OK, let me please preface this by saying all three of these spots are f'ing awesome. The real winner, me. All sampled in last 10 days
Langers -- you know the drill. Thick sliced pastrami piled an inch and half or so on crusty rye. I like mine with swiss and cold kraut on side to pile on. To me this has always been the standard. No place has better rye. But I heard of a few contenders in NYC.
Katz's -- downtown....frankly, this meat and sandwich architecture is similar to langers. I tipped the carver, asked for extra fatty -- all the things the fine NYC hounds recommended. Sampled the meat first too...wow. Similar beefy richness as langers meat if you ask me, and thickly sliced and juicy. to me the bread a bit too thickly sliced, maybe 50percent thicker than langers, and not as crusty or wide, but this is really nitpicking....my opinion, a very similar sandwich to langers. that's a good thing. similar amount of meat -- very ample. Side dish of griddled natural casing dog with kraut-- very nice! im kicking myself for not buying a hard salami to take home
this brings me to my next stop...another nearly century old spot walking distance from Times Sq., the carnegie deli. ample isn't accurate here. there's more succulent pastrami in half a sandwich here than a whole one at the other spots...maybe 6 inches of meat (you can't print that!) price about the same, 18 or 20 bucks i think...more thinly sliced, more of that black stuff on the sides...super f'ing juicy, this thing steamed up the bread and melted what was literally 6 slices of swiss cheese on it...this spot seemed to be a notch below katz/langers from the hounds i surveyed, but i actually liked it best. yes size matters. but this meat was awesome too...so soft and juicy and delicious. pickles here (full and half sour better than langers and katz).
as i said, all these spots are amazing, but if i had to pick one spot to get a pastrami sandwich it would be the carnegie deli. you don't need to eat for a while and even half a sandwich can do a hungry hound...of course i didn't stop there.... however, if were downtown near katz's i would go there instead of carnegie. the meat is maybe a bit "beefier" and less "pastrami-y" if that makes any sense, and is outstanding. obviously if in LA, langers is our king.
footnote: russ and daughters and barney greengrass blow our barney greengrass away for selection of fish, better bagels, latkes and more...also 100 year old(ish) places proudly run by familes like (i think) the 3 pastrami kings above)