Katzinger’s Delicatessen, Columbus, Ohio

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I’ll be honest: I’m not very big on celebrity endorsements. Maybe I’m jaded because I’ve seen how celebrities will say one thing, and then reverse course a week later, such as at the 2004 Olympics when U.S. gymnast Carly Patterson famously said she couldn’t really have McDonald’s while training (despite officially endorsing the Golden Arches), then talked about the health benefits of McDonald’s a week later. Wonder what changed her mind?

Or maybe it’s because I grew up in the era where television and sports exploded into a full and total partnership, which led to Michael Jordan advertising virtually every product under the sun, up to and including batteries, which have absolutely nothing to do with basketball. Jordan was so ridiculous that after winning the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics (do you get the sense that I don’t much care for the Olympics?), he draped an American flag over his shoulder for the medal presentation…to cover up the Reebok logo on his jacket, because he had a contract with Nike. Whatever the reason, I’ve always figured that when a celebrity gives an opinion, it has a good chance of being fiction, done either to help a friend or for a truckload of money. As a result, I’ve always taken endorsements by celebrities with a handful of salt, rather than a grain.

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When it comes to food endorsements, however, the rules change a little. They don’t change at all for advertisements, of course, because there’s still money involved. No matter what Bobby Flay says about this Greek yogurt being the best he’s ever used, he’s still being paid by their people to say that (and I’ve never used Greek yogurt in a recipe anyway). But they do change for restaurant-centric television shows, because to those programs, credibility is a must. If an expert such as Simon Majumdar or Alton Brown proclaims a restaurant wonderful when they know it isn’t in order to help a friend and the public soundly rejects it, their endorsement carries less weight in the future, which leads to reduced roles. In this day and age, it’s become easier than ever for serious foodies to test the claims of the experts, so there’s a lot of incentive for them to tell the truth now.

With that being the case, a celebrity’s restaurant endorsement in the right setting sparks a feeling of cautious optimism. I’m certainly not going to trust anyone blindly, but if a credible food expert praises a restaurant, my attitude is along the lines of, “OK, that sounds like it could be good…but I want to be the judge of that myself.” Such was the case with Katzinger’s Delicatessen, located on the edge of German Village in Ohio’s state capital of Columbus. Among other things, Columbus is the hometown of Chopped host Ted Allen, who certainly knows a thing or two about the culinary world after the amount of time he has spent hosting one of the Food Network’s signature programs. Recently, while doing one of my many searches, I noticed that during one program, Ted Allen actually proclaimed Katzinger’s to be one of the best places he has ever eaten. Well, that’s not exactly a statement that’s going to be made lightly. This was an endorsement worth exploring for ourselves.

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The first thing to note about Katzinger’s is that this is more than just a restaurant. It’s a legitimate deli that sells multitudes of cheeses, meats and bread. What isn’t made fresh on the premises is delivered fresh each day from as close as possible and made according to Katzinger’s standards. The bread, for example, comes from a bakery in Pittsburgh that makes its bread a certain way only for Katzinger’s, which then slices each loaf when it arrives in Columbus after three hours down Interstate 70. Not as great as if it was made fresh on site, but considering it’s made close by and driven in fresh, still a pretty good sign.

But it’s what’s between the bread that makes a great sandwich, and not only does Katzinger’s deliver here, it also throws in some creative names on top of it. Want a BLT? Here, it’s called Frank’s Reincarnation. Ham and turkey with mustard and mayonnaise? It’s called Sam Lives Here. Make it corned beef and pastrami and add Swiss, and you’ve got Jeff’s Soaring Super Sandwich. I love creative names, and some of these are so in depth that they actually open the door for some commentary. Here are some of my favorites:

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No. 8, Mom and Granny’s Harbor Hero: chicken salad, Muenster, lettuce and tomato on Challah. I wonder how Amy’s mom and grandmother feel about chicken salad?

No. 21, Gene’s Free Lunch: Hot corned beef, roast beef, Swiss, cole slaw and Russian dressing on pumpernickel. If it’s supposed to be Gene’s Free Lunch, why does it cost $12.50?

No. 59, President Bill’s Day At The Deli: Hot corned beef, mustard, Swiss on pumpernickel. Yes, this sandwich was created by President Clinton on one of his visits. Apparently, Bill Clinton is not a big fan of menu restrictions.

No. 65, Rachel and Nicki Got Stuck In A Closet: Beef brisket with barbecue sauce, cole slaw and Swiss. So Rachel and Nicki created a barbecue sandwich in a closet? Well, that’s one way to pass the time while you wait for help.

No. 69, Jack Does The Funky Chicken: Grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and honey mustard on sourdough. Sounds like Jack’s got a good beat going here.

No. 79, Todd Is My Co-Pilot: Grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion and homemade ranch dressing on farm bread. So you’re the one flying the plane while Todd’s making a sandwich? Love the sandwich idea, but not sure I want to take that flight.

No. 80, Misty and Stef Rule The World: Bacon, lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone and pesto mayonnaise on farm bread. Could Misty and Stef really do any worse than our current leaders? I mean, if they can make laws as well as they do sandwiches, they’ve got my vote.

There are no sandwiches with Dan or Amy in them, which is a bit of a disappointment. However, it didn’t really matter, because being the ridiculous planner that I am, I already knew what I needed to experience on this visit: the pastrami Reuben. Officially, the name is No. 39, Bill, Gary and Beuford’s (as a journalist, I love the lack of the Oxford comma) Upper Yough Reuben, which is your classic Reuben with pastrami instead of corned beef. Apparently, the name comes from a contest held where three guys who loved whitewater rafting on the Upper Yough River (which actually goes through Maryland and does not enter Ohio) won the right to name a sandwich, and that’s the name they came up with for what is best described as a pastrami Reuben with either sauerkraut or cole slaw. This is the sandwich that Ted Allen called the best he’d ever had, and I knew that this was what I wanted to experience for myself. To complete my meal, I added a knish, expecting it to be merely a supporting player in this meal.

