In the world of great Kosher-style pastrami, the list almost always begins with Katz’s, with very few others even coming close. This is an insane New York bias and after years of proclaiming Langer’s in LA to be the greater of the two, I finally had a chance to put my money where my mouth is (pun very much intended).
One thing that is great about Katz’s is that they give you the opportunity to try out the meats before ordering. Thus, I had a taste of corned beef and pastrami before choosing the pastrami. I ordered it straight up on rye and it clocked in at a whopping $19.99 – making it easily the most expensive sandwich I had ever purchased. Since I ordered with a buddy of mine, it also came with a pickle plate that was entirely separate from the sandwich, which my buddy took full advantage of as I ignored it.
The first thing you notice about Katz’s pastrami is that it is cut thick like Langer’s, which is definitely how I like it. The rind around the pastrami is intense, adding a whole lot of flavor to each bite, along with a crispy texture. That flavor is tempered somewhat by the rye bread, which plays the role rye bread is always meant to in Jewish deli sandwiches – acting as a conduit with a hint of rye flavor. Oddly enough, where Katz’s goes wrong is the texture of the meat. Usually the curing process gives all pastrami a similar texture mingling fibrous with fatty. Kat’s pastrami, however, was weirdly rubbery, like it had just been boiled.
Something wasn’t right here. All this time I had heard such amazing things about Katz’s, and what I found didn’t live up to the hype. Was the pastrami delicious? No question. Was the rubbery texture terrible? Absolutely not. It’s really a minor gripe, but when you’re talking about the best pastrami in the world, a minor gripe becomes bigger. I’d eat Katz’s again in a heartbeat, but if I could only choose one pastrami for the rest of my life it would be Langer’s. And maybe even Hershel’s in Philly after that.