My cousin and I had thought it would be a good idea to build a website dedicated to Shatzkin's Knishes and fill it with photos of Coney Island, Brooklyn and images of my version of the Shatzkin's Knish as I remember it from the old days. We were going to try to go into business selling them again, but alas, the project was just too big to undertake. Join us there and read the stories of Shatzin's, enjoy the videos of old Coney and read the posts from the Shatzkin family.
See you all there.
No one goes to Harold's for a Hamburger, unless you are from out of town, not Jewish and staying at the hotel. It is like going to a Chinese Restaurant and ordering a hamburger. Look at their web site and you will see that they recommend three items, Corn Beef, Pastrami and their Cheesecake. Look at a review I did on my web site with lots of photos at:
Frankly, I don't care for their Rumanian Steak, but that is my wife's thing. I love a good Corn Beef or Pastrami sandwhich (lean) and when we go to Harold's we will only go with 4 or more people because their regular sandwich will make 4 nice sized normal sandwiches. When we take our kids and there are 6 of us even better, we can order one Corn Beef and one Pastrami sandwich and still take food home.
In the past they didn't mind you taking some of the items on the pickle bar home, but as is always the case, people abuse this and I am sure they had to put a stop to it. I have never had them tell me I couldn't take a few pickles home with my sandwich or even some salad.
There is no all you can eat restaurant I know that allows you to take food home. Since the pickle bar is All-You-Can-Eat they limit it. By the way, unlike other restaurants, you can order one sandwich for 4 people, go up and get bread for the extra sandwiches and all the salad and pickles plus the little muffins. Hell, if you do the math, this place is one of the best values anywhere.
We love Harold's and find that any poor reviews are from first timers that just don't know how it works. I will bet all those that go back a second time will have a better experience.
I actually worked a few summers at Shatzkin's on the Boardwalk on 26th Street (I think) around 1960-63. My dad used to sell the Shatzkin's their paper goods (he worked for a paper jobber in those days) and got me the job with Billy Shatzkin who was the son and opened this location while his father had the other one closer to Nathan's.
I had many happy hours there helping the little Russian and Polish Jewish grama's scoop balls of potato and kasha. There was a skill to doing it and it took some practice. You had to scoop into the pile and then make it tight by taking the ice cream scoop and pushing it with a swinging motion on the side of the tray on one side then the next. When it was perfect we released it into rows in a big tray.
The ladies would have a large mound of the dough and would cut off a piece and with a small wooden rolling pin, no handles, just a large dowel type piece of wood about 6" long would take a small piece of the dough and roll it out. Then the ball of Kasha or Potato went in the middle, they would then pull the two long sides of the rolled out dough together and then pinch the rest of the edges together. Once this ball was covered with the thin dough, they would then lay it down on the sides and flatten them with their hand.
Then they would take the two ends and tie it together. I always liked to eat this "tail" of the knish. Billy, would have a huge fryer and he would then put the raw knishes into the hot oil and fry them. After a few minutes the knishes still white, would begin to show some air bubble on the surface of the dough and he would remove them. He would either put them on trays and store them in a huge ice box in racks or put them aside and await their final second dunk into the hot oil.
This way day or night we always had plenty of any type of knish we needed. We would take a tray out and put what we needed into the hot oil and fry them until they turned golden brown.
Billy would have huge mixers in the back to mix the dough and to mix the potato and the kasha. He would add fried onions, salt and pepper and oil to the mix. I have attempted to duplicate the Shatzkin Knish over the years, but didn't know how they made the dough. I have tried using some of the Pillsbury dough mixes they sell in the markets, you know the ones for crescent rolls, bisquits, etc. and have come some what close, but still not the same.
At the end of the day, Billy would give whoever closed up that night any knishes left over that was still in the trays. I used to take bags of knishes home every day for the family. Needless to say I was a Shatzkin knish lover and also miss them to this day.
I remember, when Billy's dad died, I think his name was Moe, but not sure, then Billy died, he had a younger brother and he opened a place on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay. I used to go there and get some from time to time and even talked to them about doing what Nathan's did, but I think the family moved to the West Coast, some died and it just never happened.
I too have gone many times to Brighton Beach to get Mrs. Stahl's, but their knishes never compared to Shatzkin's because they were baked, not fried.
Finally I also remember the square Gabilla's Knishes they sold on the beach in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, they were horrid compared to Shatzkin's. Some years ago I remember buying some look alike, Coney Island style knishes in the Supermarkets in Jersey, but now they only sell the square ones and their crust is much too thick, unlike Shatzkin's.
Those were the good old days and my cousin and I have talked about making a fortune in New York and LA by just reproducing the Shatzkin Knish, but as of now, no one has been able to do it. I can tell you that I am an expert on the look and taste, so if anyone thinks they have it down, send some my way and I will let you know how close you came.
Brooklyn Tech, H.S. Graduating Class of 1960