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This post can help you plan your visit to Katz’s Delicatessen. We include directions, advice on the best times to go, their top 5 dishes to eat and activities you can do nearby.
When it comes to New York delicatessens, Katz’s is the undisputed champion. Located in the historic Lower East Side of New York City, this iconic eatery has been serving up some of New York’s best pastrami since 1888!
Katz’s was originally called ‘Iceland Brothers’ before Willie Katz came along and partnered up with the brothers to create ‘Iceland and Katz’. Then Willie and his cousin, Benny, bought out the Iceland Brothers and it’s been Katz’s ever since. The restaurant is now owned by the Dell family, longtime friends of the Katz family.
The food there is classic delicatessen with many Jewish traditional foods. You can get knishes, chicken soup, corned beef sandwiches and much more. Their sandwiches are a pound of meat between two slices of bread. Be ready to take big bites. They also have hot dogs and knockwurst on the grill.
Katz’s is so much more than the food. The decor is retro-cafeteria, with wooden tables and chairs and no pretension. The atmosphere is authentic Lower East Side. You will feel as if you’ve tie-traveled back to the 1940s.
There is so much more to learn about Katz’s and many funny stories, which our guides share on our pay-what-you-like Lower East Side Food Tour.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
A few suggestions before you go. Do not eat a big meal beforehand. You will need room for the fantastic, but heavy, food at Katz’s. You can see our suggestions on how to get here, when to visit, what to order, and how to order below.
Also, it is CASH ONLY so hit up an ATM in advance though there are some in the shops nearby.
If you want to take a food tour that passes by Katz’s try our pay-what-you-like Lower East Side Food Tour. Our tour does not go into Katz’s for food as we encourage people to go back and sit down for a meal.
Where is Katz’s Deli Located?
Katz’s is located at 205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow Street) which is in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Use this Google map to get exact directions from your point of departure to Katz’s.
To find out about all the bus tour options in NYC, see our detailed post comparing bus tours of New York City.
Best Times to Visit
Katz’s opens pretty early and stays open very late, especially on the weekends when they stay open around the clock! It’s one of the favored spots by cab drivers working the overnight shifts.
Katz’s often has a line to get in. But you can avoid the line if you go at certain times. Based on Google’s Popular Times function, these are the best times to go:
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, you can expect a lunch crowd, with a potential wait of up to 45 min from 1:30 pm-4:00 pm. But you may not have to wait at all. To avoid a wait, arrive before 1 pm or after 4 pm.
Saturdays and Sundays are busy steadily from 12 pm-8 pm you may have to wait at least 45 minutes. If you go between the peak hours between 1 pm to 4 pm the line may be over an hour.
You’ll be waiting outside with nowhere to stand, so if you must go during peak hours, be prepared.
Katz’s Top 5 Dishes
You can preview the menu here. You might want to give it some advanced planning!
Katz’s pastrami is world-famous. What is it and why is theirs so good?
Pastrami is cured cuts of meat (similar to corned beef or brisket). What is so enticing about pastrami is the ‘rub’ of spices that goes onto the meat after curing but before it is smoked.
Katz’s has a secret “dry cure” pickling formula that requires a full month to prepare. Their rub also hits just the right notes. Pastrami is traditionally eaten on rye bread with mustard (mayonnaise is a big no-no).
Katz’s sandwiches are big enough for two people to share. Order a side of pickles or coleslaw and wash it all down with a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and you will have done Katz’s right.
This soup is a traditional food eaten at tthe Jewish holiday at Passover. The soup is a tasty chicken broth. Matzo balls are made from the ground meal of Matzo (unleavened bread) mixed with egg, shaped into balls, which are then boiled and plopped into the broth!
Katz’s matzo balls are the size of a tennis ball! But they are fluffy enough that you won’t feel weighed down, just deliciously satisfied.
You never knew how good a hot dog could be until you’ve had one from Katz’s. You can see them through the front window, laid out in rows on a giant griddle. They are kosher hot dogs meaning it is made of high-quality beef in natural-casing.
They have a nice blend of spices and are very lightly charred (though you can certainly ask for one that is well done, or not as charred). It’s cradled by your standard bun. Be sure to put on mustard and pile on the sauerkraut. No ketchup allowed!
A little bit like a filled crepe, a blintz is a very thin pancake, filled with sweet cheese, lightly sauteed, and dusted with powdered sugar. The exterior is crisp while the cheese inside is fluffy and rich at the same time. They are served with sour cream and applesauce. Save room for their blintzes. You might regret it if you don’t.
Latke is Yiddish for “pancake.” Potato latkes are a very simple recipe – grated potato, mixed with a tiny amount of grated onion, whipped with egg into a batter, formed into a pancake and fried in oil to perfection. Served with sour cream and applesauce.
How to Order
Katz’s operates on an old-school ticket system. It can be a bit confusing, but we break it all down for you. Just remember the mantra: DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET.
(1) As you walk in the door, every adult in your group will get a little ticket. Even if someone else in your group is ordering and paying, KEEP YOUR TICKET.
If you do not keep your ticket or you misplace it, Katz’s says you will have to pay $50 – the price of two pastrami sandwiches and two sodas. We have yet to hear from anyone that they were actually charged $50 if they lost their ticket. Still, don’t take chances. DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET.
(2) If you are ordering sandwiches (which is what you are here for!), head to the long service counter where there are a few sandwich makers. Pick whichever line is shortest.
(3) When it’s your turn to order, tell the counter person what you would like. After the prepare your sandwiches and hand you your food on a tray, they will ask for your TICKET and they’ll write down what you ordered.
(4) Take your food and TICKET to any available table, as long as it doesn’t say “table service only.” There are often seats, at the back and around the corner near the bathrooms.
(5) If you want to sit where Sally sat, look for the table with the round sign above it.
(6) Once you’ve finished your meal and put away your trays, bring your ticket to the cash register at the door and pay on your way out.
KOSHER VS. KOSHER-STYLE FOOD
Many people think that Katz’s deli is a strictly kosher restaurant. Rather they are a kosher-style restaurant. Kosher is not a style of cooking. It refers to the Jewish laws regarding the preparation of meals and which foods may or may not be eaten.
It is mostly very religious Jews that “keep Kosher.” In New York City, however, you will find plenty of Jews who do not keep kosher but do enjoy the kosher-style food. Hey, who doesn’t love a great pastrami sandwich?
The rules of keeping kosher and what makes a certain food kosher or not are too long to include in this post. But here are the basics:
So what is kosher-style?
It is an Americanized version of traditional kosher foods. Kosher-style cuisine developed in the 1920s among the many Jews who had emigrated from Eastern Europe to America. Eating kosher-style food (while not keeping kosher, a sign of being more secular) was a way for American Jews to maintain Jewish traditions while assimilating into American culture.
This is something we go into in depth on our pay-what-you-like Lower East Side Food Tour.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
If you’ve been wondering where Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan were eating in the most memorable scene in the movie, you have come to the right place.
The hilarious, practically rated-R, “I’ll have what she’s having” scene was filmed in Katz’s. You can even sit at the table where Harry and Sally sat. Just look for the large sign hanging from the ceiling above that very special table.
While you’re there, make sure you take a walk around. The walls are covered with photos of famous folks who have eaten there.