123 years in the making

Katz’s Deli, after opening in 1888 in the Lower East Side, has been selling their signature pastrami sandwiches for 123 years. They are famous for their kosher-style cold cuts and foods. Katz’s Deli sells over 10,000 pounds of hot, smoked pastrami every week. They attract hundreds of tourists and locals daily – there is hardly ever a time when there is no line.

We arrived at Katz on a Thursday afternoon and were quickly ushered in and given a ticket. At Katz, they have a ticket system where each customer receives a numbered ticket upon entering the deli. As you receive your food from the various stations, the employees will tally up your total on your ticket. They have separate stations for each item of food – one for sandwiches, one for sides, and one for drinks. At the end of your meal, you pay at the cashier with your ticket. If you lose your ticket, you will have to pay a $50 lost ticket fee. 

Katz’s Deli hand-carves their pastrami and cold cuts. There are six different carvers, which means six different sandwich lines. When you reach the carver, if you order their signature pastrami, he will cut you a piece to nibble on while you wait for your sandwich to be made. All their pastrami is hand-carved the moment you order. Your sandwiches are always steaming hot because their pastrami is kept in a smoking hot boiler until each individual hunk of beef is taken out of the boiler to be carved into slices.

Their signature pastrami on rye is about two inches thick. In order to eat this sandwich without dropping any pastrami pieces, you have to squeeze it hard enough to hold in all the meat. I recommend a squirt of mustard, if that is your preference. All sandwiches come with a side of pickles, which tasted more like salted cucumbers then pickles. 

The pastrami is still steaming when you bite into it. The moment I bit into my pastrami sandwich (with a dab of mustard), I almost cried because it was so delicious. The pastrami melted in my mouth and it felt like it slid down to my stomach. It was mouthful after mouthful of taste bud kicking flavor. The meat is cooked to perfection – it was juicy and tender. But despite the fact that the pastrami was soft and juicy, it did not leak into the bread and make it soggy.

I also ordered an egg cream, something that I had never even heard of before stepping into Katz. I was able to watch the making process for this drink and the ingredients are simple but create such a delicious drink. Egg creams are made using vanilla syrup, milk, and soda water. The vanilla syrup is added first, then the milk and then the soda water. The soda water is added slowly while blending the drink. The result is a foamy vanilla-flavored cream soda. I really enjoyed this drink, but I still prefer ice cream floats.

A pastrami sandwich at Katz can set you back a good $16 without sides or a drink. I wouldn’t call this deli cheap eats by any means, but if you were looking for first class pastrami, I wouldn’t go anywhere else. 

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