Tag Archives: Katz’s Delicatessen
My search for the best hot dog in New York continues….
At this point, I’ve been to most of the Jewish delis in town during my corned beef/pastrami search. I was so focused on the cured meat sandwiches, that I never thought too much about the other offerings. But as I continue to search for NYC’s most iconic foods, it’s possible that I’ll be returning again and again to these classic spots. These all could potentially be in the running for best knish, best matzo ball soup, best pickle, best cheesecake, best black and white cookie, the list goes on. But first, the hot dog.
I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order.
NUMBER 65: BLACK TRUFFLE AND SEA SALT CHOCOLATE from MAST BROTHERS
The black truffles in the chocolate bars from Mast Brothers, which is a bean-to-bar chocolatier based in Williamsburg, are not the French candy variety. Rather these are real black truffles. The kind you may get with your fancy pasta. Mushrooms. That’s right. This is mushroom chocolate.
And it is incredible. The black truffles give this chocolate a deep, rich earthy flavor that plays in to the bittersweet frutiness of the dark chocolate. The salt rounds it out and not only works on the sweet salty front, but also plays up the sea and earth flavors. This seasonal bar is available at the storefront in Brooklyn and many grocers around the city. Unless you have a mushroom or chocolate allergy (God forbid), you must give this a taste. Price Varies
|105A North 3rd Street (between Wythe Avenue and berry Street)
NUMBER 64: ROBIOLA WITH EGGPLANT CROSTATA at DEL POSTO
Hopefully I already convinced you on the wonders of chocolate and mushrooms. But chocolate and eggplant? And cheese? This might be the wackiest savory sweet combination of all. Yet it’s one of the most delicious.
This was served to us as a cheese course during a spectacular lunch this year at Del Posto. The expertly fried fritter was stuffed with tender eggplant, served with sweet, melty robiola cheese and drizzled with just the right amount of rich, decadent dark chocolate. This was heavenly. The flavors worked so well together. The eggplant contributed sweet, soft textures and if I hadn’t known any better, I might have mistaken it for banana. Oh, now you’re on board!?!
|85 Tenth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street)
NUMBER 63: COLD SMOKED CORN SOUP at DO OR DINE
Even if I didn’t know the owners of Do or Dine, it would have been high on my destination list. Justin, George, and Luke were friends of mine from when we worked at The Modern together. They have wacky ideas and fun personalities with an eye for flavor and hospitality. And the fact that none of them are trained chefs was not a reason to deter them from creating some of the most exciting and creative food I’ve tasted the entire year.
We didn’t try the now infamous Foie Gras Doughnut (it will be ordered on a future visit), but I fell in love with their seasonal soup that is now sadly no longer on the menu. What a crazy concoction that delighted my tastebuds and played with my mind! A roasted corn and chipotle puree took care of the sweet and spicy balance. But then more layers were added with sweet honeydew cubes and surprisingly subtle Crunch and Munch (the poor man’s Cracker Jacks) croutons. The soup is smoked with a hand smoker and the hickory aromas are released at the presentation, making this a full-sensory experience. And I’m not just being biased, believe me.
|DO OR DINE|
|1108 Bedford Avenue (between Gates and Lexington Avenue)
Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
NUMBER 62: BACON POPCORN at SALT & FAT
To some it might not seem so strange, but I can assure you to all naysayers that bacon popcorn is delicious. Especially the way they serve it at Salt & Fat, a newish neighborhood spot in Sunnyside, Queens with Korean and Southern influences. I loved the entire meal at my recent visit, but the one thing I couldn’t get out of my head was the complimentary bag of bacon popcorn.
The popcorn is popped in bacon fat, which could make for a very greasy and heavy flavor. But these are surprisingly light and addicting. The bacon flavors are fully present, but not overpowering. It adds smoky, umami notes to the already buttery and salty popcorn. This bag disappeared in a matter of minutes and it was to my delight (and detriment) that the server was only too willing to bring us a re-fill. It’s a perfect way to open up a meal of salt and fat (which is much more pleasant and refined than it sounds). Price: Complimentary with Meal
|SALT & FAT|
|41-16 Queens Boulevard (between 41st and 42nd Street)
NUMBER 61: KATZ’S PASTRAMI EGG ROLL at REDFARM
Chinese and Jewish culture have been intertwined since the early days of the Lower East Side. And there are still some great Cantonese restaurants down there serving up egg rolls and the like. And of course, so is Katz’s Deli, which makes some of, if not the, best pastrami in the entire city. So you’d think it would be a natural fit to combine the two flavors. Yet nobody in this city has tried something as outlandish (and obvious) as the egg roll at the new high end Chinese gastropub RedFarm.
