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Nov 9, 2009 03:26 PM

Katz's--A Disaster

To me, the most important element in any sandwich is the bread, and the flaccid, flavorless, packaged rye--albeit Pechter's--failed badly. I actually made a pilgrimmage to Orwasher's to reassure myself it still existed and get some of its great corn rye (and walnut-raisin pumpernickel) before we flew home the next day. I asked whether it supplied any delis and the friendly clerk mentioned Pastrami King.

The pastrami was so lean that its nomal saltiness was over-prominent. I realize I could have requested end or extra-fatty cuts, but to my mind no self-respecting deli would offer pastrami so lean that it lost all its succulence and darn-near choked the person trying to swallow it.

A first in my long deli-eating life: The cole slaw and potato salad appeared to be sauced with the identical, soupy mixture. I'd happened to have had cole slaw at a coffee shop earlier that day and K's tasted and appeared identical, down to three (3) shreds of carrot in the slaw!

Interesting and generous mix of over- and under-done pickles.

I realize this is a personal prejudice, but I am accusotmed to being able to request Russian style sweet-hot mustard to go with my pastrami sand.

The broccoli knish was mostly potato but not unpalatable; my BH's Reuben was tastier than the pastrami simply because the ingredients were moister.

Far and away the most shocking and depressing was what we got when we ordered Katz's lemonade, expecting what we've gotten every other place on Earth we've ordered such an item, a house-made mixture of lemon juice, sugar, and water:, we got instead bottled stuff with high fructose corn syrup as the first listed ingredient and lemon flavor instead of juice.

308 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075

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  1. Try Sarge's next time. I adore their fatty pastrami. I've been getting the best pastrami sandwiches at Sarge's for over 17 years and no disappointments!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ellenost

      I know this is an old post but for the benefit of anyone reading it in 2013 Sarge's had a huge fire after Thanksgiving. They are closed and rebuilding. We in the "Hill of Murray" miss them dearly, especially at 2 AM!!

    2. Admit it Chowhounds...Katz's is NOT what it used to be.
      The 50's and the 60's are a thing of the past.

      3 Replies
      1. re: pbjluver

        katz's is a million times better than it was in the 60s.and 70s the quality since the new owners bought it around 1980 has improved greatly,, i dont know how katz's was in the 50s and earlier. The pastrami is exceptional and you have to ask for it juicy. Alot of "non deli eaters" do want the corn beef extra lean and they like it with absolutely no fat. fatty is better to me, but if one wants it xtra lean that's a matter of taste. A broccoli knish i wouldnt think about , a round potato that has alot of onions in it, that's the choice.
        The rye bread is just fine, its not as good as the hot rye bread i got from a kosher bakery in brooklyn the other day but what they have is fine and its the meat that counts alot more than the rye bread. Orwashers may have great pumpernickle raisin bread etc but that isnt something you want with deli meat. Lemonade, ummm i dont think so! try doctor browns cel ray soda. Ruben's hmmm thats not real deli.
        I do think that the french fries could use improvement , if they arent fresh and they sit under the heat lamp they are bad. Nathan's french fries are my favorite to go with deli food,,,belgian fries i like too,,
        Katzs matzoh ball soup is real good. The pea soup is hit and miss. Alot of people like the katz's cheese steak as crazy as that sounds.
        The cornbeef is really good but again ask for it juicy. I think Sarge's is minor league compared to Katz's. 2nd ave deli's pastrami and cornbeef is very good. Pastrami king is also minor league, Katz's ROCKS

        308 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          Foodwhisperer- I agree completely. Fries at Nathan's(coney island only) are great. Orwashers rye is delicious and reminiscent of the old Jewish bakeries on the lower east side. I brought some Katz's pastrami home and a sliced Orwashers rye (both the best),but the bread got soggy before I was half way through the sandwich and flattened out.

          1. re: Diane Dee

            I have to assume the fries at all of the Nathan's outlets are the same you get at CI. The ARE impressive. Too bad the ONE Nathan's here in No. CT just closed. I'm having withdrawals.

