Katz’s Delicatessen

New York, New York | C.1888

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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To walk into Katz’s Delicatessen is to be embraced by the sounds of happy chatter, and to witness the marvel of a well-oiled, fast-moving deli counter. As New York City’s oldest active original Jewish deli, Katz’s is an unquestioned institution of both culinary and cultural influencehaving delighted the tastes of millions, and also hosting one of Hollywood’s most intimate, fully-clothed scenes.

This Lower East Side landmark has served its infamous pastrami sandwichneighbored by an impressive array of alternative deli delightsto local New Yorkers and curious travelers with a “NYC To Do list” for more than 130 years. Originally opened in 1888, the deli began as “Iceland Brothers”, but changed names when it was acquired by Willy Katz. 

It was under Katz’s ownership that the delicatessen emerged as more than just a sandwich shop, but a stronghold of the neighborhood. In the early 20th century, the Lower East Side was home largely to Yiddish-speaking Jews, a tight-knit community united by their immigrant background and long-standing culinary traditions. Katz’s quickly became the destination to enjoy Kosher hot dogs and beans, along with a friendly chat with a neighbor. 

During World War II, Katz’s three sons all served in the United States Armed Forces, and so the deli coined a new, now iconic slogan: “Send a Salami To Your Boy in the Army”! The phrase, reflecting the devoted family’s practice of sending food to their deployed sons, has since become the company’s slogan, emblazoned on the backs of employee’s t-shirts.

At the height of the Yiddish theater, Katz’s also often served actors, singers, and comedians who were performing within the theaters along 2nd Avenue. This tradition of hosting thespians lasted for decades, but reached its most recognizable peak when a booth at Katz’s staged the now-iconic scene in When Harry Met Sally when Billy Crystal’s Harry truly meets Meg Ryan’s Sally, over a revelatory conversation. Given the restaurant, no matter what was on her plate, we concur with the nearby patron, who coyly responds, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

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