Meet Katz’s, the oldest delicatessen in the U.S., celebrating its 125th birthday with a book as thick and as juicy as a Katz’s pastrami sandwich.
Katz’s will tell you all you want to know about this New York landmark, which has passed from family to family over the years, maintaining its reputation as one of the city’s premier destinations for the fressers of the world. A brief affectionate history by Jake Dell, one of the current owners, opens the book, and then Dell takes us inside the restaurant, starting with the floor plan and closing, an inch and a half of photos later, with pictures of every staff member from the co-owners to delivery men, even the security guards, who don’t work for the restaurant “but [are] still part of the family.”
This fat family photo album — in full color — captures every operation, every nook and cranny, every detail, of the restaurant, and by the time you’ve leafed through its more 300 pages and 600+ pictures, you’ve seen it all — the stockroom, the kitchen, the directions to the restrooms, the making of a sandwich slice of pastrami by slice, the tables waiting to be cleared of leftover french fries — and you’re ready to eat.
If Katz’s is your deli, this is your book. It tells you everything you want to know, down to the difference between pastrami and corned beef and sour and half sour pickles. Autobiography and love story.
- Reading List: The Deli
- Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built by Mark Russ Federman
- Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food by Laura Silver
Recipe: How to Craft a Reuben with a Katz’s Twist
Step 1: Gather your supplies:
3/4 lb Katz’s Pastrami
2 Slices Traditional Rye Bread
A Handful of Juicy Sauerkraut
3 Slices of Swiss Cheese
Homemade Russian Dressing
Step 2: Slap a handful of sauerkraut on a plate. Don’t be afraid to go all out — no one ever died from an excess of kraut.
Step 3: Lay the Swiss over the sauerkraut and slowly melt it to a gooey glory.
Step 4: While the Swiss is melting, hand carve some pieces of our juicy pastrami into thin slices. Inhale deeply. Try to stay conscious despite the delightful wave of smoky aromas.
Step 5: Drape those slices over a fresh piece of rye bread — treat yourself to a little extra if you’re in a meaty mood.
Step 6: Pour the sauerkraut and cheese over the freshly cut pastrami slices. Resist the urge to consume immediately.
Step 7: Smear some Russian dressing over that other slice of rye. No skimping.
Step 8: Slap the dressing-coated slice over the kraut and cheese, slice that puppy in half, dish out the napkins. Take a moment to appreciate your hand-crafted creation — but only one moment, who would have the self-control to wait any longer to sink their teeth into this delicious work of art?
For best results, eat two. With a side of latkes.
Recipe provided by Jake Dell, author of Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen (Bauer and Dean, 2013).
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.