      2. Katz's did'nt do much for me, either...
        my comrades over on www.roadfood.com seem to constantly rave about it, however..

        Glad I'm not alone, anymore, FINE !!

        2 Replies
        1. re: ellen4441

          using roadfood for anything other than photos is a waste. look at the Katz site. Stern hasn;t been there in 7 years and with the whole site 1500 restaurants and 2100 reviews, barely 1.5 per on average, not exactly a good cross-section. Talk about a bit of an exclusive club.

          But the pictures are great

          1. re: jfood

            Thanks JFOOD, as I post a lot of those Roadfood.com pics you are referring to...!
            most the freshest material from Roadfooders is in the "Trip Reports" forum, and also in the "Sandwich" forum...
            I post under the name "ellen4641";;my most recent report is my "Pastrami in Philly, MEAT-up with David Sax".... just posted it last week.... went over real well...
            (also past reports on Carnegie, Harold's Deli in Edison, NJ, )

            I agree that the Roadfood REVIEW area is not a good cross section...

        2. So lets sum up -

          You didn't like the rye bread. Did you ever see a post that praised that bread? It's mediocre, everyone acknowledges it. The pastrami more than offsets the bread.

          You got lean pastrami but acknowledge that you didn't ask for the fatty stuff. Next time, ask.

          Sub par cole slaw and potato salad? Again, who told you it was good there?

          Katz's doesn't serve house made lemonade? Who knew? Actually, almost everybody knows that. Again, there are no posts that rave about Katz's lemonade so I'm shocked that you were shocked.

          At Katz's, you go for the moist pastrami. The bread is an afterthought. The sides are unremarkable. There's a reason that's the conventional wisdom .

          32 Replies
          1. re: Bob Martinez

            i get it on club bread...i dont deal with rye bread unless im at langers in LA...

            1. re: sam1

              I agree. While the club is rather chewy, it certainly stands up to the pastrami (and the brisket) much better than the packaged rye. The club gets no love on this board, but it is what I always order. Note that if the OP would have gotten on line like everyone here recommends, s/he would have gotten a taste before the sandwich was made. If the taste was too dry, a request for juicier would have been graciously met.

            2. re: Bob Martinez

              Too many people are complaining about different things at Katz's for them all to be simply clue-less cranks. There was a very recent thread regarding a perceived shrinking of the pastrami sandwich itself (I agree, and am no longer sufficiently "choked" by it, but others don't). But if we've gotten to the point where this once beloved place now only makes one thing worth visiting for, moist pastrami in insufficient quantities for $15 a throw, which can only be obtained even there if you get on line, ask specifically, tip properly, and the moon happens to be lined up with Alpha Centauri, it ain't worth the trip anymore.

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                I'm with you Bob :)
                One goes to Katz's for a pastrami on rye (not lean), half sour pickes and a Dr. Brown's cherry or cream soda.

                Just my opinion. I happen to like the place and will continue to visit for that one meal and the atmosphere it provides.

                1. re: iluvcookies

                  Add their Knoblewurst to that list and I'm there!

                  1. re: CornflakeGirl

                    And their hot dogs aren't bad either :)

                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      Love the hot dogs! And I'm probably the only person that actually doesn't mind the fries! LOL!

                      My parents go there and get pastrami, hot dogs and knoblewurst from the takeout area and prepare it all at home! They have a whole system where they steam the pastrami to reheat it!

                      1. re: CornflakeGirl


                        If you really like the hot dogs at Katz's, let me suggest that you find a store or market that sells Sabrett natural casing all beef franks and buy some. This is what Katz's serves. You can get the same for much cheaper at a store.

                        1. re: hotdoglover

                          I've had those as well and they don't taste the same!

                          1. re: CornflakeGirl

                            I think it's the grill... like a well seasoned cast iron skillet, the old grills impart a flavor that can't be replicated at home.

