I recently have been traveling a lot for work, including three trips to New York City. I"ve enjoyed the the delicious offerings of NYC delis on previous visit, but recently got to try Katz’s Deli for the first time. Inspired by an "Cook’s Guide to New York" included as an addendum to Kitchen Confidential (incidently, an excellent book, especially if you have ever worked in the foodservice industry), I went not knowing the the movie history associated with the place. I walked in and saw the many photos of celebrities who have eaten there and then saw the sign saying "This is where Harry REALLY met Sally – hope you’re having what she’s having!" referring to the famous "fake orgasm" scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally.
Chick flick references aside, I went there for the pastrimi. A relative of BBQ’ed brisket and corned beef, a good pastrimi sandwich is a glorious thing. A bad one – much more common – is a disheartening gastrointestinal experience. Katz’s has a unique serving system where you stand in line for a particular meat carver – clearly the regulars have their favorites – and while you are waiting for the meat for your sandwich to be carved (where it is corned beef, tongue, pastrimi or whatever), they offer you a small bite of the meat to sample and keep you occupied while hte sandwich is assembled by hand. THe whole process is a little confusing, as it is a bit foreign, but the pay off is worth it.
The pastrimi is cut thicker here than at other NYC delis I"ve visited, and this is one piece of meat that can stand up to it. Tender, juicy and flavorful, you could almost enjoy it without the mustard, if the mustard wasn’t so damn good. I don’t know what it is about deli mustard, but man, it is the only thing that can make a deli sandwich taste even better.
There are plenty of fancy restaurants in New York City, lots of which will give you a long, luxurious meal at a white cloth-covered table. But if you want some REAL New York food, you can’t beat a Pastrami sandwich from Katz’s.