31 January 2010

Incident on the B61

I was riding a crowed B61 bus to Atlantic Avenue, smooshed up against a couple tweens who were talking excitedly about their crowded, unbelievable lives. One girl mentioned a friend of hers was teaching her guitar.

"He taught me 'Smoke on the Water.' It goes DA-da-da-da, Da Da Da Da-DAAA-Da."

I smiled to myself, recognizing the opening riff to Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." I debated momentarily whether I should butt in with my middle-aged, pop-music knowledge and correct the girl, or remain silent and retain a shred of adult dignity. Before I could decide, however, the second girl piped up.

"That's 'Sunshine of Your Love," she said.

"No, it's 'Smoke on the Water,'" insisted the friend. She went into the Cream riff again.

I nearly fell over. I was stunned. And impressed. Not only that two 12-year-olds had heard of "Smoke on the Water" and "Sunshine of Your Love" but that one could tell their guitar solos apart—songs that were older than their two ages combined.

"No, it's 'Sunshine of Your Love,'" repeated the second girl, not with any hostility, but certain in her information. The first girl paused, thought, and said, "Wait, yeah. Da. Da. DA. Da-Da Da-DA...," hooking into the proper Deep Purple Riff.

I couldn't have been prouder than if they were my own kids.

Skyline Books Closes Today

Today's the last day to pay a visit on Skyline Books. The 20-year-old Flatiron District mainstay on W. 18th Street will close for good today. Wish I could go, but I've come down with a cold. I wish them well, and every book sold.

229 Dean Street in Happier Days

Came across a tax photo of old 229 Dean Street, former mystery house of Boerum Hill, now in the safe hands of a new owner. Rather looks like a lot's been lost. Cornice is gone. The cast-iron fence in front is different. Doors are different. And, of course, three holes were punched in the facade for air conditioners. Too bad that great lamppost is no longer there.

30 January 2010

Gino Outlook "Looks Good"

Let's check in with the soap opera that it Gino's Restaurant.

Last we heard from the Lexington Avenue stalwart, it had gotten a stay of execution from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31. Good news. So I called today to see if tomorrow would be their last in business after 64 years. Were they open tomorrow? Yes. And after that? After that, indefinitely. So all that union mishegoss was worked out? "We're still talking, but it looks good."

Now, the guy on the phone could have been saying to make sure customers still come in, but still. Not bad news.

This Week on Lost City

We Ask "Who Goes to Sofia?" and Wish We Hadn't; We Find Out a Hell of a Lot About the Bygone Guffanti's Restaurant, and Hear From Not One, But Two Descendants of Old Guffanti; It Snows; The 229 Dean Street Freakshow to End; We Eulogize a Hairdresser; Skyline Books Will Close on Jan. 31; The Shorter B61 Still Sucks.

29 January 2010

Lost City Asks "Who Goes to Sofia"?

As I've remarked before, I do every "Who Goes There?" column hoping to love the old joint I discover, and wishing to find that they have richly deserved their low-profile longevity. In almost every case (well, maybe not Spain Restaurant), I've found either a wonderful gem of a relic, or at least some saving graces. I even want Rolf's to stay open, though I found the service unforgivably buzz-killing. It's just so peculiar; and how can you hate Christmas?

But Sofia? Why has this place held on to such a prime piece of real estate for 35 years? It's musty, the service is awful and negligent, the food barely acceptable. Everyone involved is doing their job badly. People who operate a restaurant in this sloppy, careless, and contemptuous a fashion do not deserve to beat the odds. And since there's no real historical aspect to cherish here, the disappearance of Sofia wouldn't amount to much. The Hotel Edison deserved a fine-dining restaurant every bit as good as its diner, the Edison Cafe. I'd love to know the real story behind Sofia's tenaciousness, because there must be a story. I mean, just look at the comments on Yelp and Citysearch. There's no visible reason the Edison shouldn't have pulled the plug on this place years ago.

