Part of the beauty of New York is that its neighborhoods are always changing. It is a city in constant evolution and it is electrifying to watch the constant transformation, whether it is watching Chelsea change from a neighborhood of gay strip clubs to one of families or seeing trendy restaurants spring up during Harlem’s current second renaissance. At the same time, however, I am mournful of the neighborhoods as they once were. All that remains now of the Upper East Side’s thriving Hungarian population, for instance, is one or two bakeries. One of the neighborhoods that has held on best to its former identity is the Lower East Side, whose tenements used to be filled with Eastern European Jews. It is here that you’ll find Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, which I’m guessing looks the same today as it did when they opened in 1910.
I had never had a knish before. They may be on most NYC street corners, but they simply don’t exist in Savannah, GA. When I made plans to see a movie at Sunshine Cinema next door, I decided a knish would make the perfect movie snack. I went with the spinach, but I imagine it didn’t taste too different from the regular potato. There is little distinction between the thin dough shell and the mound of smooth mashed potatoes inside. It looks like a hockey puck and weighs even more which is why I was surprised that my teeth just fell through it. For something so heavy, it was incredibly light. I feel bad saying anything negative about this LES stalwart and admittedly my knish experience is less than minimal, but my only critique is that it could have used a bit of salt. That may be a blasphemous claim to many New Yorkers, but I call ’em like I see ’em. I also picked up an order of kasha and bows. Although it’s not their specialty, it was dang good.
I hope Yonah Schimmel’s knishery stays right where it is. I want the Lower East Side to retain as much of its heritage as possible because I love walking past the reminder of those who walked the streets before me.