                            CornflakeGirl, I don't mind the fries either. Not the best, but OK.

                            1. re: iluvcookies

                              Or maybe the atmosphere. Food sometimes seems to taste better when you have it out. I do know that the dogs served at Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's Papaya are the same recipe Sabrett natural casing dogs.

                              Papaya King
                              200 W 14th St Frnt 1, New York, NY 10011

                              1. re: hotdoglover

                                Thanks hotdoglover... that's good to know.
                                When you make Sabretts at home do you notice a difference? DH wanted to pick up a pack from our supermarket but I have a feeling they aren't *exactly* the same as the ones at Katz/Papaya King.

                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                  The only difference is size and perhaps the preparation and grill. I've posted extensively about this subject in the past. Let me give you the short version. I know Sabrett distributors, a guy whose father delivered Sabrett hot dogs for 41 years including to Katz's, Papaya King, and Grays, and the person in charge of private label at Marathon Enterprises which is the parent company of Sabrett. I am 100% positive that the dogs at these places are the same recipe Sabretts. Sabrett has a beef dog and a beef/pork dog. That's it, 2 recipes. They do come in different sizes and either skinless or natural casing. Katz's dog is slightly larger than Papaya King and Gray's. The serial numbers are the same for these 2. They are 10 to a lb natural casing Sabretts. Papaya King is one of the 10% of accounts that get their dogs refrigerated rather than frozen. Perhaps this makes a difference.

                                  Another reason for a perceived difference could be that the Sabrett's you buy in the store come 8 to a lb rather than 10. The casing isn't as tight. But I am sure that they are the same recipe. Confirmed to me by the person in charge of private label who thought I was opening my own place when I called to inquire about buying some of his dogs that he sold to Papaya King. Despite their claims Papaya King does not add an extra spice.

                                  I was contacted by a local news program who was interested in this information. They found it from one of my past posts. They decided not to run the piece because they feared a lawsuit even though I am positive of what I stated.

                                  Years ago I spoke with an employee of Katz's over the phone who told me they use Sabrett. When I went a friendly employee told me the same thing. When asked about the hot dogs by someone else, one owner claimed the dogs were made on premise. When another owner was asked, he laughed and said they were made for them by Marathon.

                                  Papaya King
                                  200 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011

                                  1. re: hotdoglover

                                    HDL is correct. Many years ago, after my meal of Pastrami, I went to the take-out counter to purchase some salami and hot dogs to take home.......I seem to recall the retail price was something like $9.00 per pound for the tube steaks and I placed my order for a couple of pounds of hot dogs and knoblewursts.....I had never had a hot dog from Katz's, but I have had the knoblewurst before on premise........When I unwrapped the hot dogs and knoblewurst from the white butcher paper after I returned home.......there was a tag on the meats that said......*Marathon Enterprises, Inc, East Rutherford, NJ*.

                                    I laughed because I knew I had been HAD.

                                    btw......I am a fan of Katz's Pastrami, regardless of my past experience.

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      Thanks, Fourunder. For some reason many people have a hard time believing me on this one. I've had people tell me that they actually saw the distributor dropping of boxes labelled Sabrett. I know of a kosher deli that serves Hebrew National hot dogs. They don't mention or advertise it. But they sell them to go for $9.00 per pound. You can buy the same ones for much cheaper anywhere else.

                                      It's been my experience that places serving hot dogs want you to think that theirs are unique and that you can only get them there. Many claim to make their own. I ask to see the sausage making equipment. Several times they had to admit that they don't make their own. More common is the claim that a place gets a special proprietary recipe made just for them. Over 90% of the time this is bull. I happen to know people in the industry including some who are plant managers and some who own places that make hot dogs. They speak freely with me. One plant that makes an exceptional beef dog only makes one recipe. Different sizes, but one recipe. At least 2 people claimed to have dogs made by this company to a special recipe. My friend at this plant laughs and tells me it isn't true. I have no qualms about revealing this when I'm lied to. Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's are just the tip of the iceberg.