This classic Chinese American appetizer is given the kosher treatment with the addition of some generous slices of Katz’s tender, smoky pastrami. Along with the meat, Chef Joe Ng fills the fried egg roll with cabbage and hot chilis. A tangy honey mustard sauce on the side cuts all that delectable fat. They make for a great starter to a consistently creative and delicious meal at RedFarm. Price: $7
|529 Hudson Street (between 10th Street and Charles Street)
If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
45. CHOPPED LIVER at SAMMY’S ROUMANIAN STEAK HOUSE
I remember (as every good Jewish boy does) growing up having chopped liver out on the table with the veggies and potato chips at family gatherings. Now ours was most likely store bought (sorry Mom!) and I remember eating it on some Ritz crackers. And although I had difficulty stomaching that metallic, livery flavor, I was hungry (dinner was still cooking) and it was there, so I ate it.
If it wasn’t for Time Out’s list, I probably wouldn’t have tried the chopped liver at Sammy’s Roumanian, a New York institution, with live music, dancing and rich Jewish food. It’s like a Long Island Bar Mitzvah in the ’70’s. Seriously!
I may have been converted because that chopped liver was creamy and rich and didn’t have that overwhelming metallic bite. Maybe it was the schmaltz (chicken fat) that balanced the flavors. It was crunchy from the fried radishes and onions and it worked so well on the warm bread. I’m not sure if it’s because my palate has matured or because Sammy’s knows how to sweeten a previously daunting dish, but I loved this stuff. Not that I really need to find a reason to eat it – it’s not like these are lima beans. Price: $19.95
|SAMMY’S ROUMANIAN STEAK HOUSE|
|157 Chrystie Street (between Delancey and Rivington Street)
Lower East Side
44. OYSTER PAN ROAST at GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR
There are just a handful of restaurant and bars left that are authentically old school New York. Sure, we have tons of speakeasies and old fashioned public houses, but most of them are recent spots that are a throwback to an older, more glamorous time.
The 21 Club, Katz’s, McSorley’s, and of course, the Grand Central Oyster Bar all feel like a thing of the past because they truly are. Except they are still here and thankfully don’t seem to be going anywhere.
When you walk into the Oyster Bar, located on the lower level of the beautiful Grand Central Terminal, you’re transported to a time of high vaulted ceilings, lunch counters, and tucked away lounges.
The famous oyster pan roast is as classic as dishes get. And it still amazes me how simply delicious it is. It’s a rich bisque of freshly shucked oysters in a gutbomb stew of cream, tomato, spices, and a soon to be dunked slice of bread. It’s buttery, creamy, and slightly spicy. I think the sharpness of the briny oysters (which have a wonderful half cooked consistency) gives the whole thing a bite that is unexpected but as pleasurable as sharp cheese.
The room opened along with Grand Central itself in 1913 (the oyster pan roast recipe dates even further back). But fortunately for us, the oysters are not as old as the room. And while the dishes remain classic, they still are surprising and can compete with all the modern fancy, over-priced small plates on any retro speakeasy’s menu. Price: $11.95
|GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR|
|89 East 42nd Street (between Vanderbilt Avenue and Park Avenue)
Inside Grand Central Station
43. CORNED BEEF/PASTRAMI COMBO at KATZ’S DELICATESSEN
Katz’s is the oldest delicatessen in the city (dating from 1888) and it just reeks of New York history (and cured meat). It’s a must-stop for any visiting friends or family members and I’m always eager to take them there.
I predictably crowned it the best corned beef/pastrami sandwich in the city on my official journey this past year. And anybody who’s been there can understand why. Ordering a sandwich at Katz’s is more than just lunch, it’s an entire show. First the waiting in line with your ticket, then the excitement of watching the carvers slice up the meat, and finally basking in the comfort of the perfect deli sandwich.
It’s not too big, but big enough so that if you’re disciplined, you might have leftovers. The corned beef is tender, salty, and hearty. The pastrami also falls apart and has a deeper spice and smoke flavor than most of the other big delis in the city. Even when I don’t order it extra lean, I find the fat is cut just perfectly and the marbling runs deep enough to add lots of flavor but not overwhelm you with grease.
It’s the most exciting corned beef/pastrami combo in the city. Trust me, I’ve done the research. Price: $15.90
|205 East Houston Street (at Ludlow Street)
Lower East Side
42. MATZOH BALL SOUP at CAFE EDISON
I’m just not a fan of diners. Although I think most of my family would choose to eat at one every day, if possible. Other than a craving for a grilled cheese sandwich or an omlette, I’d never choose to go to a diner over a proper restaurant. Unless it was Cafe Edison.
I first learned about this old-school hotel cafe (it’s inside Hotel Edison) in the middle of Times Square when I saw Neil Simon’s Broadway flop 45 Seconds to Broadway. The play was rather forgettable, but it was all about this magical diner where Broadway legends hung out, wrote plays, did deals, and ate Russian comfort food. Shortly thereafter I learned this place actually existed and it has since become my Times Square breakfast spot (if I’m ever up early enough) or cheap lunch destination when running late for the theater.
Or my place to stop to get a quick bowl of matzoh ball soup. It practically arrives before I order it and the broth is usually spilling out of the bowl. One gigantic matzoh ball is fluffy and filling with lots of dill flavor. The hot chicken broth is rich and comforting, bursting with seasonings and aromas. The noodles are soft and fatty. And the best part is that you also get chunks of dark chicken meat floating around.
