A Proper Buffalo Wing, and Other Discoveries at Katz's Deli
Photos by Christina Uticone
It says a lot about the sheer number of restaurants in Houston, I think, that I live 1.9 miles from Katz's Deli on Westheimer, and went for the very first time just a couple of months ago. (I've lived here since 2009.) My husband is a big fan of Kenny & Ziggy's, and I'm partial to the New York Bagel Shop over in Meyerland, so Katz's was always one of those places we would drive by and say, "Next time!"
Finally, "next time" became "this time," and we zipped over for a late-afternoon lunch on a day when I had the flu and nothing in the house could tempt me to eat. I have to admit, nothing on the menu really tempted me to eat, either, but I needed something after three days of chicken soup and Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, so I agreed to share some Buffalo wings with my husband and ordered a Veggie Hero to stare at and/or take home to eat when I felt better.
While we waited for our order, Josh and I spent some time rolling our eyes and discussing the likelihood that, once again, a Buffalo wing ordered outside of Upstate New York would disappoint.
I am happy to report that Josh and I were quite wrong about the Buffalo wings. Not only does Katz's serve them with a gorgeous side of bleu cheese dressing -- with lots of delectable hunks of cheese throughout -- the sauce is spot-on perfect: tangy, with a slow burn that builds as you eat. We ordered them "crispy" (a good wing should never be in the oil for less than 16 minutes, and we have found that 19 minutes is usually the best) to make sure they weren't soggy. The skin wasn't quite as perfectly crispy as you would get in Buffalo, but what the hell -- I'm sure not getting perfectly Texas barbecue when I go to Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester, New York, right?
I'm thrilled that Katz's doesn't bread their chicken wings, a puzzling trend I have come across here in Texas and elsewhere in the country. A breaded chicken wing is an abomination upon chicken wings, and should be done away with via legislation. It's not entirely surprising that a famous New York City deli (even one in Houston) should get a New York-centric dish right, but I'm telling you, outside of the Finger Lakes, people do things to chicken wings that are unspeakable, mostly involving the aforementioned breading and a variety of ill-conceived sauces.
The Katz version does all three basic things right: (1) a simple sauce of Frank's Red Hot and butter; (2) a long fry time, resulting in a good crisp skin; (3) bleu cheese, NOT RANCH! And since Katz's is open all night and chicken wings are best eaten when already intoxicated, I'm terribly excited to return and eat them all over again.
Before I forget, I also have to say that in spite of my lack of appetite, the Veggie Hero was delish, and I ate quite a lot of it. Crusty, flaky French bread was piled high with tomato, lettuce, avocado, red onion, bell peppers, Swiss cheese, with a healthy dose of oil and vinegar, and sprinkled with a perhaps too-generous dose of capers. (I love capers, but it was a lot even for me.) I found the combination addicting, and ordered it again just a few days later.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.