Saturday, 28 February 2009


Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery at 137, East Houston Street, between 1st & 2nd Avenues, is a bakery that has been selling knishes on the Lower East Side for nearly a century. As the area has changed over the decades and many of its Jewish residents have moved on, Yonah Shimmel's is one of the few distinctly Jewish businesses and restaurants that remains as a fixture of this largely-departed culture and cuisine. About 1890, Yonah Shimmel used a pushcart to start his knish bakery, joined later by his cousin Joseph Berger. When Yonah left the business, Berger assumed control of the bakery and moved it to its current premises in 1910.

It is as much a landmark as an eatery and has frequently been an artist's subject - a portrait of the premises by Hedy Pagremanski is in the permanent collection of the Museum of the City of New York. It has also assumed an important status in NYC politics as it is said 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 Yonah Shimmel's knish in his face."
The restaurant within the bakery offers a number of varieties of knishes in addition to other kinds of Eastern European food such as borscht, and runs a brisk takeout business.

Okay, but what is a knish (above) I hear you ask? A knish (with the "k" pronounced) is an Eastern European and Yiddish snack food made popular in North America by Jewish immigrants and consists of a filling, traditionally made from mashed potato, ground meat, sauerkraut, onions, buckwheat groats or cheese, that is covered with dough that is either baked or fried.

So there you have it, if you have political aspirations and a photographer at hand, are fascinated by the somewhat faded kitsch facade, a knish connoisseur or just enjoy yummy flavoursome grub, then this is the place for you.

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