Katz Delicatessen


Another summer weekend day was wasted by Mother Nature. You guessed it, rain, and on the worst possible day of the summer, the day I was throwing my annual bar b queue. Nothing too crazy, stuffed hamburgers, hot dogs, and my famous Asian glazed chicken. After all what's a true gastronome if you aren't able to master the art yourself? However, thanks to the rain the bar b queue was canceled. This had left my friends and I with the critical decision to make "What's for dinner?" Honestly, I was in the mood for a good sandwich. Coming from the Mecca of sandwich shops, Brooklyn .Well known sandwich places such as Leoni’s , Johns Deli, or Nick and Tony’s just didn't cut it. I had to make my way to the lower east side of Manhattan for my first pilgrimage to Katz’s Delicatessen.

Here I am, 27 years old, a child of Russian, Jewish immigrants, a native New Yorker and this is my first time visiting the holy land of cured meats. I was ashamed; more so embarrassed to call myself a gastronome or even a true New Yorker and never have eaten at Katz. So a quick zip through the battery tunnel, onto the FDR, and before I knew it I was walking into Katz’s. As I walked in I noticed a huge seating area , saw dust on the floor ,and a man giving little pink tickets as if I was about to ride the roller coaster in Coney island. The place seems as if it hasn't been renovated since it opened in 1888 and for a minute I felt as if I had just walked out of a tenement apartment on Orchard Street in the 19th century and down the block for a sandwich. Unlike some pretentious hipster “crapery’s” with house music blasting, dim lighting, as if it the place was selling shitty clothing instead of shitty food. The walls were decorated with pictures of celebrities, political figures, and others that I am too young to probably remember or know. The seating area was flooded with fanny packers a.k.a tourists, hipsters, and old timers.

While waiting on line I could not decide what to get, brisket, corn beef, pastrami? Rye, club, or white? Fries, onion rings, cold slaw, macaroni salad? “NEXT!” as the man behind the counter shouted. Do I dare go for it? So I ordered a pastrami and brisket mixed on a club roll with a shmear of mustard on the pastrami. The best of both worlds served to me on a plate with pickles. The most important thing to do at Kat’z is leave the sandwich maker a tip of at least $2. As a result of me leaving a tip, the gentleman making my sandwich handed me a plate with a few slices of pastrami and brisket to try. A good move on his part because the meat looked so good I would not give a second thought of jumping over the counter and biting into the brisket and pastrami like a savage.

My sandwich was laid out on a plastic tray with a side of sour and half sour pickles. I was asked for my ticket where the price of the sandwich was written on. As I walked down to pick up an order of fries and a can of Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda I thought to myself as to how stupid I am for taking so long to visit this place. I grab my order of fries, my Dr. Brown’s, and head for the table where my friends were sitting. I was so excited I didn't know what to eat first. The fries were steak cut fries, golden brown and crispy, but I had to start off with the sandwich.

After opening up the sandwich and taking a sniff of the meat to get my taste buds going I noticed the meat was sliced thick. Being a native Brooklynite I like my cold cuts cut paper thin. But considering this is fresh meat I didn't give it a second though. I took a bite into the brisket side first. It was a little dry but seasoned right. I've had a lot of over salted and over seasoned brisket before in my life. Most people don't understand red meat only needs salt and pepper. Now to the pastrami. Perfection. The pastrami was juicy, a little salty but delicious, the brown deli mustard added to flavor of a great pastrami sandwich. The fries were golden brown, crunchy. I like my potatoes well done, almost even burnt. One thing I have to mention…no deli sandwich is complete with out a black cherry soda. I prefer Boylan’s black cherry myself but Dr. Browns did the job.

I honestly couldn't eat another bite. After the fries, the brisket side of my sandwich that I polished off with a grin on my face, and the soda, I realized people going to the electric chair don't eat this good. I brought my other half of the sandwich over to the counter for it to be wrapped. After semi -flirting with the counter girl she threw in a few pickles for the ride home. I grabbed the ticket off of my tray and walked over to the register to pay for my meal. This had to be the best sandwich I've had in quite a while. It was a real sandwich, a living remnant of what it was really like to eat in the lower east side once upon a time. Simple food prepared by the hands of those who respect tradition. None of this hipster, designer, Subway, Quiznos, Panini crap. Yes, this was a little pedestrian for my palate but there is one thing I learned in life as a person who loves to cook, eat, and eat some more…simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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