January 14 – Hot Pastrami Day
This is one of those national food days where I make no arguments, take no discussion. I usually look through reviews of restaurants from both critics and patrons alike to find the “best” place in New York City to eat that particular dish, working my darndest to find impartial, true results. January 14–Hot Pastrami Day–is not one of those days.
You can’t argue with me on this, you can’t tell me some other place makes a pastrami sandwich better. You can have your 2nd Avenue Delis, you can say the Carnegie has the juiciest pastrami or love the atmosphere of the Stage. Not going to change this review, hahaha. My deli has always been Katz’s.
Ever since I was a kid my family’s high-profile New York deli for all our hot, salty meats has been Katz’s on the Lower East Side. I have so many memories there: photos of celebrity visitors almost wallpapering the walls, that table from When Harry Met Sally (which I revered before I even knew why I’d want to have what she was having), the “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army” signs still hanging above the metal countertops. It’s about getting a pastrami that melts in your mouth with the right balance of spice, tenderness, and the all-important amount of fat. And the fact that the sandwich in question, though expensive at $16 a pop, will be the size of your head.
I can’t do the description of the perfect pastrami sandwich at Katz’s justice–let alone describe the atmosphere of the place, that feeling of a revered dive, that gives a Jewish delicatessen its soul. But David Sax wrote up a stirring chapter on Katz’s Delicatessen and the other New York delis in his book, Save The Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen. I really suggest picking up the book for any deli or pastrami enthusiast, because he has a real passion for bringing to life that feeling you get the moment you walk into a deli and smell the pastrami-flavored steam rising from the kitchen.
205 E Houston St (between Avenue A & Essex St)
The pastrami sandwich is one of those certain types of foods where every one of the 8 million+ people living in New York–and then some–have their own opinion on where to go for the definitive “best” of its kind. Where do you go for your hot pastrami sandwich fix? Let me know in the comments! I’d love a good-natured discussion on the best pastrami delis in the city–even though you won’t change my mind even a little bit. 😉