The lower east side is one of the most divers and surprising neighborhoods in New York. It has something to offer everyone, with neighborhood institutions drawing both locals and visitors. For me, a tie to the lower east side comes from my mom’s side of the family. When my family emigrated from Russia to the United States they settled in the Lower East Side like so many other Jewish immigrants of the time. As I walked through the area today I could still see remnants of this immigrant past mixed in with more modern focal points. One of my favorite traditionally Jewish establishments from the early 1900s that continues to exist and prosper in the Lower East Side is the Yonnah Schimmel Knishery.
To be honest I never would have known to stop into the knishery if I hadn’t already heard about it from my grandmother and other relatives. It’s within a block from the famous Katz’s Deli but is very much overshadowed by both the deli and other retailers around it. From the exterior the Knishery doesn’t seem like much. It’s marked by an old and seemingly decrepit sign that alludes to the small, cramped and unremarkable interior. Yet the magic of this place doesn’t come from the real estate it occupies. Rather its majesty is drawn from the fist-sized items packed into a small display case at the front of the store. These delectable delights are the knishes.
For those that haven’t grown up easting this tasty snack, a knish is thin dough that is filled with potatoes, beef, onions, cheese or various other items and then baked, fried or grilled. In the case of the Yonnah Schimmel Knishery, all the knishes offered have been baked and while they offer the traditional staples, they also offer more modern fillings such ad sweet potatoes, broccoli and mushrooms.
On my first visit to the Knishery I sampled the potato knish and I can honestly say that tasting it was like biting into a slice of heaven. These knishes were unlike anything I had ever had before. Granted my grandmother is famous for never cooking and buying everything pre-made so I didn’t have the best baseline to judge from. Nevertheless, for both the seasoned knish aficionado and the new sampler, a knish from the Yonnah Schimmel Knishery is a must have for anyone living in or visiting New York. In one bite you can experience the past, the history of the neighborhood, while also getting a taste for the modern, through new and interesting versions of the knish. So if you have a free minute take a trip down Houston St. and experience the wonder that is the Yonnah Schimmel Knishery!