I am so excited for the 1st Annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo coming to Brooklyn’s East River State Park the weekend of April 20-21. This will be my introduction to the fiery food world’s festival circuit. I am very much looking forward to participating in the weekend’s festivities. As many of you know, NYC is a hot bed for amazing restaurants, chefs, bars, dives, joints, mixologists, etc. We thought it would be fun and informative to showcase a few of these tastemakers in the weeks leading up to the NYC Hot Sauce Expo. Chileheads from across the country will be descending upon NYC ready to eat and we want you all to be well fed and satiated. So here we go with our first recommendation…Katz’s Delicatessen.
You cannot come to the delicatessen capital of the world and not visit the temple to pastrami, corned beef and tongue. Katz’s Deli is a landmark on NYC’s Lower East Side. This neighborhood boasted a large immigrant community from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th Century. And Katz’s upholds the food traditions of these hardworking people.
Upon entering Katz’s, whether two o’clock in the afternoon or two o’clock in the morning, you will enter this brightly lit, high ceilinged mecca and be greeted by security guards who pass out tickets to wide eyed tourists and hardened locals alike. A word to the wise, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT lose the ticket. You will be fined. I never met anyone who’s been fined personally, but there are stories.
Your next step is to peruse the menu boards for what it is that you are looking to eat while tightly clenching your precious paper ticket. If you’re looking for sandwiches, you order at the center of the counter. If it’s a knish or hot dog you crave, you order down the right side of the counter closest to the window. And if you want an order of French fries or a drink, that’s done at the left end of the counter.
Once you’ve decided on a selection or selections, it’s time to place your order. Katz’s get crowded, very crowded. So be prepared to wait a bit before reaching the counter. You place your order with one of the slicers and he gets to work fulfilling your meaty desires.
One of my favorite slicers is Benny Blanco from the Bronx. He’s an older gentleman with thick rimmed black glasses. He, as most of the slicers do, will give you a little taste of your meat of choice. That initial tastes leaves you begging for more. Once your sandwich is ready, you hand your ticket to the slicer and he will mark it up with what you’ve ordered and give it back to you. Again, keep the ticket in a safe spot.
The dining room at Katz’s is cavernous, so there are plenty of places to sit. The most popular table in the place is where “Harry Met Sally”. There’s a sign above the table. That tables usually taken, but there are plenty other places to hunker down and dig into your sandwich.
My favorite thing to order at Katz’s has to be a Pastrami Rueben sandwich, which consists of smoked pastrami, melted Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut on rye bread. Oy vey, it’s a sandwich you won’t soon forget for two reasons. Number one, it’s delicious. And number two, it’s huge and you’ll probably be eating it for a midnight snack or tomorrow’s lunch. The knishes are also good. I’ve had my fair share of those potato bombs. And no deli experience would be complete without a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. I don’t know what it is but the pairing of a pastrami or corned beef sandwich with a Dr. Brown’s is heavenly.
Once you’ve finished tackling your sandwich and have perused the celebrity pictures hanging on the walls, it’s time to make your way to the exit and the cashier. This is where your ticket makes its final stop on its journey through Katz’s. The cashier happily takes your ticket and money (Katz’s is CASH ONLY). She thanks you for coming and you exit the deli as a fully initiated New Yorker even if you’re just passing through this city that never sleeps.
Living to eat,
Anthony “Tony Mangia” Scillia