Who Goes There? Sofia
The sweet, old, Hotel Edison in Times Square has two restaurants inside its walls. One is the homey, welcoming Edison Cafe, purveyor of matzo ball soup to theater types. The other is worn, dimly lit Sofia, the enduring mystery of West 46th Street. Everyone knows why the Edison Cafe has been there so long. It's as comforting as an old terrycloth bathrobe and serves good, cheap food in cheery, classic-diner surroundings. Sofia has been there even longer—35 years—but its charms are so nonexistent, one can only suppose that the hotel manager lost the lease to the space in a poker game long ago.
Who goes here? Suckers, as far as I can tell. Unfortunate saps. Theatergoers and hotel stayers and tourists who don't know any better. No diner I asked had ever been there before, and they didn't look too happy in their choice. Few restaurants are so well positioned to take advantage of Broadway theater crowds, and few capitalize on it less. The lighting is ashen and makes you feel like you're living a sort of shadow life. The interior, with its neon-accented oval bar, weird tiered seating and stucco ceilings, looks like it last had a revamp in 1982. The imperious maitre d' wears a peremptory air and a florid tie. He knocks menus against tabletops as he brusquely tries to seat you at the very back of a nearly empty room. The omnipresent staff talks water-cooler-shit amongst themselves as if there were no diners around them.
While the dining room has the air of a funeral parlor, the bar area is a little livelier, owing mainly to the bartender, his dark hair slicked way over his back collar. He has a voice loud enough to carry to Jersey City. "You play tennis," he asked a waiter halfway across the room. "Want to play tennis? I'll beat you. You fast? I'm not fast. But I'll beat you. You play basketball? I'll destroy you." This is the kind of loudmouth you expect to find in a bar half the time. But not BEHIND the bar.
The barroom does seem to have regulars, however, the way the restaurant does not. Everyone hugged one woman on a stool; they all seemed to know her. Two other disheveled men talk sports and such as if they planned to be there all night long.There are a couple warming trays filled with free food in the corner. The place could be in Woodside. No one would guess that Scarlett Johansson is playing down the block.
Sofia is apparently part of a local mini-chain. The other locations are in Bay Ridge and Sheepshead Bay, which, you know, kinda explains a lot. Class this joint ain't got. A homeless man came in to ask, embarrassed, to use the bathroom, and the maitre d' angrily berated him for all to hear. The pasta is store-bought and the sad, frostbit desserts are obviously whisked from freezer to plate to table. I gnawed at my overcooked bucatini and thought of that bowl of matzo ball soup down the hall that could have been mine. —Brooks of Sheffield

28 January 2010

The White Brownstone

Funeral parlor design has always mystified me. Do morticians assume that when one of our loved ones die, our sense of taste dies along with them? Every funeral home I've ever seen has been a vulgar assault on the senses: slick surfaces, lacquered this and faux that and layers upon layers of gaudy, sanctimonious crap. And let's not even talk about the coffins, so embarrassingly tacky that Jesus would avert his eyes.

But perhaps having them all beat is the Frank R. Bell Funeral Home in Crown Heights. This guy took a beautiful old brownstone building and covered it with glossy, off-white panels! The whole building! It's more dignified that way, you see. More solemn and classy. And it kinda looks like it might be found in Heaven.

Guffanti's Restaurant: Only One Meal, But a Great One

And so someone wrote in and asked "Do you know when Guffanti's on 7th Ave and 26th Street closed?  My aunt owned and ran it after her husband died. She was pretty old by then herself.  She died in 1971, and I seem to remember it was going to be sold because there wasn't any one left that could run it."

And I thought, "Guffanti's what, now?" I knew nothing about a place with such a name. So, I looked into it. 

Snow in Carroll Gardens

St. Joseph's Day is Coming

A sure sign that the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19) is around the corner: Court Street pastry shops begin carrying Sfingi! Yum.

I'd like to know why Court Street Pastry stopped making the minis, and only do the big boys. Those mothers are hard to eat in one go.

229 Dean Street Has Nice New Owners; Freakshow to End

Earlier this month, I posted something about the seedy goings-on at 229 Dean Street, an island of weirdness on any otherwise stately block of Boerum Hill. Weird comings and goings, severed barbie heads, mysterious explosions, missing air conditioners, off detritus on the stoop and sidewalk—this house has been a source of uneasy speculation in the neighborhood for some time. 

Well, that may all be at an end. An era of normalcy has possible dawned at the shady address. We noted earlier that, according to the Corcoran site, the building was "in contract" for $1.6 mil. We now hear that that was indeed the truth and the sad, neglected structure now has a respectable new daddy. Expect some sprucing up of 229 Dean facade in the months to come.

The formers owners, now gone, appear to have had a thing about air conditioners. We all know that the one in front has been missing for some time, the space where it was used as a kind of display case for curious statuary. Word is, however, that the prior resident also took all of the through-wall a/c units with him, leaving giant holes open to the outside on the back of the house. And in the middle of winter, too! Brisk.
The owner did, though, leave plenty of junk for the new owners to sort through and discard, including lots of broken glass in the super-scary basement and plenty of scrawling on certain walls.  
Alas, no severed Barbie head was found.

