have a zinc deficiency or liver trouble that is altering my sense of taste? Have I outgrown a favorite? Or does the emperor have no clothes?

Tell me I hit an off night. Say it isn't so Joe.

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  1. well, let's see.......the matzo ball soup was mediocre at best when i tried it for the first time in 1985 and the final time in 1997 or so. latkes, pretty much the same. i order macaroni salad in a deli about as often as i order a caesar salad, so i can't speak to that. having had both katz's cole slaw and sally sherman -- via a queens deli -- in the past week, i can say they have as much in common as burger joint and wendy's.

    so i dunno....my gut feeling is that you were disappointed in katz's traditionally disappointing items. your fault? by no means. but stick to their strengths. after all, mcdonalds' fries are delectable, their side salads not so much.....

    1 Reply
    1. re: david sprague

      I didn't order the macaroni salad or in fact anything but my sandwich, but we were 5 people and i tasted most everything. Also noticed the counter man overcharged an the 5 sandwiches.

    2. Well said, David Sprague. (Was that a rhyme?)

      I don't go to Katz except if I'm in the neighborhood, and then only for the pastrami, which I find to be about on par with that at several other places (Sarge's, 2nd Ave. Deli). I know it's an institution, but I frankly don't really get what all the fuss is about.

      5 Replies
      1. re: cimui

        cimui, how are prices at Sarge's and 2nd Ave? I'm talking about the pastrami sandwich.
        Coming from the Montreal area, I found Katz pastrami sandwich way overpriced. Not so much of a complaint, but rather as a statement - yes, its an institution, yes its famous, and yes, every Japanese tourist wants to eat at Katz, so god bless them, they CAN charge what they want.
        So I'm just curious on prices elsewhere.

        1. re: porker

          Welll... not that much better, actually. Sarge's are around $10 and 2nd Ave's around $14. (Katz's are $15.)

          I agree: they're way overpriced, as a lot of kosher food is.

          1. re: cimui

            Just to note that neither Katz's nor Sarge's is kosher.

        2. re: cimui

          I don't know that I even like the pastrami. I just had my first sandwich and while the meat was thickly-cut and moist, there was barely any flavor besides fat. I'm glad I got to try it (though I wish I had gone closer to payday), but I don't see any need to go back.

          1. re: JungMann

            yeah, it is more understated than some variations i've had. i'm not sure whether that's a stylistic thing or an authenticity / quality thing, though. the more robustly flavored pastramis i've had were homemade (by a friend who is of eastern european and moroccan descent, but grew up in sweden and france, so who knows where she picked up her juniper- and coriander- heavy variation from!), but i could see how some might prefer to brine without the addition of as many spices, to allow the flavor of the meat come through. katz's version is pleasantly smoky even if it's not very strongly spiced.

        3. I totally agree-i only go for the pastrami!!!

          1. What did you eat the Russian dressing on? I hope not the pastrami!!! Seriously, I think the others said it well..you should not go there for things like chicken soup or macaroni salad. Stick to their strengths, which are pretty strong!

            12 Replies
            1. re: erica

              Distressing to read this thread...I'm planning a trip to NYC this weekend including walking tour of Lower East Side...of course we are planning to have lunch as Katz's. What else is good beside the pastrami?

              1. re: rocknroll52

                Get the pastrami---but if you have to try something else, the hot dogs are really good too. Forget the french fries; I always think it's a good idea, but it's not. Pastrami and pickles (especially the green tomatoes) are the way to go.

                1. re: corndog1

                  what about the corned beef reuben or the chopped liver?

                  1. re: rocknroll52

                    I've done the Reuben with pastrami a couple of times. I always feel guilty. It seems sacrilegious ;)

                    Plus they put the meat and cheese in the microwave to melt it.

                    1. re: rocknroll52

                      chopped liver, imo, is excellent. there've been times, sacriligeous as it may sound, when i've crossed katz' threshold not in the mood for pastrami and defaulted to a turkey-chopped liver combo. never a letdown.

