Why does it always have to be a contest? That said, I’m only too happy to offer my not necessarily expert opinion based on one visit to Schwarz’s and many visits to Katz’s. While I enjoyed my sandwich at the former, for me it’s Katz’s all the way, and I must (yes, must) take issue with a few things in the original post:
1) The size question. I do NOT think they’re equivalent. I had no trouble eating a whole Schwarz’s smoked meat sandwich (and in fact also ate french fries and a bunch of half-sours along with it), but I have to go halfsies on a Katz’s pastrami sandwich (and I apologize for using the word “halfsies”).
2) The mustard issue. Ok, dude, knocking Katz’s because the counter guy put too much mustard on your sandwich is nuts. YOU PUT THE MUSTARD ON THE SANDWICH YOURSELF. Then you won’t be all, “Waah, it’s too mustardy! Waah!”
3) The fattiness issue. Like the mustard issue, this one also has a very simple solution. When you taste the sample slice the meat cutter offers you, you politely say, “I’d like that a bit fattier, please.”
Alan Richman recently revisited his childhood favorite, Katz’s Deli. He wasn’t happy. Me? I’m happy. I just picked up a half-pound of chopped liver from the 2nd Avenue Deli. For my money (and I forked over $8 for a small amount of something that is essentially made with scraps), their version is the best. And while I’ve never tried Katz’s, I don’t doubt Richman’s assessment that it’s awful. But the thing is, a lot of the food at Katz’s is awful, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the place that most of what Richman ate was lousy. What they do well (pastrami, hot dogs, knockwurst) they do exceedingly well, and while some of the other stuff isn’t bad (LEO pancake style, french fries, salami, pea soup) most of the rest of the menu is horrid. That’s just how NY deli is, I think. Places tend to have a couple of dishes that they excel in, and everything else is order at your own risk. Personally, I like this kind of vaguely cranky, old-timey specialization. And really, if you order a cheesesteak or fried chicken at Katz’s then you deserve what you get.
Posted in New York City