Visiting The "Set"

"I'll have what she's having."

That's what she said. More specifically, that's what director Rob Reiner's mother delivered deadpan as her one line of dialogue.

Katz's Delicatessen has been a culinary staple in New York City since its inception in 1888. About a century later, Meg Ryan shook the walls of the kosher-style establishment with her famous fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.

Ok, two things.

First, if an actress is playing a part, and therefore faking a fake orgasm, that's a double negative — which would mean that although Sally Albright was giving quite the performance, Ms. Ryan was truly reaching climax. That's a snake eating its own tail scenario, isn't it?

Secondly, what was she having?

Looks like a turkey sandwich and cole slaw. However, given the character's unique ordering style evident earlier in the film, we have to believe it's a bit more complicated than that. Sauce and toppings on the side? Style of bread? Toasted? Does a beverage come into play — or foreplay, rather?

I'll have to go to the source — and quite happily, as who can resist a trip to Katz's? To make the experience as authentic as possible I have postponed shaving for a week, giving me the optimal Harry Burns scruff. Yet, if the visit is to be a true reenactment, I need a female companion...

I decide not to pull any punches, be honest, and ask my friends of the opposite sex exactly what I had in mind:

"How much would it take for you to fake an orgasm at Katz's Delicatessen on Tuesday?"

I thought to specify the day of the week was a nice touch.

The responses varied.

"No way, Jose."

"I think I have a date Tuesday night."

"What about for lunch?"

" I think I might change it to a lunch"

"A piece of pie. And a plane ticket to Katz's."

The last one was from my Aussie friend, who obviously doesn't know that Katz's is devoid of an airport. Still, it was sweet of her to be the only one daring enough to flirt with the idea of the proposed pseudo street theater.

At least they were all platonic rejections.

Out of options, I enlist what Barney Stinson describes as "a couple of bros" in the adventure — two male friends who will most likely appreciate the savory meats much more than anyone else I had asked previously. But do I dare to try a role-reversal, a re-imagining of the scene if you will, and have more of a Billy Crystal twist on the sexual soundtrack?

As a dude, I can honestly say that I've never faked an orgasm.

And as a dude, I can honestly say that I do not want to hear another dude faking, or not faking, an orgasm.

Let's keep it simple, have a couple of sandwiches, and ask the experts what they think gave Sally so much pleasure in 1989.

Walking into the Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand–winning restaurant, I'm greeted by the slogan, "Senda salami to your boy in the army" — a catch phrase that Katz's instituted during World War II. Beefy pheromones, set off by the constant heating of salted fats, waft through the air. If any bite of food could send me into pure ecstasy, pastrami on rye with mustard would be the even-money bet.

We opt to order at the counter, a risky play as you best do it with haste. New Yorkers, especially famished ones, don't like people wasting their time. So when it's my turn, I quickly respond, as planned: "I'll have what Sally was having."


"Pastrami on rye with mustard. Side of potato salad. Extra pickles. Please." I know very well this is not close to her order.

Then my friend Jon decides to pull the trigger on a turkey sandwich. I chime in, "Is that what Sally was having."

The guy behind the counter gets it this time. "Actually it was a turkey Reuben." Shocking development! The anally specific blonde New Yorker on the silver screen ordered a lunch traditionally topped with melted Swiss, sauerkraut and then smothered in Russian dressing. One mystery solved.

It's hard to argue against the perfect simplicity of a Katz's sandwich. Meat, bread, condiments. All three elements are high quality on their own. But smush them together and they have a perfectly balanced chemistry that is rarely found in threesomes. Point is, if you've got some daily calories to spare and your arteries could use a little more blockage, there's no reason not to inhale one of these bad boys.

Halfway through my sandwich, I stop a waitress to get the last burning questions off my chest. She seems confused at first, as I'm clearly not sitting in her section.

"Excuse me, miss. How many people have fake orgasmed here?"

"Wait. What?"

"Since When Harry Met Sally, how many people have mimicked the scene."

"Oh..." She breaks a smile, as if she's had this answer in his back pocket for this very occasion. "I've seen 2. One happened the other night — but he was way over the top — and our security guard went over there, tapped on his table [menacingly I'm assuming, she demonstrated the tap using two fingers) and asks him if he's going to be know, cause he's disturbing people!"

"It was a guy doing the faking, huh?"

"Yea, both of them instances was dudes."

No need for us to hassle the kindly security guards today. We had been beaten to the punch.

The pressure was off. No one would have to try and compete with Ms. Ryan's acting chops. We came for the shrieks of "Of my God!" and "Yes! Yes! Yes!" But we stayed to make quiet, sensual love to our corned beef, pastrami and turkey Reuben, respectively.