27 January 2010

Death of a Hairdresser

Does New York lose much when a hairdresser dies?

Apparently so, if the crowd at Miwa/Alex last Saturday night is any measure. At least 100 people, all clients of the late Miwa Ikegami, gathered at the Flatiron District hair salon on Jan. 23 to mourn and remember a hair stylist most of them had become as devoted to as they were to their own spouse. Even moreso. "In 30 years, I've changed homes," said one former client, "I've change jobs, I've changed husbands. But I never changed Miwa."

It's a bit of popular urban folklore that many New Yorkers (mostly women here) hesitate to consider leaving the city because they would have to find a new hairdresser. A barber that understands your head of hair—that is, if you're the sort of person who cares about their hair, which I think everyone is, either openly or secretly—is very difficult to come by. If you're lucky, you find one in your lifetime. And one that's actually a first-rate individual—that's priceless. Miwa was such a person. When people found her—and they often did by simply asking well-coifed strangers where they got their hair cut—they almost never left, even though her prices were somewhere in the stratosphere.

A Perfect Storefront: 182 Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn

I can't even give this perfect storefront a name, because there's no one occupying it at present. It was most recently a nail salon. It seems to be an unlucky address, as I've seen several businesses come and go over the years.

Such a glorious storefront. Arguably the best in Brooklyn, maybe in all of New York. And very old, too, the cast-iron, stained-glass, two-story commercial addition to the corner brownstone dating back to the 19th century. What possessed the builder to create so grand and graceful and detailed a curving facade, when any old facade might have done, I don't know. But I'm glad they did. It really is a visual triumph. I wonder why it can't keep a store. I'd go in just to take a look around, whether they sold plumbing equipment or parakeets.

Hey, maybe they can put an Arby's in here.

26 January 2010

Blue City

The other night, at dusk.

Recipes of the Lost City: Hampshire House's Veal Steak Saute Provencale

The Hampshire House was at 150 Central Park South. So you can sort of imagine the sort of folks who dined there. There were not of little means. It was famous for its interior decorations by famous designer Dorothy Draper. The chef at the time this recipe appeared (1950) was Maurice Lassauze. There were murals in the cocktail lounge by James Reynolds and Greeks heads in the corridor leading to the restaurant. Also, in general, "Smooth Smartness Beyond Criticism," according to a 1940 survey.

The building was begun in 1931, at the start of the Depression, and abandoned by its developers six months later. It was finished in 1938. First a hotel, it later became a co-op.

25 January 2010

A Perfect Storefront: Fame Discount Liquors

Fame Discount Liquors on 520 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg is actually just a couple blocks down from the first subject of this new Perfect Storefront feature. Why perfect? Well, corners stores always have an edge on looks if they use the space wisely. And Fame does, from the bold red lettering on either street side (the smaller, but equally bold, blue "Lotto" makes for a nice complement) to the door set at a diagonal to the various-sized window displays. The hovering fire escape adds a gritty, urban edge to the picture. The whole store just thrusts itself into your line of sight, and you're not at all sorry it did.

Big Brownstones on Second Place

I'm used to seeing brownstones as I walk down the blocks of Carroll Gardens. Two, three or four stories tall, two or three windows across, door on the side. Same basic building, again and again. So used to seeing these houses am I that I don't even notice what's staring me in the face sometimes.

During a recent pass down Second Place between Clinton and Henry, however, I did pause and notice. There was something odd about the houses on the south side of the street. What was it? They were four windows across, and the door was left of center, with windows on either side! A completely different set-up. And not just one building, but several in a row, from No. 30 on down. Something about the structures told me they were not a string of mansions. Something else. So I did so looking around.

My Favorite Book Store to Close

This morning, JVNY brings us the very depressing news that Skyline Books, my absolute favorite used book store in the City for the last 20 years, will close its doors for good on Jan. 31.

I discovered Skyline in 1990, when I worked in the Flatiron District at a terrible magazine called Theatre Crafts run by a terrible person (but that's another story). I'd roam down W. 18th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues to relieve my misery. At the time, the block was earning a reputation as a new Booksellers Row in Manhattan. In addition to Skyline, there was Academy Books, Book-friends Cafe and both a new Barnes & Noble and B&N used-book annex at the corner. But I liked Skyline the best. The place was snug and a bit ramshackle, and felt like a used book store (unlike B&N); the staff was friendly (unlike Academy); and it wasn't a cafe pretending to be a book store (unlike Bookfriends). Also, Skyline had a great selection and seems secretly honed in on my tastes. They almost always had the book I was looking for. Furthermore, their prices were fair.