                                      Papaya King
                                      200 W 14th St Frnt 1, New York, NY 10011

                                      1. re: hotdoglover

                                        This is such great information. I'm really glad you posted it.

                                    2. re: hotdoglover

                                      Thanks for the informative post! This is the kind of info I love to read about.... like little New York "secrets".

                                2. re: iluvcookies

                                  I actually think the fries are terrific there, when fresh.

                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                      Amen Bob.

                      I'll just add, next time dig into your pocket and just give the counter guy a couple of bucks.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        I couldn't agree more.

                        By the way, even if you get waiter service, if you request juicy pastrami, you'll get it, and if you don't like the meat, you can send it back with specific instructions for how to remake the sandwich. I always wait on line, however.

                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          Please tell me if I have the drill down pat:

                          If you are, for whatever reason, about to be a tyro visitor to Katz's Deli, you should first: 1. not bother if you're not familiar with Chowhound 2. take whatever time is necessary to research all the (albeit contradictory) C-hound commentary on this place 3. if you happen to agree with most of the Western world that good bread is an essential ingredient to any good sandwich and you're planning to order a pastrami sandwich--and despite the size of Katz's menu, be warned that v. few other items are worth ordering, according to C-hound's Katz mavens--then go uptown to 78th St and stop at Orwashers (or another excellent bakery of your choice) for its spectacular corn rye and have it sliced (I grew up believing New Yorkers were fanatic about the quality of their bread, as I later discovered San Franciscans, Parisians, and many other folks were, mainly based on my own experience as a kid on the Island picking up rye bread for our family supper after winter Saturday afternoon matinees and having to hold the bag by its very ends so as not to burn my fingers) 4. if you're accustomed to eating pastrami sandwiches anywhere else, you'll undoubtedly, though erroneously, assume yours will include a choice between cole slaw and potato salad, so, if you find just a meat sandwich with no traditional garnishes other than pickles not up to your expectations, well before your planned visit be sure to find tasty, fresh versions of one or both of these salads and buy a half or full pint of one or both to bring along to Katz's 5. be sure to order one of Dr. Brown's sodas and not be seduced by the refreshing image of the house's touted "own lemonade," though, if you do want that particular beverage and are willing to tolerate the sneers from the appointed lords of deli, then be sure to make your visit early enough to be able to stop at Russ& Daughters for its well-recommended version 6. once you arrive at Katz's and try to figure out its unique and confusing "ticketing" system and order your sandwich--even though no one there will tell you that you have a choice among degrees of fattiness, not even the meat-slicer who hands you a taste with no explanation even when you ask him why he's doing so--be sure to speak up and request the leanness or fattiness you prefer 7. if you like your dill pickles either under- or over-cured (called "half" or "full sour" by those--like me--familiar with both growing and curing them and visiting establishments that feature them), speak up 8. if you want to pay with a credit card, there's a person near the far end of the counter who will permit you to do so, though again, if you're not privy to the arcane rules, you will not know this.

                          1. re: Fine

                            7. if you like your dill pickles either under- or over-cured (called "half" or "full sour" by those--like me--familiar with both growing and curing them and visiting establishments that feature them), speak up

                            I always call under cured pickles........new pickles

                          2. re: Bob Martinez

                            Good post Bob. They do get their rye bread from a well known bakery. I don't mind the rye bread, but as you say, I don't go their for the rye bread or the cole slaw. I do like their pea soup, the chopped liver is good, and the garlic wurst is fantastic. Awww no homemade lemonade, I guess i'll just have to settle for a Cel-ray or a cream soda. Who drinks lemonade with juicy pastrami anyway?
                            I did have brisket the other day,that was much dryer than the usual they have. But when you 1000 meals a day, i guess something can get screwed up sometimes. Someone mentioned the tongue wasn't their thing. Basically they pre-slice the tongue, so they can portion control it. The price of tongue is through the roof. Katz's blamed the Japanese for the shortage of beef tongue, as they are buying all they can.
                            So it's more that it is scarce and the fact that they pre=slice it, makes it not a great dish to get at katz's. For dessert, I recommend the cheesecake. It is very good. I'm not sure who makes it for them, but it isn't Eileen's.

