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Aug 6, 2009 07:22 PM

Katz gets stingy


Eat a pastrami on rye and coundn't believe how small the pastrami portion was. It now cost $ 14.50.
The sandwich was a third the size even after the customary tip.

  1. I agree. I don't need it to be a pound and half of meat, but I'm not full after eating their sandwiches. That's a crime for a deli.

    26 Replies
    1. re: OC Mutt


      i got the usual three meals out of my sandwich back about 2-3 weeks ago....

      1. re: david sprague

        Yes, nothing has changed, sorry if someone was unlucky.

          1. re: Wilfrid

            A number of someones, who are becoming increasingly hard to write off as their numbers grow and Katz's bread shrinks.

            1. re: sugartoof

              Where can you get a better pastrami sandwich in New York?

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                Easy question (and even easier answer): Sarge's.

                1. re: ellenost

                  Simply not true, in my experience. My wife and I made a point of stopping at Sarge's for pastrami and corned beef, based on recs from CH. We were both disappointed. Maybe we caught them on an off-day or maybe it's just a matter of taste, but we thought that the meat was in no way as good as Katz's - or Carnegie's, for that matter.

                  1. re: Striver

                    I think you may have caught them on a very rare off-day. I've regularly had the pastrami for the past 17 years, and have never had less than a great pastrami sandwich.

                  2. re: ellenost

                    does sarge's handslice the meat?

                  3. re: Bob Martinez

                    Better is subjective.... how do you make a meal out of a stingy Katz's sandwich?

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Sugartoof, I will bet you the price of a Katz's sandwich that there is 1/2 lb or more of pastrami in the sandwich. Put up or shut up.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        Oh now it's only a 1/2lb huh?
                        Funny how the portion size shrunk even during the course of this thread.
                        Frankly, the weight of the meat isn't always indicative of portion size, just how much water, and who knows what they're injecting into it.
                        Anyway, if you're planning on bringing a meat scale and some gold coins, maybe another Chowhounders wants to take you up on it for a laugh.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Half a pound of meat is stingy? How much meat would be considered not stingy in your mind?

                          I knew you'd never take the bet. You refuse to name a place with better pastrami instead you contend that the sandwich is "stingy". When I ask you to bet that the sandwiches are filled with plenty of meat all of the sudden you accuse Katz's of injecting water into the meat. What's next that it's not actually beef?

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              OMG, I think we need to make a Chowdown out of this. We pick a day, and agree to meet at Katz's, say around 11:30 am before the rush. I'll bring the scale. Each of us gets in a different line and orders the pastrami sandwich. We then take our respective sandwichs to the self-serve/eat in tables and weigh each one. From this, we can determine the average portion size of a Katz pastrami sandwich. Once the question has been settled once and for all, we have a lovely lunch of pastrami on rye together with fellow food enthusiasts. Any takers??? If we get 5 or 6 of us, it should make for a nice sample size.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                Here's a picture of a Katz's sandwich from this past January -

                                Here's another one from this past June -

                                Anyone who thinks that the sandwiches are shrinking ought to run a Google image search. The pictures were taken over a range of time but one thing is remarkably consistent - they're all big.

                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  What is this, the Little Rascals? I have no idea what you're even talking about a bet. You should reread through this post, and the varied opinions, and stop with the insecure challenges on a sandwich. The whole idea of a bet is ridiculous. If you can't respect the other reports on here contrary to your own experiences, then perhaps you shouldn't be on this forum. We're not talking about your mother, or your religion. It's a sandwich. Unless you owned the company, you're out of line in taking this so personal. Not just you, but a hand full of posters.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    No, they do not all look big once you get to the 2nd page, and either way, anything would look big in ratio to the near miniature bread.