Skyline manage to survive the rough years in the early 1990s, when new Barnes & Nobles were picking off indy shops left and right. Sad to see it go. I real loss. They're having a big sale through the end of the month. Go take a last look

24 January 2010

B61: A Shorter Route, But Service Just as Sucky

The day has come. As the MTA promises, the ridiculously long route of the eternally late and poorly run Brooklyn bus line, B61, was split in two at the beginning of 2010. The B61 now runs from IKEA on Beard Street in Red Hook to downtown Brooklyn, near Fulton Mall. The newly christened B62 now takes up the slack from Fulton Mall all the way up to Long Island City.

Hurrah! Hosannah! Certainly residents of Red Hook and Columbia Street who desperately depend on B61 as their only mass transportation artery will now get much better service, right?

A Deli Guy Remembered

I'll be honest. I don't remember Tom, an African-American gentleman with a moustache and a baseball cap and apparently a very ingratiating manner, who sat every day outside the deli at 236 Court Street in Cobble Hill. But a lot of other people do.

Tom died recently—the circumstances are unclear—and an impromptu memorial has sprung up on the sidewalk where he used to hold court. There are flowers, candles, a couple pictures of Tom and a piece of paper, taped to the metal newsbox on which Tom would sit. On this are written many touching remembrances of the man. Many notes mention his smile and his assuring "presence." One man told me Tom would always watch his bike whenever he went in the deli. He didn't know much about Tom's origins, or where he slept at night.

23 January 2010

A Good Sign: Sam the Glazier

In Williamsburg.

21 January 2010

What the Heck's With The Chocolate Room?

The Chocolate Room, a mini-cafe-chain that sells speciality chocolates and chocolate-related drinks and desserts in Brooklyn, opened on Court Street in Cobble Hill a couple years ago, and I still haven't been able to figure the place out.

The boutique cafe seems to have this bizarrely high-flown idea of itself, as if it's situated on some romantic side street in Saint-Germain and patronized by the chicest and most beautifully behaved of Parisian women. Instead, it sits between the toy store Pizzazz and Cobble Hill Cinemas and is (surprise!) a magnet for stroller moms and their sweets-craving children.

The reality of their true clientele doesn't stop the staff from behaving like Franklin Pangborn's pompous children. The layout of the store is like this: there is chocolate counter and small retail section at the front, then a long corridor past a kitchen that leads to a small dining area filled with sweet, precious little tables.

It's a cafe, so one would assume that casual is the word of the day. Not so. It's the only cafe I know in the area where you have to be seated (even though there is no sign indicating this formality). The natural instinct of everyone who enters is the walk straight to the back and take a seat. But before you can do that, some counter kid halts you in your tracks with a "Can I help you?" or "Would you like to be seated?" or "Would you like a table?" (The attitude is particularly ridiculous given that most of the tables are usually empty.)

These requests are almost always addressed a harried parent and their over-eager progeny. I have a friend who, accompanied by her son, was actually asked by a servant, "Will you be sitting at your usual table?" The kid wants candy; the parent wants espresso. There's no call or desire for etiquette. The superciliousness continues at the table, when menus are grandly proffered, specials recited and orders scrupulously taken. Kids run around, as they are prone to do, and the proud waiters act like its the grossest of impositions.

These event are not anomalies. I've been several times and the experience is always the same. What are the owners thinking? They are next to a movie house that frequently shows kiddie films. They are near a toy store. They are in a neighborhood lousy with offspring. They are going to get kids, and gobs and gobs of them. Miss Vanderbilt or Cholly Knickerbocker will not be paying a call anytime soon, no matter how exquisite the chocolates. Get off your high horse and start catering your service to the true nature of your patronage, not the fantasy customers you have in your head. Either that, or hire a maitre d'.

Frankie & Johnnie's Renovating, Expanding

Remember a year or so ago, when it seemed the old speakeasy-steakhouse Frankie & Johnnie's was done for, to be bulldozed to make way for a hotel? Well, the joint not only survived that scare—the recession deep-sixed the tower—but now it's renovating and expanding.

20 January 2010

Biography Bookshop, Goodbye; Hello, Bookbook

Biography Bookshop was reassuring.

