Tuesday, April 27, 2010

...Katz's Update

So, when one of my friends came by from out of town, we tried out the aforementioned plan about Katz's. Everything seemed to be going fine: we skipped lunch, and for an early dinner had some tourist cart food before wandering down to Houston Street to do the Katz's thing.

That's when everything went horribly awry. Because that sandwich? The $14.95 pastrami sandwich?
It was delicious. I mean, really really good. I thought we'd be ripped off only splitting it two ways, but, not gonna lie. I might do it again. I might spend $7.47ish and tax for half of that delicious sandwich again. So much for my plan to be cheap.

This blog has a great quick summary of my experience.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to do Katz's cheap

I generally hate romantic comedies, with one or two corny, tear-inducing exceptions. The Princess Bride, Imagine Me and You, Secretary (it's sort of comedic), and the classic When Harry Met Sally are a few of the notables. Who doesn't love Billy Crystal?

Like any decent fan of WHMS, I acquiesce with "You're right, you're right, I know you're right," and think of Meg Ryan whenever I check to make sure my mail isn't stuck in the mail drop-box. And so when I moved here I knew I had to go to Katz's, the deli where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm at Billy Crystal. The other day I was in the area and hungry, and I had an hour to spare. I went for you, reader(s). How to do Katz's on the cheap, after the jump.

Don't go.

No really. Just don't do it.

It's impossible to go to Katz's on the cheap. A pastrami sandwich is not $7 nor $8 nor even $10. It is $14.95. For an average sized, original NY deli style sandwich. And a can of cream soda is like $2.75 or something. Now, you all might be thinking that, hey, it's New York, it's gonna be expensive. But, there's this thing about New York. It does that whole Capitalism gambit really well; better than anywhere I've seen before. That means, while it has lots of giant enormous businesses that own everyone and their mother and milk you for all you're worth (in business 101 terminology, "elephants"), it also has a disproportionately high number of "fleas", the little, locally owned and operated businesses that are supposed to be the basis of our economy. It doesn't have a proportionate number of fleas to prove that Capitalism is working as it's supposed to, but it does have enough that some things you should be able to get for cheap, no matter where you are. Like deli-sandwiches.

So that means that, even though New York is expensive, some food is cheaper than similar food elsewhere. You should expect to find a "genuine" New York-style deli pastrami sandwich on rye with mustard and a plate of pickles on the side for under $6. Really. Even in Manhattan. So, I couldn't honestly buy a $15 pastrami sandwich just because that's what you should get when you go to Katz's. I know the tourists like it (hell, that's the point), but I couldn't bring myself to shell out the money. So I got the cheapest thing on the menu: a hot dog, with saurkraut or mustard included. Actually, I was hungry, so I got one with saurkraut and one with mustard and then I mashed them together until they averaged out the same toppings. Those hot dogs set me back $6.20. Jeeze. They weren't even that good (honestly, I prefer Chicago-style hot dogs, and kraut that is more kraut and less sour). Add to that a $2.75 cream soda and I was pretty set back and a little nauseous when I wandered out of Katz's that evening. So just don't go.

But maybe you have to go. Maybe you love Meg Ryan more than anything and have done everything else she's done in that movie including being really anal retentive, and falling for a guy who only slept with you out of pity. Or maybe your second-cousins are in town and they really want to go fake orgasms in public. Seriously. Maybe you have to try this particular pastrami sandwich.

The best way to do Katz's on the cheap if you absolutely MUST, is to buddy up. Go with three, four, or even five other people. Here's the catch: only order one sandwich. $15 five ways is only $3 a piece for the experience, and you still get to try the sandwich and feel ok oggling all the pictures of famous guests and posing in photos in the chair where Meg sat (it's marked by a big sign hanging from the ceiling).

But, 1/5 of an average sized sandwich is not dinner, you say! Not even if you get your own pickle. And you would be right. I don't think it counts as giving you good cheap advice if you don't get to eat dinner. I say the best solution to this is to make Katz's part of a tour of touristy New York food. Grab a slice of NY style pizza (you can get a crummy one for 99 cents a few doors down, or a better one for a buck or two any which way you venture), and top it off with some roasted nuts ($1 for peanuts) and a genuine New York City cart hot dog (which you can hypothetically get for under $2, I don't know, I work across the street from the Empire State Building so everything is overpriced). Now that it's spring time, find a Mr. Frosty truck and get a $3 cone with sprinkles. There's one parked right between Union Square and the Strand. Why not? You were going to be touristy anyway, and this way you should be pretty well fed (and touristed out) for around $10 per person. Well, $12 if you didn't remember to bring your own drink.