Review: Katz’s Deli. No, Not That One…
Think Kosher delicatessen in New York and the first establishment which may come to mind is the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen — even though its food is reminiscent of authentic Kosher delicatessen and technically not Kosher — with its pastrami sandwiches on rye bread and organized chaos from the second you enter the door to the moment you leave…
Review: Katz’s Deli. No, Not That One…
…so when I found out that a Katz’s Deli existed in the bustling metropolis of McCaysville in Georgia — literally steps from the Tennessee border — my curiosity was beyond piqued. Was this for real?!?
I checked the official Internet web site of what is technically called Katz’s New York Deli. The founders and owners of the establishment are Fran and Steve Katz, who are originally from New York; and they have been in the food business for many years. Katz? New York? Deli? Okay, check…
I do not know how or why they found themselves in McCaysville; but there they were — 93 minutes and approximately 88 miles away from the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
Road trip. Day trip. Mind trip.
I drove on Georgia State Highway 5 for practically the entire distance and turned right onto Georgia State Highway 60 for literally several car lengths — and there I was.
I must say that parking is substantially easier than the more famous counterpart in lower Manhattan — and free, too! Ample street parking is available.
I walked up the steps, passed through the front screen door which physically rang a bell, and turned right — still not knowing if I would enjoy the dining experience or be sorry I took the long trip.
“I’ll be there,” a female voice called out from the left and out of sight.
“Not a problem,” I replied — using this opportunity to take some photographs.
In addition to the food and merchandise — such as coffee mugs and clothing items — Katz’s New York Deli also offers desserts. I was thrilled that in the top left of the refrigerated beverage case on the right to have spotted a can of Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. Three dollars for a can is rather steep; but I have not had one in years and decided to go for broke.
I was mostly disinterested in the offerings which were listed on the menu on the chalkboard. Western omelette? Grilled cheese? Smothered chicken biscuit? Veggie burger? I’ll pass…
…but the house specialties was where my attention went next — and there they were: corned beef and pastrami on fresh baked Jewish rye bread with a pickle? Potato knish? I’m there!
A woman once again thanked me for my patience and said that she would be there momentarily. “Take your time,” I replied — as my angry stomach was growling at me, what are you talking about!?! I want to eat NOW!
The main dining area was empty for two reasons: the dining establishment was quite busy with their take-out business for customers — which is why the woman had not emerged into sight yet — and because the weather was sunny and pleasant; so eating al fresco was in order.
No, Katz’s Delicatessen in New York does not provide a place to eat their food outside — unless you want to sit on the curb on either Ludlow Street or Houston Street and risk getting run over by a car with its driver trying to park at a meter while breathing the exhaust of other vehicles and hearing the cacophony of construction and crowds.
“What can I get for you?” asked the woman — who finally came out and was behind the counter — with a thick southern drawl that no one would mistake for a New Yawk accent.
“I would like a pastrami sandwich on Jewish rye bread — extra lean, please.”
She looked at me momentarily like I had three pus-filled ears on my chin with two hairy orange warted tails coming out of each ear while speaking my request in a mix of Icelandic and Khmer. “We just slice it. However it comes out. It is lean.”
That was not a good sign for me. Strike one.
“Okay,” I continued my order. “I would also like a corned beef — ”
“We don’t have corned beef,” she replied.
Hm. This place is supposed to be known for its corned beef: “Kosher, Juicy, The Real Thing on Jewish Rye”.
Strike two. MAJOR strike two.
She asked if I wanted a different sandwich. Different sandwich? I could get most of the other offerings much closer to where I am based — but oh well.
Disappointed, I said, “Okay. Instead of another sandwich, I’ll have the round potato knish, please” — despite it costing $9.99. Even Katz’s Delicatessen and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery in Manhattan do not charge usurious prices for an authentic potato knish — well…at least not that usurious, anyway.
With the Dr. Brown’s cream soda and a gratuity, the total of my order came to $30.46. I was given a device that would buzz when the order was ready; but she brought everything out on a tray — except the can of soda, which I removed from the refrigerated beverage case.
I was supposed to have a choice of potato chips or cole slaw; but a bag of potato chips came with the food.
“May I please have the cole slaw instead?” I asked.
“We are out of cole slaw,” she replied. “I did not have a chance to make a new batch.”
I do like Gulden’s spicy brown mustard; but it is a far cry from real authentic New York delicatessen mustard —although far superior to plain yellow mustard. Certainly superior to ketchup, of which there is currently a shortage. I was given three packets.
Foul ball. Technically not a real strike.
I took a closer look at the pastrami. It was indeed mostly lean. Its aroma was somewhat reminiscent of the real thing in New York. I put some mustard on the rye bread, which had caraway seeds in it — I do like that — and was definitely fresh. The crust was not as hard as traditional rye bread in New York — usually from Pechter’s — but it looked quite good.
I took a bite of the sandwich. It was actually good. Not New York delicatessen good. Not even close. But it was good enough to enjoy. It was certainly not oversized or overstuffed — in fact, I was not completely full once the sandwich was gone — but at $12.95, it was not advertised as such.
Next came the round potato knish. It looked and felt homemade — but when I picked it up, it was rather oily. Even a fried square knish in New York is usually not this oily; and round knishes are usually baked.
Potato knishes are supposed to be filled with a mashed potato filling which is somewhat on the dry — for lack of a better word — side. Upon taking a bite of this knish, the dough was extremely soft; and the potato filling was almost to the point of liquified. It tasted reasonably good — but it was nowhere nearly reminiscent of its brethren in New York; and neither were nearly as filling and as satisfying.
The two small round potato knishes were certainly not worth $9.99.
The small pickle spear was good; but it was not like one which is served at an authentic delicatessen in New York — and the purple pickled cabbage was decent but surprisingly bland.
I sat at the table on the right on the porch. The brick building in the background in the center of the photograph is in Tennessee, as the border between Georgia and Tennessee diagonally dissects the parking lot of the IGA supermarket — so you can technically park your car in Copperhill, Tennessee to do grocery shopping in the store in McCaysville, Georgia.
The pastrami sandwich at Katz’s New York Deli was better than I expected; and the small pickle spear was good — but everything else fell short. The prices were a little high for the amount of food which was received.
If I found myself in McCaysville again, I would consider eating at Katz’s New York Deli again — especially to try the corned beef sandwich, cole slaw, and soup which I could not do this time around — but I would not once again go out of my way by driving 178 miles for greater than three hours round trip specifically to do so.
Katz’s New York Deli
32 Toccoa Avenue
McCaysvillle, Georgia 30555
Open 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon every day.
Closed on Tuesday.
All photographs ©2021 by Brian Cohen.