It’s hard to believe that the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery is celebrating 100 years of faithful service to hungry New Yorkers. The Lower East Side bakery that churns out this Jewish delicacy to an adoring cadre of loyal customers is remarkably unchanged from the time it opened at 137 East Houston Street in 1910. It’s as if time has stopped, with the original display cases still in use and tables dating back to the early part of the century.
Yonah Schimmel began selling his famous knishes from a pushcart in 1890, but after moving into a permanent location a century ago, the business never felt the need to move. The famous New York eatery is still owned by descendants of the Romanian-born Schimmel and the knishes continue to be baked (not fried) in a basement kitchen, where they are transported by dumbwaiter to the street level restaurant.
For those who have never had the pleasure of tasting a New York knish (sorry, but there are very few other places where you can get a good knish), think of this tasty treat as a pillow of thin and crispy dough, filled with coarsely ground seasoned potatoes and chopped onions, and baked to perfection. Knishes are also stuffed with kasha (buckwheat groats), spinach, sweet potatoes, cabbage, vegetables, and even combinations of fruit, cheese and chocolate. They’re satisfying, delicious and the ultimate New York street food. The most popular variety is potato, and is best savored when slathered with yellow mustard.
Yonah Schimmel’s is a Top New York City Tourist Attraction
As a native New Yorker, I always planned to take my out-of-town guests to Yonah Schimmel’s when they were visiting. There wasn’t anything quite like this place. Although it is dingy and crowded, with a line frequently forming in the street, Yonah Schimmel’s has an aura and ambiance that takes you back in time to when the Lower East Side was one of the most vibrant and bustling neighborhoods in the entire city. Just a short distance from Katz’s Delicatessen (another Lower East Side gastronomic gift), Yonah Schimmel’s remains true to the product it began selling more than 100 years ago. Although the neighborhood has changed over time, their famous knishes are still made from the same family recipes. And if you choose to make it a meal, you can add an order of matzo ball soup and a famous New York egg cream.
“If you haven’t had a Yonah Schimmel knish, you haven’t had a knish,”says Ellen Anistratov, in an interview with the Jewish Forward. Anistratov co-owns the store with her father, Alex Wolfson, a distant relative of Yonah Schimmel’s. “Any other knish is like a copy of a Chanel,”she said.
Most importantly, New Yorkers and the rest of the world agree. Despite its tiny and noisy interior, Yonah Schimmel’s is a destination location for actors, authors and politicians, including such luminaries as Barbara Streisand, Woody Allen, and the late Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Zero Mostel. The famous knishery will ship their delicacies anywhere in the continental Unites States for $85 a dozen — $45 if you use your own shipping account.
Although some diners have taken great delight in bashing this iconic eatery, Yonah Schimmel’s is a New York institution and a testament to the belief in and the endurance of the American Dream. Congratulations to Yonah Schimmel’s on 100 years of gastronomic ecstasy from one of its foodie fans.
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