                      1. re: david sprague

                        Iiinnteresting. Im definately going to try that next time.

                      2. re: rocknroll52

                        if you want chopped liver do a pastrami sandwich takeout from Katz's then hop over few doors down and get chopped liver at Russ and Daughters-then take a seat on bench outside and enjoy the scenery-people will be very envious at you!

                    2. re: rocknroll52

                      The Knoblewurst is great. And I always get the fries or a knish. I'll be the voice of dissent and admit I actually kind of like them.

                      And second the hot dogs.

                      1. re: CornflakeGirl

                        Truely the only things to get there are Pastrami, Knoblewurst and hot dogs.

                      2. re: rocknroll52

                        stick with the sandwiches. Pastrami, Corned beef, tongue, chopped liver. and the pickles, of course.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I like the pastrami and chopped liver the most. I didn't quite like the corned beef as I thought it was too dry. The tonuge was ok. They cut it vertically (top to bottom, not tip front to end) and so even with the fatty back side the slices were small. I preferred mine to be sliced crosswise with a wide surface area to enjoy the melting fattiness of the center.

                          You do need to ask for fatty (or extra fatty). Otherwise any meat type will be served as lean slices and sort of dry.
                          The hot dogs are great!

                      3. re: erica

                        Pastrami, Russian, and coleslaw is really really good. In Jersey this style of ordering is similar to a "sloppy joe". Sloppy Joe's are made using a specially cut rye bread, topped with a variety of meats, turky, corned beef, pastrami, coles slaw and russian dressing. It's usually served after a funeral or a party. You can pre-order them in the city, at most kosher, or kosher style delis, but they're for a group.

                      4. everytime i go to katz, i make a conscious decision to choose it over chinatown and i only have corned beef and matzo ball soup...... never regret it everytime.....but i'm in mott and canal the next week......agree, go w/ their strength.....i always ask for a fatty cut.....and then i put a dollar or two on the cup......never fails......been to canegie, artie's and in la langers. labels table and nate-n-als plus a slew of others not worth mentioning...........katz wins for me.

                        1. we just got back from Katz's. being true overworked new yorkers, we went there for break fast, were totally disappointed... I had a pastrami sandwich, my husand had tongue and corned beed sandwich. the soup was over salty (i know, it should be) but it was a bit too much... and the food was overall fair.

                          does anyone know the name of the deli on the north side of houston a few blocks east? and are the still open?

                          1. I was there on 10/8 around 9pm with a table of 8. Must've just missed you, not that we'd know each other by sight anyway. 7 of us got pastrami sandwiches, 1 got a side of chopped liver and 1 got hot dogs. I've been going to Katz' for 40 years or so and the only thing I'd ever recommend there is the pastrami and only if you make sure that they cut it from a moist piece. That being said, phantomdoc's post doesnt surprise me.... Katz' is a one trick pony, but it's a hell of a trick. (I must say that the liver and hot dogs were above average,but certainly nothing to go out of your way for... there were parts of leftover corned beef sandwiches on adjacent tables, and no leftover pastrami anywhere). It's all about the pastrami.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Steve R

                              Steve, we were sitting one table closer to the door from the Harry met Sally sign. We also noticed many uneaten sandwiches being left on other tables. We were curious as to how the buss people would treat the somewhat untouched expensive sandwiches and saw them dump them into bins with all the other soiled plates. We took home our uneaten pastrami and pickles.