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              So to sum up the summation, even those who adore Katz's pastrami will often admit that 90% or more of the food they serve there, including the bread that same celebrated pastrami is served with, is mediocre, or poor quality.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                >> the bread that same celebrated pastrami ... is mediocre, or poor quality.

                                And that's the reason why Langer's in Los Angeles wins the top spot nationally for the pastrami sandwich.

                                Mr Taster

                              2. re: foodwhisperer

                                Reading the OP and my reply was a trip down memory lane. 2009. Dinosaurs walked the earth.

                                In the meantime Mile End has opened up. Two locations - one in Brooklyn, the other in the East Village. They serve pastrami's Canadian brother, smoked meat on Orwasher's rye. It's very good although the sandwich is smallish and expensive. Still, it's well worth going.

                                I live in Brooklyn and lately I've been visiting David's Brisket House. Two locations - one in Bed Stuy and a new one in Bay Ridge. The brisket is fine but the pastrami is terrific. They sell the sandwiches in 3 different sizes and the prices are really friendly. The rye they use is a cut above the crap they use at Katz's but not as good as Orwasher's. The best I can say is that it doesn't get in the way, unlike Katz's where every time i go to Katz's I think "Wow, this pastrami is great but the bread sucks."

                                David's - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4362...

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  The rye bread never bothers me at Katz's. Years ago they got the bread from Fink, but Fink no longer exists. I used to live next door to Orwasher's so I know that bread very well and love it. I'm thinking if rye the bread at Katz's inhibits your enjoyment or the pastrami, maybe get it on club. Back in the day many people ordered on club

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    It's too bad. Fink actually did make good bread, as their slogan said.

                                  2. re: Bob Martinez

                                    How does the pastrami at David's compare to the pastrami at Katz's? I really don't care about the bread and usually don't eat it, anyway, so that's the question I'd care about. (Although, since I live a 10-minute walk from Katz's, I will still undoubtedly go there more than any other place for pastrami, even if it's only 5 times a year or so).

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      The pastrami at David's is very good but it's not better than Katz's. Equal? Maybe. I've never had them side by side. I do think they ought to be part of the conversation.

                                      Considering where you live traveling out to Bay Ridge is a real haul. If your curiosity gets the better of you I'd treat it as a day trip. Pick a sunny Saturday in early May and take a pastrami loving friend. Leave at 11:30 - you'll be in Bay Ridge by 12:30. Eat one of David's large pastrami sandwiches.



                                      Then walk up 5th Ave. to 86th St. The neighborhood now has a mid sized Muslim population and there's plenty to see.

                                      When you get to 86th St. make a right and check out the Brooklyn branch of Century 21. It's huge and far less crazy than the one in lower Manhattan. If you don't feel like shopping continue walking west and check out the waterfront promenade.




                                      It will be a really pleasant day.

                                  3. re: foodwhisperer

                                    Did you ask for the brisket to be juicy? I find that if I order it juicy, it's great, but otherwise, it's too dry.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      i asked for the brisket juicy , but ordered through a waitress,, maybe she didn't put it in that way. It is usually very good, this time it was dry and a little tough. The pastrami was perfect though. So was my garlic wurst ( sliced, no bread).
                                      Other brisket I like is at Hill Country, and Fette Sau

