The Best Pastrami In NYC, According To Anthony Bourdain

The late Anthony Bourdain once traveled around the world to discover the best food that the world has to offer. So, it's safe to say he had a pretty long list of restaurants that he absolutely loved. When he wanted to indulge in a classic pastrami sandwich, he knew just where to go: straight to Katz's Delicatessen right in the heart of New York City. Bourdain frequently spoke about his love for this classic institution, even featuring the legendary spot in an episode of his show "No Reservations" in 2009, and singing the deli's praises in multiple different interviews. As the food critic stated in an interview uploaded by YouTuber Yura Dashevsky in 2006, "When you think New York, you think pastrami, you think Katz's." 


Known for its generous serving sizes, the iconic Lower East Side deli apparently has a unique process of preparing its meat, using a slower curing method than normal so that the pastrami comes packed with maximum flavor. For reference, while some pastrami restaurants will give meat 36 hours to cure, Katz's meat takes 30 days. We'd imagine that extra time (684 more hours, to be exact) makes all the difference, and could be a big reason why Bourdain was such a fan.

Bourdain wouldn't change a thing about this classic NY deli

Anthony Bourdain was no stranger to slurping up warm bowls of pho in random hole-in-the-walls or crouching over a sticky countertop to enjoy a plate of skewered meat, so it might come as a surprise to some that he'd frequent a large institution like Katz's Deli. The restaurant was famously featured in the classic romcom "When Harry Met Sally" and is one of the must-visit delis of America for both New Yorkers and tourists alike. Nevertheless, Bourdain was still a big fan of the flavor of these pastrami sandwiches and knew that Katz's was popular for a reason. 


He agreed that the rest of the world might need to try a sandwich from Katz's at some point, but he was also wary of the place franchising and losing some of its quality. He loved every bit of the place just as it was, and as he shared in that YouTube interview in 2006, "I hope it stays exactly like it is." While Bourdain was certainly charmed by Katz's, he frequently acknowledged another classic New York restaurant he claimed had some equally delicious pastrami offerings. That other woman was another classic New York deli known as Pastrami Queen.

Bourdain had love for Pastrami Queen, too

If it wasn't Katz's Anthony Bourdain was going to for some sliced meat, it was Pastrami Queen. "[The pastrami has] just a good, nice mix of fat and lean. It's the real deal, served warm on fresh, soft rye bread with the right kind of mustard. Good pickles. And they deliver — very happy with that," he shared in a 2017 interview with Variety. He often paired the hefty, savory sandwich with a velvety cream soda, and even dubbed the indulgent combination, "a quintessential New York meal." Pastrami Queen has been around since 1956, starting off as a humble deli in Brooklyn. This New York chain now has four locations across New York, so it might be just as popular as Katz's.


Food was certainly a cornerstone of Bourdain's life, so it's not a surprise he had a few favorite places to get pastrami while in NYC. He seemed to love these spots both pretty equally, too. As he shared in a 2016 interview with Bon Appétit, "If I'm away from New York long enough, I need a correct pastrami sandwich from either Pastrami Queen or Katz's. And you're not getting that anywhere else, as far as I'm concerned." So, if you're in New York, you've already got two solid choices for a delicious, savory lunch. Just get there early, as chances are there will be a line around the block. It's just that good.