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Katz's Delicatessen has been a New York City

Katz's Delicatessen has been a New York City staple, famous for its pastrami sandwiches, for more than 100 years. (Credit: Photo Courtesy of Katz’s Delicatessen)

food & drink

Katz's Delicatessen of 'When Harry Met Sally' dishes on 'perfect' pastrami sandwich, more

205 E. Houston Street, New York, 10002

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's "When Harry Met Sally" scene isn't the only thing that made Katz’s Delicatessen memorable -- though it's pretty unforgettable.

The widely known restaurant was serving up sandwiches stuffed with pastrami long before Harry and Sally stopped in for lunch in 1989.

Katz's opened more than 100 years earlier, in 1888, and was originally known as the Iceland Brothers; it was renamed Iceland & Katz when Willy Katz became a co-owner in 1903. Seven years later, the deli was reborn with the moniker we know today: Katz’s Delicatessen.

Bite into our secrets of the Lower East Side institution.


Credit: Columbia Pictures

Katz’s wasn’t always famous for 'When Harry Met Sally'

Die-hard "When Harry Met Sally" fans know that the Katz's name never appears in the now-famous scene where Meg Ryan's character fakes an orgasm. It was only when longtime regulars of Katz's Delicatessen watched the movie and recognized the diner that it became well-known for that clip.

"It wasn't until years and years later [when] people started to say, 'That's Katz's!'" said Jake Dell, who took over as the deli's owner a few years ago. Finally, in the mid-1990s, the restaurant owners hung a sign on the ceiling above Meg Ryan's seat, which is still there. It reads: "Where Harry Met Sally ... Hope You Had What She Had! Enjoy!"

New Yorkers who have been to Katz's Deli

Credit: Timothy Boyd via Flickr (CC BY-SA)

There’s a consequence for losing your order ticket

New Yorkers who have been to Katz's Deli know that there's a unique ordering system, in which customers pick up their order at the counter, keep the order ticket and pay for their meal afterward. In the unfortunate event that the order ticket gets lost, the restaurant's policy is that the customer has to pay $50.

Luckily, Dell said, that's the last resort.

"The truth is, it's only for keeping track of people," Dell said, adding that Katz's serves up to 4,000 customers on a very busy day. "It's a very old and time-honored tradition that has worked for decades -- centuries, even. If you lose a ticket, we'll work with you. It's got to be somewhere. I'd much rather find that ticket and make your life easier."

So you don't live in the city anymore?

Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Stan Honda

You don't have to be in New York to chow down on Katz's salami

So you don't live in the city anymore? Katz's will ship hard beef salami to any location in the United States.

"We have a lot of displaced New Yorkers all over the country, and they miss the taste of home," Dell said. "We put this special installation into a box, and it's ice-packed. The ice pack lasts the full 48 hours without any issue." Katz's recently added two-day shipping as part of its delivery service.

According to Dell, the restaurant began shipping salami to troops overseas during World War II. Since then, Katz's has used the slogan, "Send a salami to your boy in the Army."

Among well-known figures who have visited Katz's Delicatessen

Credit: Getty Images / Andrew H. Walker

Billy Crystal comes in -- sometimes

Among well-known figures who have visited Katz's Delicatessen are Rob Reiner, the director of "When Harry Met Sally," and Billy Crystal.

Crystal is "just a fun guy. He's loud, boisterous, a great personality and a great sport. Obviously, to have to relive and be asked about the same things over and over again, it can be tough," Dell said. "He's happy to tell stories about filming in the store, watching Meg Ryan fake an orgasm in front of his mother ... stories about him eating bite after bite of pastrami between takes. He's really just an amazing talent and personality."

In 2013, the restaurant hosted a World Pastrami-Eating

Credit: Katz’s Delicatessen

Joey Chestnut ate how many pastrami sandwiches?!

In 2013, the restaurant hosted a World Pastrami-Eating Championship to celebrate its 125th anniversary, along with a charity dinner and a pop-up art gallery, Dell said. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, known for his impressive performances in Nathan's Hot Dog-Eating Contests, set a new world record after eating 25 pastrami sandwiches in 10 minutes.

Customers will notice that the entire restaurant is

Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

800 faces grace the walls

Customers will notice that the entire restaurant is covered in photos featuring different actors, musicians, politicians and other celebrity figures who have dined at the restaurant -- including Hillary and Bill Clinton and Chris Hemsworth. The most recent count was close to 800, Dell said.

Beyond the public figures who stop by Katz's, Dell said the everyday "world-classic characters" of New York are just as interesting to chat up, including a company representative from Port Authority who orders up to 80 sandwiches at a time for an office function.

"That's what makes it so special is that it's a friendly place. People love to talk and share their experiences," he said. "Once you become a regular, it's fun to see a familiar face."

Everyone knows that Katz's is known for its

Credit: Katz’s Delicatessen

There's no hard and fast rule for the 'perfect' pastrami sandwich

Everyone knows that Katz's is known for its delicious pastrami, but Dell said there's no exact science to what makes the "perfect" sandwich. All of the meat is cooked with TLC by hand "to the point where if you put it on a slicer, it would literally crumble underneath."

"We want you to take a bite and have it just melt in your mouth. That's what we're going for," Dell said. "It's the salt you use, the length of the pickling, the smoking process, the blend of your wood chips, the quality of your rub and the contents of your meat -- everything makes it perfect."

After that, it's up to the customer. Katz's meat cutters will work with patrons to figure out their preferences -- how lean they prefer their meat and whether they like it on the juicier side. The perfect sandwich, then, varies from individual to individual.

Back in the 1920s, a grouping of theaters

Credit: Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz’s used to be a dining hub for theatergoers and actors

Back in the 1920s, a grouping of theaters near Katz's Delicatessen formed the Jewish Rialto, or Yiddish Theater District. They showcased many different live performances each night, bringing hungry theatergoers to Second Avenue.

"We were the place where a lot of performers or families would come to congregate on Friday and Saturday nights, either before or after the show," Dell said.

While Dell said he thinks all of Katz's

Credit: Katz’s Delicatessen

Jake Dell’s favorite order isn’t what you’d expect

While Dell said he thinks all of Katz's sandwiches are delectable -- including the pastrami and corned beef -- the turkey is his go-to.

"It's Thanksgiving quality on a sandwich," he said.

He also enjoys the hot dogs with a small dollop of mustard and sauerkraut. His favorite non-sandwich item on the menu? The potato pancakes, also known as latkes. (Better add it to your order.)


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