Some places become famous and then turn into overpriced tourist traps. Listed in guidebooks, they still pack in the tourists but locals shun them.
Katz's Deli, which has been operating since 1888, is famous and touristy (especially since it was the venue for Meg Ryan's famous scene in When Harry Met Sally - the table where the scene was filmed is marked with a sign) but there's also a large number of locals who visit here too.
When you arrive, you are given a little ticket that you need to hang onto, as you'll need to show it to the cashier when you exit. You can line up at the long cafeteria-style bench, where up to 10 men are kept busy slicing and chopping meat and preparing sandwiches, or you can sit at a table and get wait-service. The room is vast and the decor is minimal: stark white lighting, plain laminated tables and walls adorned with photos of celebrities who have eaten here over the years.
We sat at the wait-service tables and were very quickly served with a complimentary plate of pickled dills and cucumbers. Adam opted for the half-sandwich (pastrami) and soup (split pea), while I chose the Reuben.
This is not the world's greatest food but it does not aim to be. It is well-cooked and well-made deli food and it is a New York experience. We enjoyed our meal and it was great fun to eat at a place we felt we knew because of its reputation (and its film cameo). Of course the serving sizes are totally over the top but that is part of the deal and you can always get your leftovers packed into a doggie bag (although I think they taste best when eaten fresh at Katz's). It's definitely worth placing Katz's on your "to do" list.
205 East Houston St