You'd look at it and think, "Only in New York would there be room for a bookstore that focuses solely on biographies. Isn't this city great?"

Today, Jan. 20, was the Greenwich Village institution's last day at it's original location, where it has been for the last 25 years. A nice corner storefront. I'll miss it. But it's not going away completely. The owners are moving to 266 Bleecker between Sixth and Seventh. In it's new incarnation it will be known as bookbook.


The Cutest Home on Strong Place

Everyone I know likes 36 Strong Place. It's the cutest residence on that enclosed Cobble Hill block, a squat, two-story former stable that is set far, far back from the street. It give off the air of a small country cottage you stumble upon while out for your bucolic evening constitutional.

According to Landmarks Commission information, 36 Strong Place is an altered stable built in the mid-19th century. In 1982, facade alterations included creating new window openings and an entrance at the ground floor, installing new window lintels at the second floor, and installing a new cornice. A more recent alteration involved the constructing a two-story, 16' 9 ½ " deep addition on the front of the building clad in brick. That allowance was issued in 2007. Don't know if the work was done.

I've never seen the inside, but would love to. It's the most singular carriage house in the area. The only problem with the building is the long driveway leading up to it. It's almost almost clogged with two or three cars, completely spoiling the view of the house. 

Also of interest of a couple pylons near the end of the drive. I wonder if they're original or an added decoration.

St. Stephen's at Sunset

Sneak Peek at Inside of Gage & Tollner Arby's

The franchisee of the new Brooklyn Arby's fast food restaurant, which is set to open in the old, landmarked Gage & Tollner space on Fulton Mall tomorrow (Jan. 21), was kind enough to invite Lost City to take a sneak peek at the restored interior one day early.

Red's Tapas Bar Closes

Red's Tapas Bar, the small restaurant on Columbia Street and Summit in Brooklyn, has closed for good, after only a couple years in business.

It was a nice place, but I wasn't surprised when I saw the owners selling the equipment and furniture on the sidewalk last Sunday. The location was out of the way, and, those the tapas were decent, they were priced to high. Everyone I knew who ate there, said the same thing, "Pretty good, but too expensive."

19 January 2010

Little-Known Coney Island Landmark Has Date With Wrecking Ball

Amusing the Zillion reports that an obscure Coney Island landmark will soon be flattened by the City to make way for its new plans. I didn't know about this building, but it's pretty interesting:
The old Feltman’s kitchen building on the Astroland site is among the structures set to be demolished to make way for new amusements on the City-owned parcel. This humble building is the last remnant of the fabulous block-long restaurant and entertainment empire owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog.

News to Give You Pause

From an Eater tipster:

From the tipline: "Went by Caffe Reggio today, that old old shithole in Greenwich Village. Looks like they have a new manager that is trying to revamp the place. They have an actual chef and are trying to do a brunch thing on the weekends. Should be interesting. I guess Minetta Tavern set a trend." It's called the McNally Effect.

Let's just hope they don't spruce all the personality out of the joint. It's one of the last old-style Village cafes left.

Cleaning Up, Screwing Up

Part of the charm of the Carroll Gardens Deli, which stands a couple doors from the entrance of the Carroll Street F stop, has been its scruffiness. The wooden and metal storefront and its windows were absolutely thick with stickers and signs, some old, some new, so that it was virtually impossible to see inside the place. It was a raffish work of art, that densely papered facade.

Stopping in the other day, I was startled when I found I was able to look through the door window. It was crystal clear and sparkling clean. Not a sticker on it. Like new. The side windows had been stripped clean, too, and much of the green-painted facade was not visible. I asked the clerk about it. He said, "I'm trying to fix this place up." Yes, I see. And I can't blame him. But I miss the mess. It takes years, decades to accumulate a mess that perfect.

18 January 2010

This Was Armando Tailor

The Smith Street space that was old world tailor Armando in Carroll Gardens has successfully made its unfortunate transition to the Sun Tans Tanning Room. I'm sorry, but is that the most obvious name for a tanning salon that was every dreamt up?

A drunken local, bumping into the breakfront as he passed by, gave voice to my inner reaction upon seeing the place: "What the hell is that?!"

15 January 2010

Wi-Fi Under the Gaslights

Gage & Arby's cares what bloggers think of it!

Today, a press agent for the fast food franchise—which has taken possession of the beautiful, 19th-century, landmarked interior of the old Gage & Toller space on Fulton Mall in downtown Brooklyn—reached out to Lost City.

