Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Katz’s Delicatessen


Sandra Levine
 Share

Recommended Posts

Just returned from Katz's. I hope you'll have better than we did tonight. One sandwich was made from a paler piece of meat, with a thinner, spottier spice crust than the other. We switched halves so each of each had half of the better sandwich. The better pastrami was dark red, thickly coated with crushed coriander and pepper, warm, melting and not too salty. Even the lesser sandwich was pretty good -- better than the pastrami almost anywhere else.*

Katz's pastrami is always a little uneven and unpredictable; that's part of what makes it fun for me, but the other problem was more serious: the bread.

Pechter's rye, soft, flavorless, cut too thin and packed into bags while it was still hot so that it dissolved into a soggy mess as soon as the hot meat hit it. I usually have one pastrami sandwich a year, but I guess I'll just have to have another later this summer, to erase the memory of this one. :angry:

The pastrami sandwich costs $9.95. I would be willing to pay a dollar more for high-quality rye bread.

* Alan says the goose pastrami at Jo Geoldenerg's on the rue Rosier in Paris is even better.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been eating at Katz' for 25 years, and FRANKly, I never thought they rated anything more than average.  The meat, as previously stated, is unpredictable.  It's been a few years since I've eaten there, but I always found if you didn't tip the sandwich guy (and get in return a few gratuitous slices while he was making the sandwich), the sandwich really sucked and was small.  Some people may say that's a beloved Katz' tradition, but I thought it was/is obnoxious.  The only reason I kept going back was for their great hot dogs and fries, though the fries seemed to have gone downhill the last few times I ate there.  And 25 years ago it was a trip to eat with all the sleazy hookers an drug addicts.  But times have changed and now they get a Sunshine Theater type crowd, i.e., yuppies.  And their knishes basically suck, being a notch above the ones you buy from street vendors, but that problem was circumvented by stopping in that knish place just up the street (Moishe's??) and sneaking them in.  Is that as bad as sneaking in egg foo young to the cineplex?  Anyhow, it pays to go a little ways up to the 2nd Avenue Deli and get the best jewish deli food in nyc.  And if atmosphere is what you're looking for, the 2nd Ave. Deli does a whole lot more for me than the depressing atmosphere at Katz'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glenn - Let me ask you this, what's the difference between having to schmear the slicers at Katz's a few bucks and their charging $11.95 for a sandwich? If the sandwich was the higher price, would you not go there? And the other side of this coin is that the pastrami everywhere else is third rate. Since Leo Steiner died the Carnegie seemed like they lowered quality, and the Pastrami King has passed away. Katz's is the only place with house pastrami. To me it's worth $15 a sandwich if not more. Schmearing or no schmearing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glenn - Let me ask you this, what's the difference between having to schmear the slicers at Katz's a few bucks and their charging $11.95 for a sandwich? If the sandwich was the higher price, would you not go there? And the other side of this coin is that the pastrami everywhere else is third rate. Since Leo Steiner died the Carnegie seemed like they lowered quality, and the Pastrami King has passed away. Katz's is the only place with house pastrami. To me it's worth $15 a sandwich if not more. Schmearing or no schmearing.

I hate being blackmailed.  Let them increase the prices and pay the sandwich guys more.  I recall my first such experience with the blackmailers -- I was unaware of the custom, and being young and poor, I balked at giving the guy any money and got a small very fatty sandwich.  Regardless, I wouldn't buy a pastrami sandwich at Katz's no matter what the price.  It's a chancy proposition - quality wise - as far as I'm concerned.  I don't know about inhouse or outhouse, but I know what I like, and the pastrami at 2nd Ave. Deli is far superior to my palette.  I also give high marks to Ben's.  And sigh, goodbye to the wonderful sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I don't know about inhouse or outhouse, but I know what I like, and the pastrami at 2nd Ave. Deli is far superior to my palette.  I also give high marks to Ben's."

That's sort of like saying you like Omaha Steaks better than the ones you get at Peter Luger's.

