Earlier this week, Laura Silver wrote about the knish as an instrument of social justice. She is the author of the book Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food and has been blogging here this week for Jewish Book Council’s Visiting Scribe series.
Dumplings and samosas and empanadas may have become the prominent street foods of modern-day New York, but they have not completely eclipsed the pastry beloved by Sholom Aleichem and Isaac Baschevis Singer, Molly Picon and Joan Rivers.
Enough with the complaining. You can find a good knish, you just have to know where to look. Sure, the knish will never be exactly as it was in 1950, 1960 or even 1975. It’s rare — but not impossible — to find a person selling knishes on the Coney Island boardwalk or the sands of Brighton Beach. In the last few years I’ve received multiple (and unrelated) reports of a man who has revived the “Hot Knishes” cry of years past and a woman who sells homemade potato pies from a shopping cart on Sundays, overlooking the ocean, off Stillwell Avenue, a stone’s throw from Nathan’s.
If you’re not game for the chase, more than two dozen bricks and mortar establishments offer savory and sweet pies of Eastern European Jewish origin. Yonah Shimmel’s on Manhattan’s Houston Street and Knish Nosh on Queens Boulevard (with a satellite location on the tony shores of Central Park’s Conservatory Water) are the best known, but they are far from alone. Knish-positive kosher delis and specialty shops mark the five boroughs and beyond. Finding a good knish involves adopting a posture of humility, harnessing a sense of adventure and honing one’s knish-dar. Not all of the entries are obvious to the uninitiated. Judy’s Knishes, founded by Lower East Side native Judy Hiller-Schwartz, is headquartered in the Avenue A‑based kitchen of its namesake, and expects to gain a foothold at Malt and Mold, the neighborhood’s high-end beer-and-cheese purveyor in the coming months. (Fellow knish entrepreneur Noah Wildman of KnisheryNYC sold his potato and kasha wares there to the delight of Florence Fabricant.)
If all else fails, there’s a map. The initial iteration of this first-ever knish lover’s guide details more than thirty hot spots, from Manhattan to the greater metropolitan area, and is growing daily in entries and geographic reach. But it’s just the beginning. This map works best when knish-o-philes and curmudgeons alike contribute insider tips.
Feast your eyes and don’t be shy. Our communal knish consciousness depends on you. All flavors welcomed; no opinion too heated.
Share your favorite local or international knish spot at www.knish.me/map.
Laura Silver is an award-winning journalist whose writing on food and culture has appeared in The New York Times and the Forward and on NPR. Laura has been a writer in residence at the Millay Colony, the Banff Centre, and the New York Public Library. She is considered the world’s leading expert on the knish.