The Roast Beef Sandwich Mistake An Expert Avoids At All Costs

New York delis have been around since the late 19th century, but they may have hit their high-water mark, publicity-wise, when actress Meg Ryan delivered cinema's most celebrated fully-clothed fake orgasm at Katz's Delicatessen while filming the 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally." While sex may be the sort of thing people feign enthusiasm for, their appreciation for Katz's sandwiches is more likely to be genuine, which is why we turned to Katz's fifth-generation owner Jake Dell for expert advice on a question of great interest. No, it's not "What was Sally eating?" but rather, "How do you put together a great roast beef sandwich?" Dell was happy to oblige, telling us that the biggest mistake is to make it too plain.

Dell explains, "A plain roast beef is nothing like a pastrami or a corned beef that is packed with flavor." In his opinion, roast beef may be the most basic of deli meats, so he feels that it needs a little something extra. As he advises, "You really have to make sure to give enough flavor through toppings and condiments."

Here's how to upgrade that sandwich

In Jake Dell's opinion, the best condiments to use on a roast beef sandwich are horseradish and spicy mustard. "Anything with a little zest and pop to it," he says, "is absolutely crucial to making it an enjoyable eating experience." One trendy topping, however, he has no time for. As he tells us, "Katz's is an NYC deli so no au jus here, just good old fashioned gravy!" Since Katz's is not only one of the best delis in the U.S. but even one of the nation's most famous restaurants, we wouldn't dream of arguing. French dip, schmensh dip — that's a California thing, so who needs it?

If you're not a mustard or horseradish fan, there are numerous other options for topping your deli roast beef. Cheese is always a great place to start — at Katz's, they give you a choice of American or Swiss, but sharp cheddar would be an excellent alternative, as would a smoked cheese such as gouda, while blue cheese crumbles would add some pungency. As for other sandwich toppers, pickled peppers, sauteed mushrooms, or caramelized onions would all be tasty, or you could make a Chicago-style roast beef sandwich by adding some hot giardiniera. If you're more of a mayonnaise fan, you might be dismayo-ed to learn that Katz's is pretty down on this condiment as a sandwich topper, but a garlicky homemade aioli would give you a similar effect with a lot more flavor.