Look you're entitled to your opinion but I would try and think it through differently. Make believe you are contributing to the school fund of the pastrami slicers children. I assure you if you go back with an open mind, and set aside any thoughts about being blackmailed, you will find the pastrami sandwich at Katz's at least five times better than what's available at the Second Avenue Deli. And I think all the pastramaniacs on this board will second that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Put it up for a vote! :)) Granted, I don't have the most discriminating palette in the world, but I stand by my opinion.  I've never thought much of the food at Katz's and it always amazed me that they're constantly in the various "best" lists.  But then again, so are Corner Bistro's hamburgers.  So much for public opinon.  The fact that I've continued to eat at Katz's for so many years attests that I haven't let my distaste for their "tipping policy" sway my opinion.  I honestly don't think their food rates more than a satisfactory, except for the great hot dogs.  On the contrary, I love good pastrami, have been going to kosher and kosher style delis since I was a wee tot (and remember when there used to be a deli on virtually every block), and I think 2nd Ave. Deli's pastrami ranks high up there.  Not the best in the world, but better than Katz'.  I'd love to hear other opinions, but my opinion stands.

Now, just as importantly, who makes the best knish?  Specifically, kasha and potato (round, not square), my favorites.   I think Moishe's is good, but to me they don't taste completely fresh.   The best I've had was on Grand St. and in, NJ, Bergenfield and Ft. Lee, though I can't remember the names of the delis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sandra:

I and a friend of mine were at Katz's last night around 2 A.M., had pastrami sandwiches, and enjoyed them. They were a bit fatty (I knew there would be some fat on the edges because of the piece the sandwich guy gave me to taste, but it tasted so good - better than usual - that I said it was great). We took off some of the fat and enjoyed them. My friend also got some matzo ball soup, which he likes there (I've tried it before and also liked it). I also got some pound cake, which was very rich and also enjoyable; it was a big piece, so I tipped the guy a dollar. I washed it all down with some Cel-Ray, which is a unique taste that's not for everybody but which I like to have from time to time, partly for sentimental reasons.

Put me on record as having absolutely no problem with tipping the sandwich guys. I have found that they give good service, and I think they deserve the tip. I haven't found that they gave me bad service before they realized I was tipping them. Once, I even forgot to tip one and came back later to give him a tip. (I always tip a dollar per sandwich, for what it's worth.)

As for Second Av. Deli, I've previously mentioned that the last time I went there, I asked whether they had lean pastrami, was told they did, ordered a lean pastrami sandwich to go, ate it, found it was very tasty, but _REALLY_ fatty - just excessive. I resented that and haven't been back since. At Katz's, they give you a sample; then, you make up your own mind. I like that. I don't like lying, which is what the 2nd Av. Deli guy did.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents regarding Katz's. I'm from N.J. and don't get to N.Y. much, but had to go after hearing about how good the hot dogs are. I post on this forum mainly about hot dogs because it is sort of a hobby of mine (my family says obsession). I went with my wife, and we ordered a pastrami sandwich, corned beef sandwich, and hot dogs. The dogs are great, the pastrami was better than any we had (admittedly we don't have it it often) and the corned beef was good. I like the corned beef at Syd's in Union better. If you're ever in Jersey, try this place. It is a luncheonette/Jewish deli with great food. Considered the best or one of the best places in Jersey for a hot dog, they serve a long, all beef, natural casing (Best's) kosher style dog that is on a par with Katz's.

To Glenn and the other people who go to Katz's for hot dogs: you can have the same exact dogs at home for much cheaper. I found out from a friendly Katz's employee and later from the person in charge of private label at Marathon Enterprises (Sabrett) that the dogs used at Katz's are Sabretts with natural casing that come 8 to a lb. They are slow cooked on a griddle. Here in Jersey, I can get 3/4 of a lb (6 dogs) for a little over $3.00. At Katz's they go for around $7.99 per pound. I buy these dogs, as well as Best's from Newark, and other brands from around the country (via mail order) and grill them. If you want more info on this, see the thread on the Definitive New York Hot Dog. Papaya King and Gray's use the same dog (Sabrett's natural casing) but these are smaller, coming 10 to a lb. My contact at Marathon says that these places; Papaya King in particular, like to hype their dog as being made especially for them with special imported spices and casings. This is an exageration. The spices and casings may be imported, but the dogs are the standard Sabretts and not made special. There are different sizes, but just one recipe for their all beef dog, and another for a dog they produce for the Windmill, Hot Grill, and Callahan's in N.J. which contains pork.