                                2. i must say i am actually very happy to see this post. to me katz's is a litmus test of knowing whether someone is a "foodie" or a food person, a trendy food network influenced eater or a connoisseur. katz's is just plain awful and has been for many, many years. In fact they are very consistent in how little they care about their product. I’ve eaten at katz’s probably about 50 times in my life and yes, there was a time where the food was to die for but those days are LONG gone bubby. If given the choice of kat’s for dinner or going to bed hungry, I’m sorry to report that I would wait for breakfast. at this point i don't know any new york jews who even eat there any more. i still end up there about once year and for the last 4 times i've been there the food has been so bad that it's not even worth sending back. Literally it’s been take two or three bites of what tastes like an old hotdog and take your ticket up to the counter and get the hell out. It’s astounding to me that people can be so influenced by others that they ignore their own taste buds…

                                  if you want good pastrami I am sorry to report that you are not going to get in manhattan. I’ve been to ben’s, 2nd ave, katz’s, sarge’s, Carnegie, and noah’s ark all several times and the only one that even comes close to resembling a good pastrami is 2nd ave. in new york city the very best pastrami that you are going to get is at ben’s best in rego park. Hand’s down, no questions asked, the best. Outside of ben’s best the only pastrami that I’ve had that has really knocked my socks off has been Schwartz’s in Montreal. Sorry to be so vitriolic but I can’t tell you how many times on this board alone I’ve seen people include katz’s on their “must-eat” list and I always bite my tongue. To me sending a non-New Yorker to katz’s is a as good as sending them to bubba gump shrimp or hooter’s, a disgusting tourist trap…

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: El Tigre

                                    I really am sorry if I’ve insulted anyone with this post. My distaste for katz’s has been building for a long time and any venom in this email is directed squarely at them.

                                    1. re: El Tigre

                                      no insult , as far as I'm concerned...!
                                      I've tried Katz's a few times, and I found the pastrami tough to chew , just my personal tastes ...

                                      I DO like Ben's Best in Rego Park, AGREED!
                                      plus Jay and Lloyd's in Brooklyn...
                                      and the Carnegie (about 5 out of the last 7 times I got a perfect succulent pastrami sandwich!!!) Twice it was "off"...

                                      and I DO want to get to SCHWARTZ's in Montreal!!

                                      1. re: ellen4441

                                        Tough to chew? I would have rejected that sample and asked them to bring another slab. It's very occasionally happened to me that I got a sample that was a bit gristly or something.

                                        1. re: ellen4441

                                          I had a recent very bad experience at Jay & Lloyd's in Brooklyn. Food was terrible and service was worse! Won't go back--ever!

                                      2. re: El Tigre

                                        you must always order your pastrami, wherever you are, fatty & nasty.

                                        1. re: El Tigre

                                          Severely misguided! I know many NY Jews (myself included) that still eat at Katz's. Been doing it for more than 35 years! If you know how to order you rarely leave disappointed.

                                          Been to Ben's Best many times as well. I think it's slipped in recent years. And don't even get me started on Knish Knosh.

                                          1. re: El Tigre

                                            I take my friends to Katz's and like it better than Schwartz's and Ben's Best. Does this really make me a mere 'food person'? ohhh f'ng well. To each their own, makes the world go around

                                            1. re: El Tigre

                                              Langer's in L.A. also makes a better pastrami sandwich than Katz's, hands down. and their bread is way superior besides. I only go to Katz's now when friends or family come to town and ask.

                                              1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                No one claimed that Katz's was the best pastrami in the known universe. Langer's can have LA. Katz's and Sarge's rule New York.

                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                  ...and Irving's Deli in LIvingston, NJ currently beats them all. :)

                                                2. re: addictedtolunch

                                                  Langers is my #2 favorite pastrami, after the Carnegie...!
                                                  Just had Langers last month during an L.A. vacation ...

                                                  And the Pastrami Queen in Boca Raton, FL (homemade pastramii!!) rounds out my top 3 !!!!
                                                  (former owners of the Pastrami Queen in NYC)

                                                  Pastrami Queen
                                                  1125 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10075

                                                3. re: El Tigre

                                                  I'm a New York Jew and love Katz's! And their pastrami is far better than 2nd Av. Deli's. I always get it juicy and don't care about the bread. I like their brisket a lot, too.