To revel in its pastrami sandwich, one of the best in the land, with an eye-popping stack of brined beef that’s juicy, smoky, rapturous. To glory in the intricate ritual of the place: the taking of a ticket at the door; the lining-up in front of one of the servers who carves that beef by hand; the tasting of the thick, ridged slices the server gives us as the sandwich is being built; the nodding when we’re asked if we want pickles, because of course we want pickles.
It’s a ritual unique to Katz’s, an argument, along with Katz’s age, to consider it the king of New York delis, reigning above the Carnegie, above the Second Avenue Deli, which closed a year and a half ago. It may reopen, but not on Second Avenue, a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
Katz’s shouldn’t be. At few other restaurants can you feel that you’ve stepped this surely into a living museum, a patch of urban mythology....
“You’ve got to assume it’s not the ‘Sex and the City’ tour,” said a lunch companion.
I remain loyal to Carnegie for deli. When I'm near Houston St., I head for Yonah Schimmel's for a knish. But next time I'm in the neighborhood, maybe I'll drop by Katz's for some tongue.