                    2. re: OC Mutt

                      I would like to know how many ounces are on one of the sandwiches.
                      It should be 18 oz for that price.
                      Now, we have an issue, mirabella saying it was super small(1/3 the size it used to be, if that is what you meant, I am sure it did not lose 2/3 the size and thus credibility would be undermined, if another meaning, my apologies) and sprague saying it was 3 meals.
                      Honestly, Sprague, 3 meals at any point from that is way too many. A bit like Jerry ordering salad at the steakhouse(on tv right now).
                      I do not go very often but if I happen to, I hope to remember to weigh one.
                      Better yet, someone else does so sooner.

                      1. re: dietndesire

                        Can you tell me how you came up with the 18 oz figure? The weight of a Katz's sandwich has always been estimated to be about 3/4 of a pound at least that's the number I've heard thrown around for at least the last decade.

                      2. re: OC Mutt


                        I don't know how anyone could stretch their sandwiches into 2 meals.
                        They simply do not fill me up.

                        The bread is getting smaller and they are folding the piled meet in the center to give the illusion it's stuffed when they cut it. You're left with that crappy fake rye along the edges where there's barely any meat.

                        I caused a fuss with my criticisms last month, and I stand by it. You shouldn't have to play up your NY accent, or put on a dog and pony show to get a meal sized sandwich at that price.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          NYers don't have to play up their accents... the accent is just, well, there. You know, from birth.

                          I don't have any vested interest in Katz's except for the great meals I've had there--and there have been many since I was a kid.

                          I just read the fuss from last month. If you are in the camp of not liking Katz's that is fine... there are many other places to eat in this city some good, some bad, some that will be hotly debated.

                          That is the great thing about CH... room for a lively debate.

                          1. re: iluvcookies

                            Well you've mentioned your NY accent as part of your ordering routine. In another comment you're implying you have to be a New Yorker to appreciate the place.
                            Oddly, it caters mostly to tourists and a core following mostly from the outer boroughs (I don't know many Manhattanites tossing $15 at a deli sandwich, more than once)....I love that it's there for my own selfish nostalgia reasons and do hope there are true New Yorkers who will continue to support the place with undying loyalty. I mean that without sarcasm. We're talking about food, but what you're getting out of that meal sounds like much more than just a sandwich for you, and that's cool.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              If I ever thought the food at Katz's wasn't up to par, I'd be among the first to post it. NY is where Katz's is and has flourished for over 100 years.
                              Yes, the place is more than just a sandwich. And that absolutely is cool--in fact, that 's the point. Meals are often about more than the food.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                i was born in brooklyn, but moved to manhattan when 4. i live in manhattan now. i have been to katz's more than once. i will continue to go to katz's.

                                1. re: thew

                                  My DH and I will raise a pickle to you, fellow CHer thew!

                        2. My guess is they are reducing the circumference of the bread slightly to preserve the illusion- the sandwich still looks stuffed, but at the end of the meal you ate less.

                          1. Are you tipping the guy behind the counter? I give him a couple bucks right as I order and I've never had a problem with portion size... and free tastes before the sandwhich is done. Not sure if this was common practice, or just something I was brought up doing, but it guarantees success.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                              The tipping thing is a myth. Tip no tip the sandwich is always the same and you still get a sample. If you don't believe me try it for yourself. The cutters are on automatic pilot they do the same thing a hundred times a day. There can be a difference if you ask for fatty.

                              1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                I agree with spends rent on food. Those guys will treat you the same. I mean, maybe if you stuck a 20 in the cup they wouldn't, but normally whether you tip reasonably or totally stiff the guy he's going to give you a sample at random (not each and every single orderer gets a sample) and the sandwich will be about the same, unless you ask for fatty. He'll stab you if you ask for lean LOL.

                                But I do happen to agree with jf mirabella, who said that the sandwich has gotten smaller. IT ABSOLUTELY HAS. Not a third the size as you say, but we all love hyperbole so we knew what you meant. It is definitely smaller than it once was. Big mistake?

