Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bagels at Katz's

Last week I finally visited this famous New York institution. 

Katz's deli has been operating on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since it was opened by Russian-Jewish immigrants in 1888. The menu, ordering style and atmosphere don't seem to have changed that much since then so it's kind of like a slice of old New York.

And, of course, it was the setting of that scene in When Harry Met Sally.

 This is one of those classic New York places where they like to make the ordering and getting your food as tricky as possible. Ordering your food and paying for it at the same counter? Too easy for New Yorkers. Sometimes I feel like I'm having to fight to pay in this city!

Here, when you walk in you are given a ticket, when you order food they write what you're having on your ticket and you have to hand your ticket in and pay on the way out. Don't lose your ticket as there is apparently a $50 charge for that!

There are also a series of different counters depending on what you want to order. We made the embarrassing error of trying to order bagels at the sandwich counter - oops.

What this place is really famous for is pastrami and salami. They cure all their own meats and the salamis hang behind the counter. They also make their own mustard and pickles (which were huge and looked pretty tasty). 

Katz's also ship salami all over the States and since WW2 have encouraged families to 'send a salami to your boy in the army'. They still run a special shipping service to US military addresses round the world and even have a slightly newer sign reading 'you can send a salami to your daughter in the army too'.

However, despite all the beefy goodness as a recently recovered veggie I just couldn't face the sheer quantity of pink looking meat that you get in the famous pastrami on rye. I really wish i'd sneaked a picture of someone else's sandwich, they are HUGE (maybe 6 inches deep?). 

So I opted for a bagel with cream cheese and lox instead. Proper chewy New York bagel with lots of salmon and the surprising but totally brilliant addition of finely chopped onions and tomato slices. Amazing!

What was nice is that it wasn't just packed with tourists but was a mix of real New Yorkers and visitors. On one side of us was a couple of old guys arguing passionately about the best place to get homemade-style Matzo ball soup in New York (you couldn't make it up!) and on the other side was a man from London.
There was also a rather feisty older lady trying to pick a fight with the doorman as apparently he'd accused her of stealing a hot dog.

Excellent people watching!

The walls are plastered with pictures of all the celebrities who have eaten at Katz's over the years, including about 5 Presidents. 

To add to the old-fashioned family feel one of the current owners was walking around talking to all the guests.

 When he saw we'd been eating the bagels not the sandwiches he insisted we try something 'you will never find in Scotland' and brought us a little sample of the pastrami. It was delicious actually, very tender and tasty. 
I think i'll have to return one day with Dave so we can share the pastrami!

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