[ © Copyright eateryROW 2011 ]
205 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246

Katz's Deli is not just a New York deli. It's considered the New York deli. It's the one in the postcards, in the movies, with the big neon sign, with the celebrity photos all along the wall. And that's too bad because just about every other deli you could choose to go to is better.

Between the bleak fluorescent lighting and the grimy tile floor, the cramped seating and the soup kitchen vibe, Katz's is probably the closest you can come to eating at a homeless shelter without actually being homeless. Some guy hands you a ticket, you line up to get your food, some other guy slaps it on a tray, you take a fork or a spoon from a Rubbermaid trough, and then you try to find a free rickety seat at a free rickety table. The last time I was there, it even came complete with the smell of garbage and sweat. For effect, of course. And my meal was sufficiently mediocre for me to swear off returning. Still, I found myself here once more. I guess that every so often I need to remind myself why I don't eat at Katz's by eating at Katz's.

Katz's, even if everything else were perfect, is still painfully expensive. And I understand why. It doesn't care about my business. It caters to tourists. People who have already accepted huge (ultimately unnecessary) expenses as part of their vacation bill.* When I ate here today, I may well have been the only actual New Yorker having lunch. (Actually I don't think I know any natives who ever eat here unless they're drunk and it's 2am.) Cameras clicked everywhere. People posed with each other under the "Harry Met Sally Here" sign. Maps were on tables. Increasingly more worthless Zagat guides were in hands. You can buy Katz's Deli baseball caps and t-shirts for your friends back home. Lunch at Katz's, dinner at Carmine's, desserts at Cafe Lalo.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the allure of a place like Katz's. It about being someplace famous, like Geno's in Philly or Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans or Tavern on the Green in Central Park when it still existed. It doesn't really matter how good or bad it is. Hell, you almost expect it to be crap. The whole point is to eat on a movie set. But since this is a food blog, let's talk about food.

This time, thankfully, the nausea-inducing stink was gone, replaced with the pleasant odor of actual food. I walked in, ordered a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup and a Roast Beef Sandwich, and miraculously found a free seat. Katz's doesn't skimp on portions, I'll give them that, though you get more and better food at Ben's Best in Queens. The matzo ball itself was okay, but too dense. It's really the broth, though, that wasn't very good. I have no doubt that they make it themselves (and if they don't I'd be even more disappointed) and they used far far far too many vegetables in doing so. It's nearly a half chicken/half vegetable broth and as such tastes weird. Almost like they made it with tomato. Plus it's too salty. The roast beef sandwich was fine, but not more than fine. It was nicely rare and it wasn't fatty, but it was too sinewy. I was chewing a lot more than I should have been. Katz's doesn't give you cole slaw but does give you a mountain of pickles and/or pickled tomatoes. I asked for half sour pickles only. Why take something you don't want? But I still couldn't finish the volume I got.

At the end of the meal, I paid just under $27 for one meh sandwich, one lousy bowl of soup and a can of Diet Pepsi. If there's someone out there who can convince me how I didn't get mugged, let me know. Katz's is cash only and not strictly kosher.

*Side note: if any of my readers are not from NY and would like some honest, not-going-to-break-the-bank advice, please email me. I'll gladly steer you.

[ © Copyright eateryROW 2012 ]

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