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Yeah, about that: the knish is absolutely incredible. The classic knish is a mixture of onions and mashed potato inside a pocket of dough, much like a pasty with a different filling. The potato is cooked perfectly, soft and full of flavor, and it really is what makes this side dish something beyond an ordinary side dish. The pastry itself is light and flaky, and you honestly can’t even taste the onions, which made Amy a fan of this as well. This thing is simply amazing, and truthfully, I think it’s better than my sandwich was.

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And that’s really saying something, because this Reuben is a fantastic sandwich. I’m not sure what it is about Ohio and Reubens (or maybe it’s Ohio and sandwiches in general). First, the pastrami is heated up before it’s placed on the sandwich, and the sandwich is further heated by being placed on the grill. This, of course, gives the Swiss cheese the beautiful melt that creates a wonderfully creamy texture and enhances every bite. With the sauerkraut and Russian dressing adding to the flavor of the excellent rye bread, this is simply an awesome sandwich. Apparently, their classic and turkey Reubens are every bit as popular, which is pretty impressive. This sandwich is nothing short of wonderful.

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Amy wasn’t in the mood for a Reuben, and she opted to keep things simple and go for a No. 46, Repast Of The Robber Baron, which is a simple turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Normally, it comes on rye, but she’s not a fan of rye and opted for challah, which she discovered a taste for on a previous trip. It might be simple, but it’s really good. The turkey is sliced well, flavored perfectly and is moist throughout the way it should be. Nothing says that good food has to be complicated, and this sandwich proves it.

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She also decided to follow my lead with a potato-based side dish, opting for a potato latke with sour cream and applesauce. The main difference here is that for the latke, the potatoes and onions are grated and then deep-fried into a pancake, creating a crispy texture rather than a soft one. I’m not sure why applesauce works so well with a potato pancake, but it really does. This is also awesome, ranking just a notch below my knish in my opinion. I really recommend the knish, which comes in at just $2 with a sandwich to the $3.25 latke, but it’s a matter of preference. Either one is a great choice.

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What we weren’t fans of was the only thing Katzinger’s gives away for free: its pickles. Katzinger’s offers a help-yourself station to both dill and garlic pickles, but we didn’t really enjoy the taste of either one of them. The dill flavor just wasn’t pronounced well, and the garlic gave the pickles kind of a weird taste.

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I’m not sure what it is, but for some reason, they just didn’t work and one each was all we wanted. Truthfully, this isn’t really a bad thing, because a subpar pickle leaves more room for great sandwiches and potato products. That’s a trade I’m happy to make, especially given that the pickles were free. Can you really complain about something free? I can’t.

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Here’s what else it gives you more room for: dessert. Yes, in addition to their array of sandwiches, salads (with homemade dressing), soups (Ted Allen claims the chicken noodle soup is the best possible side, although it would be hard as heck to beat the knish) and sides, Katzinger’s also offers homemade pies, cakes and other good stuff. Seeing that, I decided to do what I usually do, which is pick the most pronounced peanut butter and chocolate flavor and go with that.

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If nothing else, that’s something I apparently have in common with my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law. So of course, that meant going for a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie.

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This time, however, I might have ruined it for all future experiences, because this pie was even better than the knish. The filling is pure peanut butter taste, with the perfect light whipped texture that you expect from a silk pie. Just the peanut butter on its own is amazing, but Katzinger’s then adds a wonderful chocolate ganache that provides a contrast in style and a perfect complement the the peanut butter. The finish is an Oreo crust, which was so good that Amy decided to go for the crust quickly to make sure she got some of it. Truthfully, I had to stop myself from ordering a second knish in order to get this pie, and I am so thankful that I did. Wow, was this amazing.

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Amy opted for a homemade chocolate chip cookie, which was also incredible. Both of us prefer cookies that are fresh out of the oven and have the chips melting when you break them apart, but this was so good that we loved it even with it being cold. The cookie is soft, flavorful and very chocolate-filled. Man, if you could get one of these fresh out of the oven, it might even rival the pie.

I’m not sure what it is that makes German Village the home of great restaurants in Columbus, but there’s no doubt after my third visit, German Village is the place to go for some incredible meals in Ohio’s state capital. If it’s between two slices, involves a potato or it’s sweet, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find it at Katzinger’s and it’s going to be an amazing experience. Well done, Ted Allen, well done.

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Recap

Time to go: Brunch, lunch or dinner. Katzinger’s is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and opens an hour earlier on weekends.

Wait during my visit: None. We came on a Sunday, so it wasn’t crowded.

Location: Katzinger’s is located at 475 South Third Street in Columbus, Ohio, right at the beginning of German Village.

Cost: On the pricey side for sure. Katzinger’s stuffs their sandwiches to be pretty full, which means that the sandwiches will not come cheap. Only one sandwich on the menu is under $10, with most being $11-13 for a regular and $13-15 for a deli-size, which is double the size of the regular. Most desserts cost around $3, as do most sides, which makes the $2 knish an absolute steal.

Parking: This can be tricky. Katzinger’s does have a small lot near the restaurant, but it doesn’t look big enough for a large crowd. If you can’t get in the lot, you’ll be stuck trying to find somewhere in German Village…and that isn’t a particularly enjoyable challenge.

Seating arrangement: Tables and chairs

Website: Katzinger’s

Specialty items: Pastrami Reuben, peanut butter pie, knish

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Katzinger's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

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About nighthawk2005

A hungry guy in the land of the Hawkeye discovers America's best restaurants for himself.

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