                            2. i find the quality at katz's is better during the day. by nighttime the knishes have been petrifying, the hot dogs/knockwurst overcooking, etcetc

                              15 Replies
                              1. re: thew

                                In the day the owner is present and constanstly checks the quality. But the meat should be the same at night. The corn beef, pastrami and brisket are the best anywhere. The quality has not gone downhill at all. I agree with other posts , you need to ask for it "juicy" meaning fatty. They will do extra lean for those who hate fat, but the meat is tougher that way, The chopped liver is excellent. The french fries are fair at best. Nathan's french fries are way better. The knishes are Gabilla's square, same as every other deli. you just have to get them fresh.. I recommend the round knishes. The garlicwurst is unbelievable. The hotdogs are as good as papaya king. The soups are hit and miss. Tip the counterman first and you will be amazed at the sandwich you get

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  everyone always talks about tipping the counterman there, i have to say, as a lifelong katz's customer (40+years) i have never seen a difference in the sandwich quality with or without a tip

                                  1. re: thew

                                    in all honesty, i have never seen a difference, either. i simply believe that tipping those guys is the right thing to do.

                                    1. re: david sprague

                                      Tipping the counterman is not mandatory, but it has become customary.

                                      1. re: RGR

                                        I agree that it does not affect the size of the sandwich or whether they give you a "taste" while you are waiting. While I always tip, I never hold the money out where the cutter can see (by now I think that's crass) and just put it in the cup after I get the sandwiches.

                                      2. re: david sprague

                                        Tipping the counter guys is the right thing to do. The hot dog counter guys dont have a tip cup. The sandwich guys, do react well to tips. Always tip before they make the sandwich. I always get extra meat that way. And you always get a smaller sandwich from waiter service, so I suggest always going to the counter for service. Sount and half sandwich is a good deal , get 2 extra slices of bread and you''ll have an extra sandwich

                                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                                          Do a test for yourself. Don't tip until the sandwich is handed to you and you will see that you get meat to taste and the sandwich is the same size as if you tipped before cutting. I always tip but it really doesn't matter whether you do it prior or post.

                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                            what i found out today was, if you use a waiter for service you can use a credit card. Also you dont have to wait on a long line to pay. The sandwich may not be as big , but you get plenty of meat anyway.

                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                              You can use a cc at the counter on the far left as well. The one where you're able to purchase uncooked hot dogs, knoblewurst, etc. They'll also cryovac everything for you.

                                              I happen to find myself there last Sunday, on the way home from a bris, with my family.

                                              My parents and sister live on the island and try to stop at Katz's whenever the opportunity arises. Paid for everything with a cc. Even the sandwiches they bought for the car ride home!

                                              1. re: CornflakeGirl

                                                Credit cards are no problem at Katz's.

                                                1. re: phantomdoc

                                                  Unless things have changed very recently, credit cards are a problem at the cashier where most people pay (they are not accepted there). If you get waiter service--which hounds do not recommend, you can use a card. Otherwise you need to pay your check at the "send a salami" counter to use a credit card. Most people are not aware of that option.

                                                  1. re: phantomdoc

                                                    To reiterate, credit cards are only accepted with waiter service , or platter service at the back counter. No credit cards at the front register, And dont lose your ticket or you'll be doing dishes for the next 10 years

                                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                      You can take your tickets to the rear counter where you send a salami to your boy in the army. They will gladly charge your credit card. I have done this for years and have not had waiter service. You show your charge slip at the front register where you give back your tickets to exit the joint. bobjbkln and foodwhisperer may have been mislead

                                                      1. re: phantomdoc

                                                        You either misread my post, or I was not clear in writing it. I specifically said that you could use your charge card at "send a salami" counter. In fact, that was the point of my post; I would have had no other reason to make it.

                                                        1. re: bobjbkln

                                                          Right. During busy periods a member of staff does nothing but lead credit-card wielding newbies out of the front line to the counter at the rear.

                                  2. Katz's has always been about great pastrami and brisket. There only a few items worth eating besides those. Cornflake girls is right. The noblewurst is amazing, crunchy and sweet. Stick with these three, have a round not square knish, eat lots of pickles, have a Dr Brown's Cel-ray or black cherry with your sandwich and you've got the Katz's experience. Forget everything else. It has always been tbhis way at Katz's

                                    1. Katz serves food other than fatty hand sliced pastrami sandwiches, slathered with mustard, on tasty rye bread, with classic half sour pickles?

                                      I must be blocking...