Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bucketlist Sammich - Katz's Deli

Any fool can make a sandwich by throwing ingredients in between two slices of bread. But the word sammich implies something grander. A sammich is constructed around a clear vision, with generous quantities of carefully chosen ingredients combined to make something truly glorious.

There is one sammich that has been on my bucket list for years. I've always loved a good reuben, but until recently I'd never experienced the Holy Grail of reubens -- one from a Kosher-style deli in New York city.

That changed last week while my wife and I were vacationing in New York. We were staying in an apartment in Manhattan's East Village; just a few blocks from the world-famous Katz's Deli that was founded in 1888.

When you enter Katz you get a ticket that you carry with you as you gather whatever food and drink items you want. The workers keep a tally of your order on the ticket as you present it each time you ask for anything. You pay for everything at once at the register as you leave.

On my first visit I headed straight for the sandwich counter and ordered a reuben. The employee who assembled my sammich gave me a sample of the corned beef to try while he was working. It lived up to all my dreams, practically melting in my mouth.

This blog is usually devoted to the art of slow-cooking meat with smoke. While corned beef is slow-cured with a salt-water brine instead it is interesting to note that the most common cut used for corned beef is brisket; a fatty cut that is also well-loved and renowned in barbecue circles. 

Smoke and salt are the two oldest preservatives in human history. In fact, Pastrami is made by smoking corned meats after they are salt-cured. So I like to  think of the corned beef brisket I enjoyed at Katz's as an ancient but close relative to barbecue.

A lot of restaurants are putting "reubens" on their menus these days that aren't actually reubens. Turkey and fancy slaw on wheat bread may make a sandwich you enjoy, but don't call it a reuben. On the other hand, the reuben at Katz's is a textbook perfect example with corned beef, sauerkrat, swiss cheese and Russian dressing piled on rye bread. And I mean piled. After tax and tip one sandwich is over $20, but one sandwich was also enough food to feed my wife and I combined.

When my wife booked the apartment we stayed in I didn't realize how close it was to Katz's. But once we realized I could run and grab one while she was getting ready in the mornings it became a recurring meal. And it's one I am already missing dearly now that I'm back here in Memphis, although the next time I'm in Manhattan I'll have to force myself to shy away from the reuben on at least one visit in order to try the deli's also-famous and massive pastrami sammich.

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon


  1. I envy you.......

    Did you rent an apartment from a broker?

    1. We found it through homeaway.com. Airbnb.com is also a good resource.

  2. I'm jealous! I want to try Katz's so bad.
    The Ruben would be my first choice also.
    Maybe you could add to your Blog a search for the best Ruben in Memphis. Eh, or maybe not I don't think there would be many options.

    1. It sounds odd but the best reuben I've found in Memphis is at the 1776 Deli inside the Range USA gun range in Bartlett of all places.

  3. You must try the Pastrami next time. It has been 20 years since I had mine. I still dream about it occasionally. It was an amazing "sammich". Getting a Reuben or pastrami at Katz's is a life altering meal. Have one for me the next trip to NYC. And yeah, it has been rumored that a local guy has opened a BBQ joint in NYC.