photo by Robert Menzer
It’s hard to imagine the Lower East Side without Katz’s Delicatessen, that rare restaurant where native New Yorkers deign to rub elbows with tourists. An institution since 1888, the deli may owe its immortality to the fact that it hasn’t varied its beloved kosher-style menu much in 126 years, even as the neighborhood has transformed around it. Jake Dell, a third-generation co-owner, grew up in the restaurant — he recalls hiding from “scary Russians with big knives” at the deli counter and celebrating his bar mitzvah here — and he is intent upon preserving traditions. “The ability to change and grow is important,” he says, “but that’s not who we are.” Diners appreciate the stripped-down cafeteria and old-school attitude, and they keep coming back for the consistently high-quality pastrami, brisket, and corned-beef sandwiches, matzo ball soup, and hot dogs. If you must avoid the out-of-towners, go late on a weekend night, when Katz’s is open around the clock.