A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Friday, May 13, 2005

May 13.

Dinner -

Katz's Deli - 205 E. Houston St., Lower East Side
Matzoh ball soup, Pastrami sandwich (half), a side of French Fries, Dr. Brown's cream soda

Many people say that Katz’s pastrami is the best in the world, but they don’t mention that the service can also be as horrible as their smoked meats are transportive. On a Friday night, Lindsay and I sat in the table service section, and waited and waited for recognition. Finally, fifteen minutes later, a man in his mid-seventies came over and asked if we knew what we wanted. We told him, he repeated it wrong, and despite starving, we corrected him patiently. Again, we waited another twenty minutes, as the people around us who’d ordered at the same time had received their food long ago. We stayed calm and made do with the pickles.

When we did get our food, I asked for more pickles. Lindsay asked for some dressing with her salad. Our waiter said he’d get some but he never did. Also, as he was putting my matzoh ball soup on the table, he split oily liquid all over my pantleg and didn’t notice. He was nowhere to be found to refill our water even once. Worst of all, Lindsay and I realized we were running to a show so I tried to flag down our waiter. He was gone. Literally nowhere in the restaurant. I asked one of the very friendly guys at the counter to find him, so that I could pay the bill. Ten minutes later, the waiter walked back into Katz’s and slowly made his way over to another table. When he got to us, he asked us what we’d had, because he apparently hadn’t written it down. He made no apologies and offered no explanations.

No other experience with table service at Katz’s has ever been near this poor. It’s never been incredible either, but our previous waiters have always gotten the job done. This time around, I was so frazzled and stressed out I could barely enjoy the food. In fact, I was annoyed enough not to leave any tip, something I have never done. (I rationalized that I’d use the money to pay my dry cleaning bill.) I love Katz’s too much to say I won’t come back, but next time, I will definitely choose counter service.

As for the food, the pastrami sandwich was as exemplary as ever, the overloaded rye bread bursting with dark pink strips of beef. The meat was soft and deeply flavorful in a way most deli meats can only dream of. I devoured my sandwich, aware again how Katz’s has remained popular since its inception in 1888. The side of thick, steak-style French fries I ordered wasn’t nearly as successful, because the fries were cold and slightly dry. I’m not sure if the service problems were to blame, but if they’d been hotter and fresher as they’ve been in the past, I would’ve enjoyed them much more.

Finally, the matzoh ball soup was fairly good, though it didn’t stack up to the greatness of the 2nd Ave. Deli version (see Apr. 3). The massive ball itself was tasty, but the broth was too salty and lacked 2nd Ave.’s depth of flavor. Still, on a night full of faux pas, I still preferred the soup on my spoon than on my pants. 5/10

A review by Hungry Mouth from April


Anonymous sarah said...

i love it! i was just *sigh*ing about how much i love pastrami reubens after an *eh* experience with corned beef last week (from a place called NY Deli here in LA).

gonna have to try the real stuff on a visit out there sometime!

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Therein lies your problem. NEVER use table service at Katz's. Belly up to the counter, slip the guy a buck, watch him custom slice your pastrami to perfection and seat yourself. Better sandwich. Better service.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

You're totally right. But one hesitation: Can I still get the pickles through self-service somehow? It's just not a deli without the pickles.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I second the recommendation for slipping the pastrami slicers $1 *before* they cut your meat. You'll get even more of their terrific pastrami, plus often a slice or two to nibble on as you watch them put your sandwich together.

1:23 PM  

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