My old roommate Kim and I left a strange dance party quite tipsy in the middle of the night, and we realized we would be passing by Katz's on the way home. It's one of those places that was so thoroughly on my foodie destination list but I kept not getting around to trying. This is because it's fucking expensive.
Beef stew is 17 bucks. Sandwiches are $15 -17 (unless you want a bologne or liverwurst or chopped liver, for $11). Other than the hot open-faced turkey, roast beef, or brisket sandwich plates, which come with a choice of 2 sides (our of steak fries, potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni, and beans), the sandwiches do not come with any sides (unless you count a pickle).
Thus, it required having someone with which to split the cost of one sandwich and the drunken loss of inhibitions that allowed me to part with 8 dollars for half a sandwich, in order for me to finally fulfill this foodie fun fren.. okay I'll stop.
1/2 a Pastrami on Rye
When you walk into Katz's, you have to take a little tag that you then will have to surrender in order to be allowed to leave. Then you go up to a long counter and order. I highly suggest knowing what you're going to order before walking in, as you won't have much time to figure out the menu situation or even necessarily be able to read the sprawled writing on the wall behind the counter.
Two guys started teasing Kim and me by pretending that they too were first-timers here at Katz's, feigning commiseration about our ordering confusion, which was of course also fueled by our drunkenness. They invited themselves to our table, and we realized they ate there regularly. Their apparent regularity at Katz's confuses me because, while the sandwich was certainly delicious, I still left feeling that this place was really a tourist trap. You pay a lot extra for the institution-ness. If you want some amazing smoked meat, I think you're way better off going to Mile End. But then, maybe the boys find the expense of Katz's worth it if it provides them with ways to meet girls. Unfortunately for them, it didn't even work on the straight one of us.
I was prompted to finally write my Katz's review because I saw this article on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food blogs:
"Katz's Delicatessen: Changing little over its century-plus of operation ("Send a salami to your boy in the army!" a sign in the window still reads), New York deli Katz's is about as obvious a tourist destination as NYC has—but man, is it a good one. As a pastrami destination there's none better. Either a simple pastrami sandwich or a Reuben will do you right, and either will fill you up for days with some of the finest smoked meat we know. Order at the counter and your sandwich-maker will slice off a piece of pastrami and hand it to you so you can nibble as you wait; licking those smoky, fatty juices off your fingers is one of the city's great eating pleasures. New York has other delis—but for the combination of meat, charm, history, and Lower East Side digs, Katz's is your place."
One thing that clearly has "changed over its century-plus of operation" is its prices. I'd love to
know how much a pastrami on rye cost in 1888 and how it's increased to 16 bucks today.