The Pastrami Generation
Starting next fall, New Yorkers (and many a tourist) will be able to get their pastrami and rye sandwich on at Katz's in Brooklyn. After 127 years on the Lower East Side, Katz's young-gun owner, Jake Dell, is bringing an outpost of the iconic deli to City Point, a residential and commercial development opening in Downtown Brooklyn that's slated to host a 40-vendor market.
Fans will be able to pick up sandwiches and a few other staples to go from a counter. "It's a small outpost; we're not recreating Katz's," Dell explains. Still, he promises that the famed deli meats will be the same. "We cure it ourselves, smoke it ourselves . . . The smokehouse won't change; we'll just make a little more product," Dell says. It's too early to tell what else (perhaps some of the famed signs or photos?) will make the trip across the East River, but "there's no doubt that we'll pay homage to" the original, he adds.
This fall wasn't the first time Katz's was approached with expansion plans. But something about the space and deal sat right with Dell. Plus, he had the help of sage wisdom from New York restaurant king Danny Meyer, who Dell called when he was making his decision. "He asked me what my goals were," Dell says. "I told him, 'My goal is to preserve tradition and to do everything the old way.' He asked me, 'Does this fit into that?'" Dell's answer was an emphatic yes.
Dell has been on a mission to ensure the future of the deli (even going so far as to enter into a somewhat-controversial deal to sell the air rights over the original deli to a developer), and this follows that path.
Expansions of classics, particularly when the first comes 127 years in, can be challenging, but deli expert David Sax, who authored Save the Deli, is cautiously optimistic about the expansion. "I love Katz's, and, obviously, this could be a great thing if it works out." Other delis of the same generation, like Carnegie and Stage, however, have struggled with multiple locations, Sax explains. But "I don't see that happening here, and I think Jake is smart enough to realize the folly of moving too quickly."
Still, the question remains: You can take the pastrami out of Manhattan, but can you really take Katz's out of it? We'll have to see, or as Sax says, Katz's "is a temple. A holy place . . . I took my daughter there for the first time last Thursday. It was magic, and while it is tempting to spread that magic around, Katz's has to be careful that in doing so, it absolutely preserves the core of the experience."
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