                                Look, they never had to be as huge as Carnegie to beat them because they were a superior product, and they're all the way downtown, making them a tad more iconic because you have to go out of your way to get there (assuming that Carnegie caters more to tourists who have heard for eons about Carnegie Deli, but never really know quality). But Katz's product had heft nonetheless--just under 3/4 lb I believe. So, Katz's did it because they could. But they shouldn't have. Problem for us locals and suburbanites is that we're going to keep eating there, and we're going to get the new and definitely un-improved Katz's pastrami sandwich. Same cutters, same waitstaff, same stupid ass ticket, same quality....less meat.

                                Is it a tragedy? The loss of some things in NY is felt like miniscule versions of 9-11 because we so overly romanticize Manhattan, and why shouldn't we? Every great film director has done it and done it in precisely the way we do it--in a sensory way, but also visually. The reduction in size of Katz's world famous commodity is not only felt by our bellies (probably an overall good thing), but by our eyes. There was something about being eye-level with that sandwich's profile once it was slapped onto a plate in front of you that hit you right there. That doesn't happen anymore. It's just a deli sandwich to your eye now. Your taste buds still jump into action like Airborne Rangers, but there is a slight disappointment visually when you take the plate and begin to look for a seat. When you take another thing off the landscape it stings because each little change dissolves some of the color, texture and fabric of the past. Kat' smart. Don't mess around with institutions. Like it or not you ARE one. You may do it slowly so we don't notice that you're returning to status quo, but please...give us back that quarter pound, dudes!

                                1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

                                  I certainly don't think the sample is random--unless I am incredibly lucky. I've been going since I was a little girl (for 20 years) and my daddy always taught me to give a dollar and I always got a big sample. I don't think anyone who tips will not get a sample. Maybe some servers will be nice and give a sample even without the tip. But if you didn't tip, and didn't get a sample, that's the reason.

                              2. A buck in the cup, a slight smile, and an order in my unmistakeable NY (Queens) accent gets me a heaping sandwich and a sample every time. It helps if you order straight out w/ hesitating.
                                ---Pastrami on rye, no mustard and half sour pickles please---
                                I learned that from my Grandpa, who is no stranger to good deli, even at 87 yrs old :)

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                  Nah, I agree with KTinNYC above: none of that stuff is really necessary. I'm new to the city and I tried out Katz on my third day here. I did enough research to know it was a NY institution, but not enough to know all the lore. I don't have a NY accent, I hemmed and hawed for a minute deciding what to order, and I didn't put a tip in the cup. I still got professional service, including a sample, and a delicious sandwich that was generously filled. Everything about the experience was terrific, and I can't wait to take friends when they come visit. (Though I'll probably fill them in on the mythology so they can have some fun playing along and doing it "right" !!)

                                  1. re: therenowtoo

                                    My sandwich was piled in the center with a small layer on the sides. Total height did not exceed two and a half inches . Quality as usual was fantastic. I long for the days when the old Jewish men would cut meat and tell you a story. They appreciated the tip and it meant something.

                                    1. re: jfmirabella

                                      i do miss those old guys. really a cultural loss....and it makes me a little sad to think about the old days (in part 'cause i realize it means i am old enough to have 'old days')

                                    2. re: therenowtoo

                                      Never said any of how I order is necessary, just that was what works for me (but if you ask my Grandpa you'll get another answer entirely--according to him that is how it's done. Am I gonna argue with a man nearly as old as Katz's itself??).
                                      New or old, you will get professional service. The counter staff has always been good. Someone will disagree with me on this but that's fine... the staff has always been good to me.

                                      Were the sandwiches bigger 50 years ago? Undoubtedly. So were cars. But after paying the same $$ at Ben's for sub-par pastrami how can one complain about Katz's?

                                      And I always tip--it just seems right to me--and I never felt is was not appreciated. But that is a topic for another board.

