Vendy Award winners aside, ask any midtown office worker about the general quality of corner-cart chow in New York City and you’ll get, at best, a shrug; at worst, a diatribe. According to David Katz in the Jewish Quarterly, though, the worst street-cart offender isn’t the stale, salty pretzel or the waterlogged hot dog but the mass-produced knish,
incarnated as a flat square, factory-fried and frozen, to be steamed back to life and then lacquered with a coating of shiny French’s Golden Mustard. There’s a word for these street knishes, which are still sold today, and that word is vile.
Katz’s article goes on to laud the rounded, fist-sized baked knishes of Yonah Schimmel’s, served up via dumbwaiter in a nearly century-old hole in the wall on Houston Street. Once surrounded by the small Jewish-owned businesses of the Lower East Side, now incongruously lodged between a Howard Johnson Express Hotel and the hip Sunshine Cinema, Yonah Schimmel’s is heavy on the pushcart-era charm (a charm that consists mostly of having stayed exactly the same for decades on end), but does authentic always mean tasty? Nope, say the wags over at New York magazine’s Grub Street, “Truth be told, the knishes at Yonah Schimmel’s are as bland as cotton and heavy as depleted uranium.”
Instead, they advise a subway ride out to Queens for the “flaky and delicate” knishes dished out at the newly expanded Knish Nosh, or to Brooklyn for the “unexpected sweetness” of the kasha version at Glatt Zone in Midwood.
Is a knish throwdown in the works? Be careful—those things could hurt somebody.