John the hot dog guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

Steven and I, along with a friend (yes, we have one but we sometimes have to pay for his dinner to keep him around), had dinner at Katz's last night. With three of us, we were able to order--and eat--a good selection from the critical offerings. Granted, each of us stuck with our favorites (all the better to test quality control), but we covered a lot of ground. Our menu included:

Two pastrami sandwiches

Turkey sandwich (my favorite)

French fries

One knockwurst

Two hot dogs

A baked potato knish (round)

Sour and half sour pickles

Sauerkraut

Various Dr. Brown's sodas

My turkey, by all accounts, was as good as ever and I think the best turkey in the city (and totally unsung, as in, "Why would you go to Katz's to eat turkey?" Answer: Because it's the best.). It received high praise by all voters at the table. The pastrami was still "damn good and better than most but a little tough and fatty but not in the good way." It was agreed that this was simply batch variation. I didn’t eat it but that was the consensus of the other two. Fat guy can give further details. The garlicky, crispy-skinned knockwurst is one of the best items there and often overlooked. The franks are skinnier than I like but are excellent and still win high praise for everything else and the fries—though we got an overcooked and cold batch on the first go round (we exchanged them for fresh from the frier)—are still my favorite steak fries in the city.

All in all it was a very good meal. They were offering potato latkes on account of the holiday but we passed. I’ve never had a good potato latke in a restaurant. We did bemoan the absence of all of the old Catskills comedian type waiters who have been replaced with younger, humorless, rude waitresses. We now sit in the self serve area. A compromise we never forget to mention with each visit.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The last time I was there (during the summer) the bread had reached a new low, having started very a very low point to begin with. It was so soft and soggy that it was impossible to finish the sandwich qua sandwich and I had to eat the pastrami plain. Katz's hasn't used good bread in a generation. I am tempted to bring my own the next time I go and ask the counterman to make my sandwich using it. I attribute the failure to source decent bread to outright cynicism on the part of the owners.

Edited by Sandra Levine (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I discussed this with the counterman, because I was lucky enough to place my pastrami order with one of the few old-timers left there. He explained that the old seeded rye was abandoned because too many customers had allergies real or imagined. No it's not particularly good anymore, but then again there's only one place -- Orwasher's -- that makes a Jewish rye worth eating and I'm not even a big fan of that. Certainly, there is no Jewish deli in the city (I can't think of one anywhere, in fact) that serves good rye bread.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you should bring your own bread next time. Not that they would change anything because of it but you'd certainly establish yourself as a serious eater--and I'd bet the counterman would nod knowingly and give you a better sandwich--or just think you're crazy and throw you out. I'd give it a 50-50 split on odds.

I have to admit that I never eat the bread. Takes up too much room I'd rather utilize for the other stuff.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You don't really mean batch variation do you? Because that would imply that there was something wrong with the curing and smoking process for an entire batch. You just had a tough schtik of fleish which is how it goes sometimes. The next piece of pastrami from the same batch could have been silky with melt in your mouth ribbons of fat attached. But it's like my father the butcher used to say when I would complain that the meat he brought home from his shop was tough, "you can't crawl into the meat."