                                      1. re: iluvcookies

                                        Yep! Tipping is the right thing to do. I honestly didn't notice the cup (I was watching the guy slice), and where I'm from I never frequented delis like this where someone painstakingly makes the sandwich to order right in front of you. It didn't occur to me until later that I should have tipped him. Next time, I will. :-) And I love cookies too.

                                        1. re: therenowtoo

                                          They handcut the meat. There's some skill, just like there's skill prepping any cured or bbq meat....but it's not like they are assembling anything. There's no other ingredients, no garnish. It's as bare bones minimal as a sandwich can get. Sandwich making is an art. Defonte's comes to mind as a sandwich that takes some labor, and skill. I don't mind the tipping ritual but I've never seen these men do anything too painstaking. Even when they decide some meat isn't quality enough, they just toss it back so they'll serve it to someone eventually.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            I usually tip at Defonte's as well, but I don't really see how they do anything particularly artfull either... Never been to the one in the city though, so I don't know if they do anything special.

                                            1. re: StheJ

                                              Probably no different than the original location.. but constructing a sandwich that doesn't fall apart takes some care. Good distribution of all the ingredients is something I appreciate on a sandwich like their roast beef with the breaded eggplant, where all the major elements are made in-house with ample prep time.

                                          2. re: therenowtoo

                                            Hi therenowtoo
                                            No problem... Katz's is a lovely, unique place that has a certain appeal.
                                            May you have many terrific sandwiches there.

                                            And if you ever find that you don't like something there, I won't take it personally :)

                                    3. Just went for lunch and got the same sandwich I always have... including the half that sits now invitingly in my fridge. Maybe it's the accent or the tip before ordering or the fact that I always get it on a roll instead of the Rye which I don't particularly care for, but I'm not really sure what folks are complaining about.

                                      37 Replies
                                      1. re: StheJ

                                        Count yourself lucky. Trust us, there's less to the standard pastrami on rye than in the past.

                                        1. re: addictedtolunch

                                          As per my previous post, I disagree with your assessment on this point. As to trust, I'd be happy to administer my standard battery of tests to determine your credibility if you'd like. If you pass, then we can revist the trust issue.

                                          1. re: addictedtolunch

                                            why should i trust you when i can trust my own experience -- of eating at katz since 1983 with no change?

                                            1. re: david sprague

                                              I agree with david sprague.

                                              Those of us who enjoy Katz's will likely continue to do so. Those who don't, will not. There are plenty of us who love the place so it should be around for quite a while.

                                              And I'm starting to think there's something to the accent business here... maybe NYers are just more inclined to like Katz's??

                                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                                I am a New Yorker, loved the place all my life. Heck, they catered my bris, and if they got me through that...
                                                All that being said, while I may walk over sometimes myself when the craving hits, I can no longer take someone there who has never been. I can't have them pony up $15 for a normal sized pastrami sandwich.

                                                1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                  Maybe you should mention the bris to the cutter next time (no pun intended--really). That should get you a few more slices on your sandwich!

                                                  OK---time for a new thread to get more on your sandwich at Katz's????

                                                    1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                      lke the old joke - the pays no good but the tips are big

                                          2. re: StheJ

                                            My DH gets his on a roll since he finds there more meat on it that way. Maybe so... either way it is delicious. I wouldnt trade an ounce of Katz's patrami for a pound of Ben's or Carnegie.

                                            ...patiently waiting for the angry replies of fellow CHers on this....

                                            1. re: iluvcookies

                                              Oh these don't seem like angry replies...I got ganged up on for being critical of Katzs a couple weeks ago, so it all comes around.

                                              I have a question though... what kind of roll do they use? Is it like one of those things the corner deli would use on an egg and cheese? I could see the roll providing a better sandwich. Do they charge extra?

                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                never had thr roll....i cannot argue with anyone who says the rye is substandard (but it was kinda below average in the 80s as well)

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  It's more of a club roll than a round roll. About 10 inches long and 3/4 inches high. No seeds or anything, pretty straight ahead with great flavor and a nice crust. I think it's the same price, but even after all these years I still can't really understand the ticket business, so I just pay what they tell me.

