PSA: Lee Lee’s Baked Goods

Sometimes I think there’s a place you’ve just got to know about and my Public Service Announcements (PSAs) will give you the full skinny.

As one does when one is preparing to move to a new neighborhood, I scouted the area from the comfort of my desk via Google Maps.  It was there that I learned our new apartment would be very close to Lee Lee’s bakery.  Bakery smakery, right?  …Except this one has an interesting story.

Back in the 60s, Alvin Lee Smalls, aka Lee Lee, moved from South Carolina to NYC where he discovered a recipe for rugelach in the newspaper and decided to try it out.  A black man from the South would not be your first guess when identifying rugelach – a traditionally northern Jewish pastry – purveyors.  I think that’s why I was so drawn to the store.  As a Southern transplant myself, I liked the idea of a kindred Lowcountry spirit breaking away from tradition in the big city.  Also, while I might be Jewish myself, I only very recently tried rugelach for the first time.  As you can imagine, it’s not a prevalent treat in the deep South where I grew up.

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Perhaps it was because we stopped by at 4 PM on Sunday, a mere hour before they were going to close up shop, but the man at the counter gave me my single rugelach on the house.   Better yet, when I asked if there was any chocolate flavor left (there was only apricot in the case), he went to the back and brought me a fresh, warm one.  And then when I said we were moving to the neighborhood that very day, he gave my beau a rugelach on the house, too.  Quite the welcome!

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Like I said, I haven’t tried much rugelach in my time, but I can say I enjoyed this one.  It was less cakey than the others I’ve tried – more like a cookie.  Just like the bakery itself, it’s not at all what you’d expect, which is precisely why I loved it.

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