My new favorite sandwich: the Pastrami on Rye from Katz’s Deli (And yes, it’s SO worth the calories)

Pastrami on Rye from Katz Delicatessen NYCI’m somewhat ashamed to admit it took me about 6 years of living in New York before I finally tried the famous Pastrami on Rye from Katz’s Delicatessen, a place made even more famous thanks to a fake orgasm by Meg Ryan. It’s not that I never meant to. I’m pretty sure I had an opportunity freshman year of college when my NYU dorm offered many a free event showcasing “classic New York City.” But since missing that event and despite passing Katz’s Deli every time I went out in the Lower East Side or got a bagel with lox from Russ & Daughters, I just never found myself craving pastrami, especially since my only experiences having it consisted of dry deli meat. It wasn’t until I finally tried the version from Katz’s a few weeks ago that I realized what I had been missing, and now I can’t stop myself from craving it.

The sandwich is really quite simple with just 4 components:

  1. pastrami – beef that’s been brined, dried, seasoned, smoked, and steamed in between…
  2. two slices of rye bread that are coated with…
  3. mustard, all of which comes with an optional (but recommended)….
  4. sour pickle on the side.

It’s this simplicity and the sheer delicious, smokey, juiciness of Katz’s pastrami, perfectly complemented by that bit of acidity that makes this sandwich so damn good.

So, is it worth the calories? You can obviously tell by the laurels I’ve graced it with that yes, the Pastrami on Rye is worth the calories, but here’s the best part: the sandwich actually isn’t THAT many calories, all things considered. Thanks to the flavor of pastrami mainly coming from the brining and smoking process rather than any kind of frying or other fatty cooking technique, pastrami meat is pretty lean at around 41 calories and 1.6 grams of fat per ounce (If fat isn’t of concern, you can actually request the butcher at Katz’s to cut from the fatty side for you).

Calories in Pastrami

While pastrami is on the higher side in sodium and cholesterol, it’s still a good source of protein. Add no/low calorie mustard and a pickle and some carbs from the rye bread (2 slices = 140 calories), and the full 14-16 ounce Pastrami on Rye sandwich weighs in at around 800 calories, which is about the same as many of the piece-of-crap Subway foot longs (or rather, 11-inch-longs) that are often more like meat-flavored-bread than a real sandwich.

Half a pastrami and rye sandwich with a side salad. Photo credit: Serious Eats

At close to 16 ounces of meat, the pastrami on rye is hefty enough to split with someone else though (like seriously… you probably shouldn’t be eating one by yourself) so half a sandwich with a salad (which is a menu option, pictured above) sets you back only about 400 calories, making for a pretty balanced meal.

So next time you’re roaming around the Lower East Side, I definitely recommend paying homage to one of NYC’s oldest food institutions and ordering up a pastrami on rye, and if you’re with a friend, split one and order up any of Katz’s other delicious menu options. It’s the minimal-guilt way to enjoy some of the best this great city has to offer.

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