                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                    I got the club roll once -- thinking I'd be getting a ton more pastrami in my sandwich. Actually the amount of meat is the same, but the counter-dude charged me 50 cents more for the roll though. This happened maybe 10 years ago.
                                                    I stick with the rye from now on and not buck the trend.

                                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                      Thanks(StheJ and Cheese Boy) that was very informative....and saved me some money.

                                                      The Rye is important on such a minimal sandwich.
                                                      Sad they don't bother to get it right. What are they saving, 30 cents?

                                                    2. re: sugartoof

                                                      "Oh these don't seem like angry replies...I got ganged up on for being critical of Katzs a couple weeks ago, so it all comes around."

                                                      You got tweaked because you claimed to have had better pastrami than Katz's. When a number of people asked you where, you wouldn't answer.

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        Be honest. I called it "chintzy" and people flipped like I had bashed their religion.

                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                          i can see not liking katz overall (although i am a devout fan) but i cannot fathom seeing it as chintzy, stingy, or any synonym conveying the same thing.

                                                          i still get the same 10 or so ounces per sandwich i got in the 80s and 90s. and, for some reason, that fills me up. twice over. when i was fatter, it filled me up once. but that's evolution for you.

                                                          curious to see what sandwich place is not stingy/chintzy in your mind. yeah, carnegie offers more meat (for more money) but it's three grades below.

                                                          1. re: david sprague

                                                            Carnegie is a silly amount of meat. I'm just talking about a sandwich you can make a meal of. Defonte's, Lamazou, Garden of Eden, even 2nd Ave. Deli.

                                                            I've never seen one at Katz's that you could make multiple meals from.
                                                            There's barely enough meat to fill the bread edge to edge, let alone make a second sandwich.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                              i freakin'; LOVE defonte's and guarantee you that katz puts more meat on a sandwich. second ave? i usually have soup and a dog. garden of eden. meh...may as well be eating at c-town.

                                                              1. re: david sprague

                                                                David, When you say you tip at Katz's, do you really mean you buy the meat by the pound instead? I'm not going to argue with someone who makes 3 meals out of a Katz's sandwich. That's just...amazing.

                                                                Does C-Town make sandwiches with Columbus meats, house made hams, turkey, or roast beef, 30 different types of salami and hams, and other hard to find imports? Of course not. Garden of Eden does.

                                                              2. re: sugartoof

                                                                If one is going to compare this to an ITALIAN deli known for its "disgustingly huge" (saw this on yelp dot com) heroes or a gourmet market, well.... it really is not the same.
                                                                2nd Ave Deli (when it was on 2nd Ave) gave Katz's a run for it's money for sure. Carnegie is good in it's own way.

                                                                Chintzy???? Sheesh.....

                                                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                  Who compared? The question was, what sandwich isn't chintzy in my mind. I named a few places. I don't need Carnegie poundage, I need the bread to be filled. Katz's doesn't provide that.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                    From your post:
                                                                    I'm just talking about a sandwich you can make a meal of. Defonte's, Lamazou, Garden of Eden, even 2nd Ave. Deli.
                                                                    I've never seen one at Katz's that you could make multiple meals from.
                                                                    Defonte's comes to mind as a sandwich that takes some labor, and skill.

                                                                    You mentioned Defontes before this question was asked of you... and apparantly you do need "Carnegie poundage" or you wouldn't have mentioned Defontes.
                                                                    I'm sorry the cutter's at Katz's don't fill your sandwich. They fill mine---both literally and figuratively.