The Birds of Fairway

I was standing in the organic-food section of the Red Hook Fairway, when I heard a bird tweeting. "I hear a bird," I said to The Wife. Being a good wife, she ignored me. Nutty husband. Hears bird in grocery stores.

Something definitely was twittering. But it was the organic section. Maybe it was a machine, one of those kind that are supposed to put you at peace and send you to blissful rest. Someone was offering a demonstration of the device.

But I couldn't find a machine. And the twirps sounded too authentic. What's more every time I zoned in on the bird, the source of the sound changes. It was here. It was there. "There's a bird in here," I said. A Fairway clerk busy sorting a shelf stared at me blankly. Crazy customer. There are no birds in Fairway.

Happy Birthday, Yonah!

City Room has published a nice tribute to Yonah Schimmel, which is celebrating it's 100th year:

The lowly knish, that humblest of pies, has turned 100, or at least the place that sells them has. No one knows for sure, of course, when or where the knish was actually invented. Nor does anyone know the precise date a knish became a knish. But in 1910, Yonah Schimmel’s opened a knishery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Since then, the knish has been elevated into a staple of political campaign fare. It has been imitated, mass produced, fast frozen and Americanized.

Yonah Schimmel’s knishery, meanwhile, survived at 137 East Houston Street largely untouched, a relic in a gentrified neighborhood (the bakery and restaurant is sandwiched between a hotel that bills itself as being located in “trendy SoHo” and an art movie house).

It has been immortalized in fiction and film (most recently in Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works” when Larry David takes his Southern girlfriend on a date to Grant’s Tomb and then for a knish) and fine art (including Hedy Pagremanski’s painting at the Museum of the City of New York).

Yonah Schimmel’s, its original tin roof intact, describes itself as the oldest knishery in America.

“People ask, ‘Are your knishes fresh?’” said Ellen Anistratov, who owns the knishery with her father, Alex Wolfson. “I say, ‘They’re a hundred years old.”

A knish is loosely defined as a thin dough shell filled with potato or buckwheat groats (kasha) and finely chopped onion, but the ingredients run the gamut from spinach ($3.50) to blueberry cheese ($4). While Mrs. Anistratov recently invented a red cabbage variety, she remains a traditionalist.

“You can make what you want and call it whatever you want, but it doesn’t make it the real thing,” she said. “I don’t mean to insult anyone else, but a knish is round, baked and made of potato or mixed with potato. It’s not square. It’s not fried.”

When several women visiting from Long Island came to the bakery recently and were disappointed not to find the square variety made popular by street vendors and some delicatessens, Mrs. Anistratov offered a persuasive defense of her handmade, kosher knishes that arrive in the ground-floor shop (soup, kugel and egg creams are served, too) from the basement ovens on an original dumbwaiter and have the heft of doorstops.

“Would you like to wear Chanel, or a copy of Chanel?” she asked.

No government agency authenticates knishes, but Harry Golden, the chronicler of Jewish America, pronounced Yonah Schimmel (the spelling of his surname varies) the “inventor” of the knish, and Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven, defined a knish as “an American nosh” popularized by a number of celebrated bakers, “in particular, Yonah Shimmel.” (Rosten added that the word had mysteriously taken on several other meanings, citing it also as “a term of abuse. He has the brains of a knish.”)

In “The Underground Gourmet,” Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder wrote in 1968 that “No New York politician in the last 50 years has been elected to office without having at least one photograph showing him on the Lower East Side with a knish in his face.”

Mrs. Anistratov, a fashion designer by training, insists that her knishes are not only tasty, but healthy, too, without eggs, oil or yeast.

“I had a cold a month ago,” she recalled. “I couldn’t get better until I had a knish.” (The health value is unverified, but an academic paper by doctors at Albany Medical College several years ago describes a patient’s “rapid and unexpected recovery from acoustic trauma” after eating a potato knish).

According to one account, Schimmel, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, began peddling his wife’s knishes in Coney Island in the 1890s. He later abandoned his pushcart and his career as a Torah scribe and he and his cousin, Joseph Berger, opened a store on Houston Street. Two years later, Yonah returned to teaching Torah, and Mr. Berger and his wife, Schimmel’s daughter, Rose, took over the business. In 1910, the store moved across the street to its current site.

Today, the shop ships knishes overnight anywhere in the United States and also sells them fresh at some New York food markets.

Wait. Yonah's cousin married his daughter?

Bklyn Fire Wood

So, they cut down Brooklyn trees, or.....?