Now, I know this isn’t very cool, but this is such a famous deli, infamous from the Harry met Sally film (which I have never seen, but I am familiar with the scene in the deli, just as everyone is) and, I haven’t eaten much traditional Jewish food, that I thought, “what the hell, we’re tourists, got to be done”. So we did.
Katz’s is quite an experience. For a start, it’s a tardis. It looks like your average corner shop/deli from the outside but inside it is vast, and it is heaving. The minute you enter the door you are assailed by the bright lights, the huge numbers of people trying to get in and trying to get out, the huge bouncers on the door and the hollering staff, herding you between counters and serviced tables. You are handed a ticket per person in your party on entry – with no explanation as to why, but warned on pain of death you will be fined 50 dollars if you lose one, and possibly hung, drawn and quartered if you lose more than one.
We opted for table service and to be fair, although the place was bustling we were seated immediately. We were brought over menus and some pretty nice pickles.
We had already eaten that day so we weren’t starving (probably for the best) and I couldn’t make room for the huge pastrami sandwiches which had been my original plan, so I opted for Latkes with apple sauce and sour cream. What can I say? they were hot.
The husband chose the Chilli Dog, which he loved and which prompted him to suggest we came back for dinner another evening so we could try some of the more traditional dishes on the menu (we didn’t). So he was suitably impressed. The daughter went for New York Cheesecake on the advice of our server (I have cropped the photo to remove the dirty fingermarks on the plate), she enjoyed it but I think it was a little dry.
As we went to leave, and as we were paying by card, our server came and took payment and stapled two of the infamous tickets to our (paid) bill to take to the counter on the way out (you can’t leave without passing the counter). I held onto the third ticket and handed it in with (prepaid) bill. As we left the Deli, the woman on the counter yelled “2 out”. We left and stood on the pavement outside discussing where to go next. At this point one of the enormous, burly bouncers came out and suggested we had only returned 2 tickets, we protested and he asked us to come back in. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing the lady on the desk realised that 2 of the 3 tickets were stapled together on the back of the bill. So all was well.
This little scene added to the crazy experience that is Katz’s and to be fair the staff, and the door staff were unfailingly polite and gave us genuine apologies – “Very sorry ma’am, you have a lovely day in New York City Ma’am”. And in any event, I rather like being called “ma’am”.
If you want an experience, for better or for worse, if you want your own “Harry met Sally” moment, go to Katz’s Deli just for the craic. It really is more of a tourist trap than a deli/restaurant, but, hey, we all have to make a living, and I am glad we went. I can’t in all honesty praise the food very highly, but we didn’t try much from the extensive menu and we may have been unlucky. Can’t complain about the service we had and no one was rude to us (which many reviewers have noted). Go along for the ride, but whatever you do, don’t lose one of them damn tickets.