                                                                    You clearly don't like the place but don't try to make those of us who do sound like slaves to some insane, outdated memory. Why not post a review of the place you do like... might bring them some business and give your fellow CHers some new insight

                                                                    Thew and david sprague... good to know we share a common food.
                                                                    This is all I'm going to say... though I'm sure sugartoof isn't done yet. Come on, prove me wrong :)

                                                                    1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                      You're implying I'm comparing an italian deli to a Jewish deli, which misses the point. I'm comparing a deli that carelessly slaps meat between processed junk food bread to a deli that puts condiments, stacks cheese, multiple other ingredients, etc. AND gives you enough meat to cover their own bread.

                                                                      It's lovely Katz's serves you a proper portion but that doesn't help me, or the OP, or the typical visitor. Your mileage may vary, buy at your own risk.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        Look at the pictures on this yelp link
                                                                        The average sandwich is plenty big so it sounds like it is your experience not the typical visitor.

                                                                        1. re: dagrassroots

                                                                          The "it's just you" line of defense doesn't fly. I didn't make this thread.

                                                                          In your picture, please note the size ratio to the persons pinky, and ticket.
                                                                          You can also see the lack of actual rye.

                                                            2. re: sugartoof

                                                              only because chintzy seemed, and still seems like the wrong adjective. overpriced, maybe. unappealing - perhaps to you, who am i to say? not the best pastrami, i don;t agree, but i don't share your mouth. but chintzy? just seems like that is not a word i think applies.

                                                        2. re: iluvcookies

                                                          "...patiently waiting for the angry replies of fellow CHers on this...."

                                                          I'm just angry that in throwing alternatives to Katz around, no one has mentioned Sarge's. In my view they are by far the closest to Katz's you can get. And you can still easily make two meals from one sandwich.

                                                          How does dafonte's make it onto this board? I can slap a pound of meet between two pieces of bread, but that doesn't make me the best sandwich maker in the city.

                                                          1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                                            I thought that this thread was about whether or not Katz's sandwiches had gotten smaller and not the quality of the sandwiches...

                                                            Frankly, I have my issues with Katz's: the rye is not that great, the cole slaw is so so and the russian dressing is horrendous in my opinion. So for a guy who likes corned beef on rye with cole slaw and russian dressing, Katz's is not the best place to go.

                                                            Honestly, I love Sarge's. The corned beef is great and I like the this slices as well as the bread and the russian dressing. Given the choice, I would definitely go there over Katz's.

                                                            In descending order of preference these days, I would say: Sarge's, 2nd Avenue and then Katz's.

                                                            In terms of Defonte's, for me it's apples and oranges: Meatball/eggplant/fried shrimp parm or an italian hero v. corned beef and pastrami on rye...

                                                            1. re: StheJ

                                                              Well right, I agree, but people are missing the point of how Defonte's got into this discussion.

                                                              I used it as an example of a large portioned sandwich, and also one that is involved to make, which requires some effort. Katz's doesn't, despite the reverence people have for the hand slicing. That was the only comparison being made.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                I guess... but usually they just slap some meatballs on a roll with parmesan and throw it in the oven for a few minutes or simply spoon the potato and eggs on the roll. You're probably right wrt the italian heros though...

                                                              2. re: StheJ

                                                                So StheJ, if I were a lover of the Reuben sandwich (and I am), and I wanted to have an awesome one here in Manhattan (and I do), would you recommend I go to Sarge's, 2nd Avenue, or somewhere else?

                                                                1. re: therenowtoo

                                                                  Well, I definitely would not recommend 2nd Ave as it is kosher, so no Reuben.

                                                                  1. re: therenowtoo

                                                                    Got nothing for you... Not a big reuben fan.

                                                                    1. re: StheJ

                                                                      Sorry for misunderstanding, StheJ. You mentioned liking corned beef, rye and russian dressing, so I figured you likely were a fellow reuben lover. Nevermind! And thanks for the pointer to Sarge's, windycity. Maybe I'll check it out.

                                                                  2. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                                                    I agree with you about Sarge's except IMHO, Sarge's is better than Katz's