We all know the scene--that scene--in "When Harry Met Sally",
filmed at Katz's Delicatessen on East Houston Street in the Lower East Side. Meg Ryan may have boosted the place's...um...sex appeal(?) back in the late '80s, but this deli had been a New York institution for years and years before she and Billy ever sat and ate at one of its tables.
I stumbled into Katz's after a night of Drag Queen Bingo at The Bowery Poetry Club. Luckily I had two lovely dinner companions on this occasion: my mother, who was visiting on a whirlwind trip from Georgia, and my friend Ali, who was mildly horrified when I told her that I'd never eaten a knish before. I asked her whether I should try the regular knish or the sweet potato knish...her reply: "Get 'em both!"
So I did.
My mother and Ali got matching Reubens. Apparently these have inspired a religious following of considerable size.
Here, the altar of pickles.
The beer I consumed at Bingo Night had admittedly softened my mental clarity...but after the two rounds of hearty potato knish I regained my senses and really got to take a good look around the place. What a time capsule. The wood paneling alone must be older than I am...and the celebrity photographs displayed so proudly on the walls? Well if you need proof that they are aged, look no further than the picture of one Sarah Jessica Parker with dark brown hair.
I also enjoyed this one of the ultimate b-team boyband, 98 Degrees.
But all celeb endorsements aside, Katz's really is a gem. A little old world, a little lowbrow. A lot charming. And entirely delicious.
I recently read somewhere that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Manhattan's Lower East Side as one of "America's Most Endangered Historic Places." Considering this, I would like to give a little extra thanks to Katz's.
Stop by. You'll see what I mean.