I come here when it’s cold out, when it’s warm out, when I’m sick, when I’m healthy, basically whenever I’m hungry for a little taste of home comfort. Price: $3.95
|228 West 47th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenue)
41. PIZZA at DI FARA
After my official search for the best pizza in NY, people always ask me what I discovered. And while it’s hard to crown a best (it depends what you like), I always mention Di Fara as my favorite pizza experience.
Dom DeMarco is a legend in the pizza world and he’s been making all the pies at his little take-out joint DiFara in Midwood, Brooklyn for over 40 years. The experience of taking the Q train all the way out to Midwood, waiting to order your pizza, and watching Dom take his sweet time in composing the beast is all part of the fun. And I haven’t even gotten to the best part: tasting the damn thing.
The pies are a bit more expensive than most New York pizzerias, but it’s so worth it. De Marco uses three different types of mozzarella, fresh parmesan, sweet homemade tomato sauce, and snips fresh basil. The pizza is miraculously cooked in a gas oven, but still gets an incredibly complex char and crust.
It’s the perfect combination of ingredients to make what is definitely one of the best pizzas in New York. Price: $5 (slice), $25 (pie)
|1424 Avenue J (between East 14th and East 15th Street)
Episode two is finally here:
Brian is forced to choose between the affections of two girls during his search for the best corned beef/pastrami in NYC.
Before I began this crazy caloric search for the best corned beef and pastrami in the city, there was only one place I thought deserved that title. How could you not go to Katz’s Delicatessen?
It’s the oldest delicatessen in the city (dating from 1888) and it just reeks of New York history (and cured meat). It’s the only deli still located in the Lower East Side. I mean, this was the area where the Eastern European Jews settled and brought corned beef and pastrami to the states. This is where it all went down. And Katz’s is where Donnie had a meeting and Sally faked an orgasm. After tasting the meat, I’m not so sure it was fake. I know, I know, girls, you’ve all faked orgasms at one point, but if I order you a combo sandwich at Katz’s, I don’t think I’ll have anything to worry about.
I discovered Katz’s many years ago and it’s a must-stop for any visiting friends or families – especially the ones who have never been there before. And I was more than eager to re-visit for an official rating.
Katz’s is full of so many fun, quirky little traditions. Once inside, you’re handed a ticket and warned to not lose it. Supposedly, if you lose the ticket, they charge you $50. Now, I always figured if I “lose my ticket”, I should make sure to spend over 50 dollars in food and then I’ll actually be getting a deal.
Then you have to pick yourself a line depending on what you want to order. The main lines are where the carvers make up your sandwiches, but there are separate lines for knishes, burgers, and beverages. Much like at Disney World (where I used to know the best rides to go to first based on crowd control), you should start at the main attractions. So I immediately wait in front of one of the carving stations. I know some regulars (I’m not quite a regular yet) have their favorite carver, but as long as the meat ends up on the bread, I’m good with whomever.
Then the show begins and you get a front seat. Once you choose what you want on your sandwich (I’ve never ordered anything but the combo), the carver gets the meat out of the steamer and like a magician, goes to work hand carving the fat off and slicing it just thin enough to sit on two slices of rye bread. But somewhere in the process, the best possible thing happens. You get a little preview of the meat, as the carver cuts you a slice and offers up a taste. Just so you know you’re getting the best.
And this is really what makes Katz’s a cut above the rest. All the meat is hand sliced, which allows it to sit in the steamer as long as possible (which ensures that it’s more moist and tender) and allows the meat to have a natural roughness and thickness, which makes it more exciting to eat (in my opinion).
All these rituals make you a part of the show. It’s theatrical, it’s fun, it’s unique. But is it delicious?
The sandwich is perfect. It’s not too big, but big enough that if you’re disciplined, you might have leftovers for later. The corned beef is tender, salty, and hearty. The pastrami also falls apart and has a deeper spice and smoke flavor than most of the other big delis in the city. Even when I don’t order it extra lean, I find the fat is cut just perfectly and the marbling runs deep enough to add lots of flavor but not overwhelm you with grease.
Their pickles are great, the knishes are delicious, and how can you go wrong with a Dr. Brown’s soda? The wall of celebrity photos is a testament to this place’s popularity and fine food. The only downsides here are the crowds at peak hours (it feels like the stock exchange of lunch meat) and the prices (while competitive with the other big delis) are a bit more than I like to spend for lunch.
I’d like to end with some appropriate and funny NY trivia. When the Katz’s sign was being put up on the side of the building on Ludlow and Houston, the sign maker asked Benny Katz what the sign should say. Trying to keep it simple, Benny replied: “Katz’s, that’s all.” Well, the sign maker, being from the literal school, painted “Katz’s, That’s All.” That’s something I would have done when I was a smart ass kid and I would have gotten in so much trouble. In this case, it ended up being deli serendipity because what else could you really need? Katz’s – that’s all!
Is Katz’s Delicatessen the best corned beef/pastrami in the city? Out of fairness, it’s too soon to call but this is still one of the best deli combos I have ever had. 10 out of 10.