Beloved by many, reviled by others for being an overhyped tourist trap, Katz’s stands aloof: a warehouse of a deli that just wants your money, cash only please. Enter and receive your ticket, which is filled out as you order. Keep the ticket safe and return upon exit, or else suffer the $50 penalty.
Line up and depending on the time of day, it will be a rational process or a milling crowd. The front counter is manned by brusque deli clerks, who first serve you a sample of your choice. After you give the OK, they will prepare your order. For fries, other sides and beverages, head to a separate line further into the deli.
Now, hopefully you’ve made the wise decision of ordering pastrami on rye with fries –about $20. The rye slices should be separated by juicy pieces of pastrami, blushing red in the middle. You should also have a side of green and pickled cucumbers, along with some pickled tomatoes. And stop to admire the fries – thick, crisply fried slabs that make those McDonald sticks seem wimpy and halfhearted. In terms of serving sizes, sharing one pastrami sandwich is a good idea. Katz’s splits up the sandwich and one half gets you to a fuzzy food coma; two halves get you to a blackout food coma.
Of course, there are other great choices at Katz’s, such as the matzo ball soup, or the salami sandwich. By all means, try the rest of the menu – but ultimately, I go with the pastrami sandwich. Variety is good, but pastrami is better.
The deli itself is industrial sized. The ambience, such that it is, consists of bright fluorescent lights, tourists, New Yorkers, drunks, photos of celebrities who have dined at Katz’s, and other random kitsch. A sign commemorates the lunch scene in that movie where Harry met Sally. The deli is an eyesore if you’re standing on line, but once you’re munching on that pastrami and salivating on the warm, silky soft slices, it will be all the scenery you could ever ask for.