CATEGORIES On the Scene

When Rob Reiner's 'When Harry Met Sally' was first released in 1989, it transcended the realm of mere movie into "national conversation," sparking the eternal debate that has kept institutions like therapy and Cosmopolitan in business for years: can men and women ever really just be friends? Nora Ephron's script -- an earnest, audacious and fresh look at the well-worn subject of relationships -- earned her an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination, yet one scene still stands out above the rest: Meg Ryan's pseudo-orgasm in the middle of Katz's Deli in New York. In an already classic setting, another classic was quickly born.

When Rob Reiner's 'When Harry Met Sally' was first released in 1989, it transcended the realm of mere movie into "national conversation," sparking the eternal debate that has kept institutions like therapy and Cosmopolitan in business for years: can men and women ever really just be friends? Nora Ephron's script -- an earnest, audacious and fresh look at the well-worn subject of relationships -- earned her an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination, yet one scene still stands out above the rest: Meg Ryan's pseudo-orgasm in the middle of Katz's Deli in New York. In an already classic setting, another classic was quickly born.

Location as Character: In the crowded deli, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are arguing over whether he can tell if his lovers have ever faked an orgasm. "You don't think that I can tell the difference?" asks Crystal. To which Ryan -- very audibly -- proves her point by moaning, writhing and touching herself in front of the entire establishment before settling back into her sandwich as if nothing has happened.

Historical Significance: 20 years after its release, Ryan's own "release" remains the most memorable scene in the movie. While the film has endured on the legs of Nora Ephron's astute, scarily accurate script, it's this one act of physical humor that people instantly remember when they think of this Rob Reiner classic. And by placing the pivotal scene in a deli, that prosaic and utilitarian of all city spots, Reiner shocks the audience out of the common, mundane activity of getting a quick sandwich.


Fun Fact: The scene was born out of the fact that the script originally focused too much on the character of Harry. It was Ephron and Crystal that came up with the idea to talk about faking orgasms, Ryan who thought to place it in a restaurant and Crystal who wrote the now-famous line uttered by Rob Reiner's mother, "I'll have what she's having."

Directions: Katz's Delicatessen is located in the Lower East Side of New York on the corner of Houston St. (pronounced "How-stun") and Ludlow St.

Visitor's Info: For over 120 years, Katz's has been feeding both locals and tourists oversized sandwiches, knishes and egg creams (look it up, they're delicious) and is one of the few delis that is as much a tourist attraction in New York as it is an eatery. During World War II, the deli started its "Send a salami to your boy in the army" campaign, a tradition that continues to this day. To commemorate the iconic scene, a sign still hangs above the table where Crystal and Ryan sat stating, "Where Harry met Sally... hope you have what she had!" To avoid looking like a tourist, don't forget: unless it's tuna, sandwiches only get mustard or Russian dressing. Never mayonnaise. Never.