How to visit Katz’s Deli in NYC like a local

We asked Nikki, our local guide in New York City, how to visit the most famous deli in the city and order your sandwich without annoying all the locals in line.

smoked meat sandwich

That’s a lot of meat. Order it right. | Photo by Nikki Padilla

Katz’s Delicatessen is an institution in NYC. It’s not only been around for more than 100 years, but it’s also a movie star — if you’ve seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, you’ve seen inside the famous Katz’s. But ordering a sandwich there can be overwhelming if you don’t know the rules. Here’s how to get the best pastrami sammy on the Lower East Side and totally look like you know what you’re doing.

1. Get a ticket at the door. DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET.

2. Head to any vacant spot on the lunch counter and order, giving them your ticket. We recommend one classic pastrami on rye for two people — unless you’re really starving (the sandwiches are huge) or have cash to spend (pastrami’s not cheap, and it can easily be $20-$25 for one sandwich).

They’ll slice off some pastrami and put it on a plate on the counter. Like a wine tasting, you’re supposed to nibble on some, approve (“Yup, that’s good” suffices), and they’ll finish cutting for your sandwich.

We also recommend ordering a side of pickles and a New York Egg Cream (chocolate or vanilla syrup, milk, and a spritz of seltzer). You couldn’t find a more classic NYC meal.

3. Take your food AND TICKET to any available table — just check that there isn’t a sign saying “table service only.” I usually find seats around the corner near the bathrooms.

DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET, even if you haven’t ordered any food on it.

4. Once you’ve finished your meal and put away your trays, bring your ticket to the cash register at the door and pay on your way out. If you’ve lost your ticket, they will assume you’ve had two pastrami sandwiches and two sodas, amounting to $50.

Learn more local tips on a Locals on Tap meet-up.

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