In the 1989 romantic comedy, “When Harry Met Sally…”, the classic fake orgasm scene was shot in Katz’s Delicatessen. But before Meg Ryan made the pastrami sandwich famous worldwide, Katz’s is already a New York City institution.
Katz’s Delicatessen, also known as Katz’s of New York City, is a kosher-style delicatessen located at 205 East Houston Street, on the southwest corner of Houston and Ludlow Streets on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, New York City.
They have been serving pastrami on rye to the local community since 1888. According to official Katz’s chronology, Brothers Morris and Hyman Iceland established “Iceland Brothers” at this location in 1888. Upon the arrival of Willy Katz in 1903, the establishment’s name was changed to “Iceland & Katz“.
Willy’s cousin Benny joined him in 1910, buying out the Iceland brothers to form Katz’s Delicatessen. Their landsman Harry Tarowsky bought into the partnership in April 1917. Katz’s Deli was moved across the street, to its present location, during the construction of the subway system. And the rest is history.
During World War II, the sons of the owners – Lenny Katz and Izzy Tarowsky – were both serving their country in the armed forces, and the family tradition of sending food to their sons became established as the company slogan “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army”. The slogan was coined by Izzy’s mother Rose Tarowsky, whose son served in the South Pacific as a bomber pilot.
The Scene that Introduced Kat’z to the World
Katz’s was the site of Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally…, followed by Estelle Reiner’s line “I’ll have what she’s having”.
The table at which Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat is marked with a sign until this day. And nothing has changed since the filming of the scene, except the crowd has become larger.
The Ticket and Ordering System
As each customer enters Katz’s, a door attendant hands them a printed, numbered ticket. As they receive their food from various stations/areas throughout the deli (separate for sandwiches, hot dogs, bottled drinks, fountain drinks, etc.), employees compute a running total of the pre-tax bill. If several people’s orders are combined on a single ticket, a cashier collects the blank tickets
The place is constantly busy. Each week, Katz’s serves 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of pastrami, 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) of corned beef, 2,000 lb (910 kg) of salami and 4,000 hot dogs.
Katz’s has instituted a “lost ticket fee”. If a customer loses a ticket, an additional $50 surcharge is added to the bill. The fee’s purpose, as stated by the management, is to encourage patrons to go back and find the lost ticket in the hopes of preventing theft (substituting a smaller ticket for a larger one).
It may sound confusing to most, but given the constant flow of people ordering for the long row of counters, this time-evolved system starts to show its brilliance.
The Orgasmic Food
I did not have what Meg Ryan had, instead I ordered what Bully Crystal had – a pastrami on rye. And I added a chicken noodle soup and a plate of their famous house made pickles.
Pastrami on rye is a classic sandwich made famous in the Jewish kosher delicatessens of New York City. It was first created in 1888 by Sussman Volk, who served it at his deli on Delancey Street in New York City. The classic, which some consider to be New York’s signature sandwich, consists simply of sliced pastrami, placed on rye bread, and topped with spicy brown mustard. It is usually accompanied by a Kosher dill pickle on the side.
Their corned beef and pastrami are cured using a slower method, which best flavours the meat, without injecting chemicals, water, or other additives to speed the process. The finished product can take up to a full 30 days to cure, while commercially prepared corned beef is often pressure-injected (or “pumped”) to cure in 36 hours. Yep, you read that right. 30 days vs. 36 hours. So it’s a quality product with the flavours to match.
On the plate were two different kinds of house made pickles. The full sour pickles were similar to those from the supermarket. And then there were the half sour pickles (also referred to as new pickles), which are brined for less time and taste more like a snappy, fresh cucumber. Either way, they’re garlicky and crunchy and everything you expect a pickle to be.
I didn’t order the matzoh ball soup, which is their bestseller and a Jewish classic, because it was said to stay in you for days – yes, I am not prepared to get indigestion. So instead I ordered something for the soul – chicken noodle soup.
Never mind that this was a cup, I couldn’t imagine how much bigger a bowl would be. Anyway it tasted exactly like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Now I can appreciate how authentic is the soup that Campbell made compared with the fresh made ones.
Each week thousands of visitors from around the world flock to Katz’s to dine in this legendary deli, and to feast on the most delectable sandwiches, platters and meats. But it’s really New Yorkers have made Katz’s Delicatessen what it is, making Katz’s an inherent part of the city’s culture and history. They enthusiastically spread the word, brought their friends in, wrote books, shot films, and kept coming back for a pastrami on rye.
I was really happy to make a detour during my trip to New York City, to finally tried it myself, and to say, “I met Harry and Sally.”
205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow St), New York City, 10002
Tel : 1-800-4HOTDOG / +1 (212) 254-2246
Visited In Aug 2022