Born on the Lower East Side in 1888, with its famous decades-old signs such as "Send a salami to your boy in the army" and window display of thank-you letters from former U.S. presidents, Katz's has repeatedly earned the moniker of most authentic New York deli. Generation after generation has stood before the carvers, watching as they skillfully slice a pile of pastrami, turkey, or corned beef by hand. And they've also passed through Katz's unique counter ticket system. On your way into the store, you're given a ticket, which serves as your check. When you order food your ticket is marked, adding to your total. When you've finally gotten your fill, you hand back your ticket at the cashier and settle up. It all sounds perfectly obvious but it is amusing to watch the confusion of first time visitors when handed their ticket on arrival. Speaking of visitors, you'll find people from all walks of life here enjoying enormous sandwiches, hot dogs, sauerkraut, and all sorts of crowd-pleasing favorites. Jane and Michael Stern praise Katz's in "Road Food" as the quintessential New York experience, which continually wows tourists and real New Yorkers alike.
And for you non-meat lovers out there, note that Katz's prides itself on carrying a variety of great vegetarian options. All of their delicious knishes are vegetarian. As are their split pea soup, potato latkes, and their classic noodle kugel. Most desserts are vegetarian as well, including New York Cheesecake and chocolate/cinnamon rugalach. And no Katz's meal would be complete without their in-house brined sour and half-sour pickles!
Here's the full history of this New York institution from the folks that built it:
In 1888, a small deli by the name of Iceland Brothers was established on Ludlow Street in New York’s Lower East Side by the Iceland brothers. Upon the arrival of Willy Katz in 1903, the name of the store was officially changed to "Iceland & Katz". Willy’s cousin Benny joined him in 1910, buying out the Iceland brothers to officially form Katz’s Delicatessen. Their landsman Harry Tarowsky bought into the partnership in April 1917. Katz’s Deli was moved across the street, to its present location, during the construction of the subway system. The vacant lot on Houston Street (pronounced "House-ton" after a Dutch emigrant of the same name) was home to barrels of meat and pickles until the present storefront facade was added between 1946-49.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the Lower East Side was home to millions of newly immigrated families. This, along with the lack of public and private transportation, forged a solid community such that Katz’s became a focal point for congregating. On Fridays the neighborhood turned out to enjoy franks and beans, a Katz tradition.
During World War II, the three sons of the owners were all serving their country in the armed forces, and the family tradition of sending food to their sons became the company slogan “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army.”
During the peak of the Yiddish theater, the restaurant was forever filled with actors, singers and comedians from the many theaters on 2nd Avenue, as well as the National Theater on Houston Street. Although the age of the Yiddish theater has passed, Katz's is still has its fair share of famous customers, whose photos now line our walls.
The next change in ownership took place when Willy Katz passed away, and his son Lenny took over for him. In the late 70’s, both Benny Katz and Harry Tarowsky passed away, leaving the store to Benny's son-in-law Artie Maxstein and Harry's son Izzy Tarowsky. However by the mid-1980’s, the new generation of owners realized that they had no immediate family of their own to whom they could leave the store. Long-time friend and restaurateur Martin Dell, along with son Alan (who was a chef and a manager at a neighboring deli) and son-in-law Fred Austin, officially bought into the partnership in 1988 on the 100th anniversary of the store.
Alan’s son Jake officially joined the store in late 2009 and is currently in charge of all major operations.
Katz's Delicatessen is located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Long before the musical "Rent" brought in legions of pierced, tattooed teenagers from every corner of America (and drove up the rents), the East Village was an eclectic mix of elderly Ukranians and Poles, Dominican and Puerto Rican families, and assorted artists, wanna-be bohemians, punks, their followers, lovers and friends. (Did we leave anyone out?) Largely gone are the heroin dealers, all night parties, punk music extravaganzas and infamous Bagel Tree of the 1980s and early 1990s, but the real landmarks remain, including the Joseph Papp Public Theater, Tompkins Square Park, and Cooper Union. The Public offers some of New York’s finest Off-Broadway Theater as well as Joe’s Pub, with a diverse variety of live shows. Beautiful Tompkins Square Park offers something for everyone, including dog runs, basketball courts, a weekly market, outdoor music events, and occasionally local characters chatting late into the night to infrequent riots. To be fair, few other parks in America have played such an important role in radical or anarchist history. Many long-time residents complain of the neighborhood’s recent gentrification, and skyrocketing rents forced even legendary punk club CBGB's to exit the neighborhood, replaced by a John Varvatos boutique. And while there are truly many new restaurants and boutiques dotting Avenues A, B and C, lots of the famous watering holes, dives, and other unclassifiably scrappy bars remain. Some of our favorites include Mars on lower First Avenue, Zum Schneider on Avenue C, 2A on the corner of Second Street and Avenue A, and Lit Lounge, with its adjoining Fuse Gallery. Make sure to check out the Polish butcher stores on First Avenue and the nearby Italian pastry shops, walk along the Ukranian strip of Second Avenue, try one of the Japanese restaurants on East Ninth Street, and also walk along St. Marks Place, one of New York’s most eclectic streets. East 4th Street's Theater Row boasts cultural buildings which house eight theaters and twelve dance companies as well as a couple of community development groups. Among its members are New York Theater Workshop, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, Rod Rodgers Dance Co., WOW Cafe Theatre, Millennium Film Workshop, Duo Multicultural Arts Center, Teatro Circulo, Downtown Art, Alpha Omega Dance Co., Choices Theater, Teatro IATI, Cooper Square Committee and Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. The Nuyorican Poets Café is still going strong on East Third Street between Avenues B and C. Since 1973 its mission has been to create a multi-cultural venue that provides a stage for artists traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream media and culture. Poetry slams, theater performances, open jam sessions for hip-hop, poetry and jazz, as well as unique screenplay readings all take place on a weekly basis in this intimate cultural setting. For film buffs, we would be remiss not to mention the Anthology Film Archives on East 2nd Street, a local theater best known for consistently showing the finest in avant-garde and experimental cinema. We also recommend the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street, home away from home for those who enjoy great acoustics and the company of die hard independent film fans. The East Village is also home to the trendy Cooper Square Hotel as well as the charming Gem Hotel, making it a great neighborhood to enjoy your stay in New York.
There are no events taking place on this date.