They say it's a life changer, an experience not to be missed, a journey one should take, that you have to eat a Katz's pastrami sandwich at least once in your life and make sure you do it at an early age to live happier after. That's Katz's, the address of one of the world's best Pastrami sandwiches.
Enter into a huge space, a large rectangular diner exactly like the ones you've seen in movies. It's a restaurant and it has no waiters just a counter where you order and choose a place to sit and eat.
In 1888, a small deli by the name of Iceland Brothers was established on Ludlow Street in New York’s Lower East Side by the Iceland brothers. Upon the arrival of Willy Katz in 1903, the name of the store was officially changed to "Iceland & Katz". Willy’s cousin Benny joined him in 1910, buying out the Iceland brothers to officially form Katz’s Delicatessen. Their landsman Harry Tarowsky bought into the partnership in April 1917. Katz’s Deli was moved across the street, to its present location, during the construction of the subway system. The vacant lot on Houston Street (pronounced "House-ton" after a Dutch emigrant of the same name) was home to barrels of meat and pickles until the present storefront facade was added between 1946-49.
As you enter you are given a number. You take the ticket and make sure not to lose it as fees apply. At the entrance is a big counter where eight men work round the clock in quick and professional action. Don't expect a smile because time passes and it's not a luxury they have, order and move because others are waiting.
The sandwiches are huge, I've seen them pass under my eyes while my mouth watered. I was not sure what to order but I needed more than the pastrami so the chef suggested the brisket.
Order your sandwich and you're immediately given a slice to taste, a slice of meat which is lunch by itself, while the chef prepares your gigantic sandwich.
The place is nice, a rectangular space brightly lit to allow for better looking pictures and where thousands of photos decorate the walls. It seems like time has stopped in here, the decor's from the last century. Commercial tables, wooden chairs, old style stone tiles in the floor and lots of signage reminding you of the place's history and fame.
Come here for a real American signature sandwich, meet real American people and see a spot that hosts more tourists than the Moulin Rouge.
Then the squeals begin, the ecstatic moaning, the high-pitched wails, the banging of the fists...
Life changing indeed: A huge, extravagant, extraordinary sandwich of more than ten centimeters in height filled with at least a dozen layers of pastrami meat carefully crafted, juicy to heart with their black pepper envelope left to be devoured. Two slices of bread and the famous mustard spread for life and enjoyment. What a sandwich indeed! The meat, the smoky aromatic meat, just melts as you bite into it, the meat's intense taste and sour after note, the fat adding a real richness to every bite, that's a dream come true. They come in pairs, the pickle plate and pastrami sandwich.
“When Harry Met Sally” might have become the most famous bit of history associated with the deli, though it’s hardly the only one. Katz’s recently celebrated 125 years in business, and the simple brick building on the corner of Houston and Ludlow streets has seen a lot through the years.
The other sandwich is the brisket, carefully cut a la minute, a loaded sandwich of layers of meat, dryer than the pastrami, but just as good. Mustard, fat and this light colored meat that tickles and activates all your palatal buds at once. To enjoy it even more, add ketchup and more mustard.
Everyone was happy, hundreds of customers entering by the hour, lines of hungry people, plates clacking and dancing, mustard and ketchup consumed like water.
With that are the pickles, the delicious pickles, two kinds of them, the giant cornichons with their cucumber taste and the real pickles with their sour touch and sweet after note. Those are one of the best pickles I've ever had. Mustard is so good it can be eaten with a spoon.
I'm amazed, I'm impressed and feel honored to have passed by a place like Katz's, open for the last three generations of master meat curers.