Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Late Night Katz Snapshot

Entering Katz Deli at three in the morning can bring the mistakes of your evening (and life) into sharp focus. Bright lights accentuate the pictures of long-dead celebrities about to stuff their faces with pastrami. Personally, I like to sit at the table in front of Dom DeLuise's picture, a chilling reminder of the dangers of gluttony (is there a John Candy photo on one of the back walls?)

The only excuse for anyone to be here this late on a Saturday night is to imbibe stomach-coating peppery, fatty meat. The sandwiches are typically devoured fast, with stray pieces of pastrami falling off faces and lodging themselves in the hidden parts of a scarf, sweater or fat-fold only to be discovered early next morning upon waking up with a vicious headache and a craving for water (the hangover from the previous night's salt bomb of a sandwich).

You know, that may actually be Paul Prudhomme...

Our experience was not much different. On entering, we had to negotiate with the ticket taker regarding whether or not we were too drunk to sit. Even though I gave a much longer than necessary explanation w/r/t our sobriety, we were deemed acceptable (I think he just wanted me to shut up and order).

No one was in line at the counter and a few other post-bar drunks filled up a small section. I usually take charge in these situations, so I told my friend Greg that we'd be splitting a pastrami sandwich. As a Katz virgin, he seemed confused (still trying to figure out the ticket system) and agreed. Somehow he soon realized his mistake and became belligerent.

"I don't like pastrami."

I shot him my overused, disgusted asshole look. "What? Who doesn't like pastrami. It's not like you're a vegetarian."

"No. I want a cheese steak. I don't like pastrami."

"Cheesesteak station is closed. Listen to your friend and get a pastrami sandwich." Said the counterman, injecting himself into the conversation.

"No! I hate pastrami."

"Shut up. You don't come to Katz for a cheesesteak, dick." I swear excessively when I'm drunk. "Anyway, you haven't had real pastrami until you've eaten at Katz." I thought this would be my trump card, but apparently not.

Another friend, Matt (we shared our first Katz experience together-- way less homoerotic than it sounds), came over to see why everyone was drunkenly shouting. While I explained the situation, the counterman handed me a taste of pastrami (along with some requested chopped chicken liver).

I presented the steaming plate of pastrami to Greg. Again, with much more swearing than I've transcribed here, I politely told him to try the pastrami. It wasn't until Matt started goading Greg, along with myself and the counterman to TRY THE FUCKING PASTRAMI that he finally relented (this is typical behavior). He took a tiny piece and threw it in his mouth, ruminating over the bite.

"I still don't like it." Matt and I threw up our hands in defeat-- further argument would be useless (one of the keys to my personal happiness is to know when I've been "out-stubborned"). The counterman shook his head, he'd seemingly reached the same conclusion five minutes earlier. Defeated, I ordered my sandwich while Greg sat back down, still grumbling about his ticket.

Is it worth describing the pastrami sandwich? Not really. The rye sucks, the pickles are even worse, but the pastrami is as tender and peppery as ever.

Katz Delicatessen 
205 East Houston St.
New York, NY 10002

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon


  1. really miss coming here... good stuff for sure!

  2. I actually liked the pastrami, but once you've commited yourself to being stubburn, you hold on until the very end.


  3. noah, you had to have known greg would say he hated it after eating the pastrami. i knew that was coming before i read it. partly because i know him well and partly because i'm the same way.

  4. Once at Katz's a member of our party tried to order a bologna sandwich and the waiter refused to grant her order. Needless to say that all four pastrami sandwiches were devoured. Got to love the LES!