Late Night Scene: Katz's Deli

I know Katz's really plays up the 24-hour schedule -- even the logo declares that Katz's Never Kloses -- but walking in just before midnight, I wasn't expecting a hostess or a 10-minute wait to be seated.

The place almost feels like a suburban chain restaurant, with a calibrated kookiness provided by haphazard collages of photo booth strips. But then again, those places would have the chairs on the tables and the lights out by now. And the crowd is eclectic and fun--along the bar sit women wearing feather boas, and my friend gets enthusiastic compliments about his T-shirt, which has a picture of two unicorns humping under a rainbow. Ah yes, this is Montrose.

But, quickly, let's make a new rule: Just because a restaurant serves something "New York-style," whether it's pizza, deli sandwiches or, I don't know, kosher hot dogs, it's not necessary to beat us over the head with the theme. Enough with the subway signs, taxi checkerboard, and black-and-white pictures of bridges, skyscrapers and train stations. If you want to simulate the Big Apple, stick a signed picture of Regis Philbin on the wall, put the tables uncomfortably close together and cultivate a rodent problem.

Once seated, we try both sides of the Katz's oeuvre: a Yankee pot roast sandwich, made with sautéed onions and melted muenster on rye with fries, and an order of challah French toast with a side of scrambled eggs. The breakfast is decent, particularly the French toast, but the syrup is runny and impossible to pour, since the little container is so hot to touch. The microwave strikes again. And it pales next to the Yankee pot roast, which is mind-blowingly good. The meat, piled high, is super-tender and flavorful, and all the elements taste so good together, I might have to proclaim this my new favorite sandwich. The fries are awesome too: Wide, flat and long, not too crispy, not too mushy.

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