As for Jewish style rye bread, there must be a place in either the Flatbush section of Bkln or the Kew Gardens section of Queens that makes a good rye bread. Whether kosher or even an old school not kosher but Jewish style bakery. Or how about in Riverdale?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was a episode on that short-lived Jefferey Steingarten/Ed Levine TV show (New York Eats) on the Metro NY cable channel which featured a taste-off of Jewish rye bread. Anyone have Steingarten's or Levine's contact info?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any problems with saltiness of the pastrami? Two out of the last three pastrami sandwiches I've eaten from Katz's have been excessively salty - not enough that you notice it when you get your sample, but enough to become overwhelming during the course of eating the sandwich.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the Tribeca Oven rye is okay, but I don't consider it a deli-sandwich bread exactly. The thing about Jewish rye is that it fundamentally is not a great species of bread. The best examples, as at Orwasher's, are pretty good but not great. You've got to remember that the bread standard in New York is much, much higher today than in the past. So bread that we remember as good really doesn't hold up when measured against contemporary specimens. You want good rye bread, get Coumant's rye from Pain Quotidien. It's ten times better than any Jewish-style rye in the universe and would be a great base for a pastrami sandwich. BYOB forever!

As the consumer of the pastrami, I believe there were two defects: One, it was underseasoned and undersmoked. This would be a batch issue. It was also not the best piece of meat, which would be some other category of variation. I hasten to add that this was minor variation within the narrow band of Katz's pastrami quality range. This not-great example of Katz's pastrami was still better than any other pastrami.

I didn't notice a salt problem. Salty, yes. But not overly so.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with you F-G about bread standards having risen. At the same time, Jewish rye standards have fallen, so the lower quality is even more pronounced. My mother-in-law in NJ produced a very good rye bread a couple of months ago. It may have been from Wegman's. I don't know the supplier, but will try to find out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steven and I, along with a friend (yes, we have one but we sometimes have to pay for his dinner to keep him around), had dinner at Katz's last night. With three of us, we were able to order--and eat--a good selection from the critical offerings. Granted, each of us stuck with our favorites (all the better to test quality control), but we covered a lot of ground. Our menu included:

Two pastrami sandwiches

Turkey sandwich (my favorite)

French fries

One knockwurst

Two hot dogs

A baked potato knish (round)

Sour and half sour pickles

Sauerkraut

Various Dr. Brown's sodas

My turkey, by all accounts, was as good as ever and I think the best turkey in the city (and totally unsung, as in, "Why would you go to Katz's to eat turkey?" Answer: Because it's the best.). It received high praise by all voters at the table. The pastrami was still "damn good and better than most but a little tough and fatty but not in the good way." It was agreed that this was simply batch variation. I didn’t eat it but that was the consensus of the other two. Fat guy can give further details. The garlicky, crispy-skinned knockwurst is one of the best items there and often overlooked. The franks are skinnier than I like but are excellent and still win high praise for everything else and the fries—though we got an overcooked and cold batch on the first go round (we exchanged them for fresh from the frier)—are still my favorite steak fries in the city.

All in all it was a very good meal. They were offering potato latkes on account of the holiday but we passed. I’ve never had a good potato latke in a restaurant. We did bemoan the absence of all of the old Catskills comedian type waiters who have been replaced with younger, humorless, rude waitresses. We now sit in the self serve area. A compromise we never forget to mention with each visit.

No Chopped Liver?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You want good rye bread, get Coumant's rye from Pain Quotidien.
It may be ten times better, but I doesn't feel quite right for a pastrami sandwich. Another thing, that was my favorite bread for while, but lately I've noticed a change in the flavor. My wife thinks it's sweeter. I'm not sure I can describe the change, but it's less appealing to me lately. My source is Grand Street if there's a difference by location.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's all baked at the SoHo shop. I haven't noticed any change but I'll try to focus on the issue next time I buy a loaf.

I'm a big fan of reevaluating traditional bread choices. I think Jewish rye for pastrami sandwiches, traditional cottony hot dog and hamburger buns for hot dogs and hamburgers, etc., are historically accurate but objectively poor choices given the availability of so much good bread these days. I bet a pastrami sandwich would taste great on Pain Quotidien rye. It might seem strange at first, but I bet after five sandwiches you'd never in a million years go back to Jewish-style rye.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Should we also re-evaluate the proprtion of meat to bread? Personally, I find the bread doesn't play much of a part in my Katz sandwich experience other than temporarily keeping my fingers cleaning. That's an exaggeration, but never mind.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...