Katz's Deli / Lower East Side

Originally posted at Tumblr on January 14, 2015, Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day.


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Seriously, it’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. Being a Sandwich Enthusiast in New York City, I celebrated the only way I conceivably could: a downtown pilgrimage via expensive cab ride through awful traffic for a pastrami on rye at the world-renowned Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston.

Right off the bat: Katz’s is expensive. Like holy shit expensive. Like $20 for a sandwich expensive. Though Katz’s pastrami lives up to the hype and then some, unless you’re celebrating an arbitrary sandwich-related holiday, I would eat somewhere else.

That aside, everything else was wonderful, from the old-school meal tickets to the free samples to the sign showing exactly where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm. 

And the pastrami. Looooooordy, the pastrami. I’m admittedly not well-versed in pastrami, but of the trusted meat-joints I’ve tried it at (Katz’s and The Strand Smokehouse in Astoria), this was the best. Tender, juicy, hot (a surprisingly hard quality to find sometimes), and unbelievably tasty.

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Grab your meal ticket at the door and head directly to the counter. I’d tell you to ignore all other distractions, but Katz’s has already taken care of that for you: the shop adopts a no-nonsense philosophy from entrance to exit. It looks like nothing’s changed since 1950, save the addition of a credit card machine. And I say that in the best way possible: the experience is bare bones, no bullshit, and strangely refreshing. I didn’t see the word “locally-sourced” even once. Don’t let that scare you though. From their website:

Our finished product can take up to a full 30 days to cure, while commercially prepared corned beef is often pressure-injected (or “pumped”) to cure in 36 hours. Yep, you read that right. 30 days vs. 36 hours. Now, which sounds like the better meat to you?
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I already knew what I wanted, but I highly encourage you to at least act like you’re still making up your mind, because tasting samples tend to be quite forthcoming if you do. I went with the pastrami and mustard on rye (sweet cheesus, this mustard was good), but the bagels with lox and the salamis looked great as well.

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All in all, Katz is a wonderful throwback to Old New York, but it’s just too expensive to recommend as an everyday lunch spot (All told, my order came to $25. I got a sandwich and a can of soda.). But if you’ve got friends or family in town, or want to celebrate a nonsense holiday for no other reason than you’re an American and you want to, I highly recommend it. There are far worse “touristy” (a word I hate anyway) things to do in New York.

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Also, here’s an insider tip: order “what she’s having”! It’s a great way to have whoever you came with refuse to split a cab home with you.