The highlight of my trip to the Lower
East Side was visiting the historic Yonah Schimmel Knishery.
down. Though only occupying a fraction of my time, my dining experience was
loaded with cultural and historic significance. After all, the bakery first
opened its doors around the time that my grandparents were born, which is
lifetimes ago. Astounding! The entire thing was a completely new experience for
me. The longtime owner and master baker must have been well aware of this fact
as well when I asked for “that one, yeah, the one with the red stuff in it, the
cherry ‘neeeesh’”. Who would’ve known that Jews pronounce the “k” at the
beginning of the word “knish”? Regardless, I took my seat in the old-fashioned
shop and waited to be served. As I sat, awaiting my first ever authentic Jewish
pastry, I was fortunate enough to observe a number of routine knishery tasks
that have seemingly been apart of the trade since the beginning. Alex, the
current owner of the Yonah Schimmel, did it all—checking out customers,
restocking the display windows, transporting the large trays full of raw knish
dough, and most notably, manning the opening of the dumbwaiter. This post was all
familiarity to the aging Jew as he stuck his head down the shaft that ran to
the cooled basement storage area and carried on a conversation with the loader.
Once the two had secured the platter, Alex hoisted it up using the pulley
system. I was so much in awe of this simple yet charming part of the knishery
daily operations that I felt that I just had to take a look for myself.
knish finally came—a gelatinous brick of dairy and preserved cherry
compote—warmed and served right to my table. I had originally considered
ordering two but after forcing down the last bite of the dense loaf, I was glad
for my initial restraint. While eating, I was able to read up on the past
newspaper and magazine articles that have been written about the Yonah Schimmel
and now adorn the walls of the shop. Upon finishing my Yiddish delicacy, I
attempted to get a picture with Alex but was told that he only poses for legit
reporters on an official story. No matter though, nothing could have spoiled my
retreat into the Promised Land of Snapple and cherry knish.
If you ever
are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend the humble yet life-changing Yonah
Schimmel Knishery. You can’t go wrong!