If for some reason you’ve never enjoyed a knish, the place to hit up for these dough dumplings filled with potato or other yummy stuffings is Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery on the Lower East Side.
They’ve been in business for a mind-blowing 102 years, and are a true treasure of New York, situated along that sacred stretch of East Houston Street that is also home to Russ and Daughters Appetizers and Katz’s Delicatessen.
What spurred this post, other than my love for this place, was a copy of a New York Daily News article from Feb. 7, 1972 that’s still proudly displayed in the window. [The News still went by its classic slogan “New York’s Picture Paper” — it’s been modified today to Hometown Paper. But that stylized camera in the logo survives to this day, giving away its pictorial origins. And in the winter of 1972, The News went for a dime.]
When this article was published, Yonah’s was already 62 years old, an already impressive run. The words reporter Donald Singleton chose to describe Yonah could well have been written today. Here’s a taste:
"It is a little hole in the wall on E. Houston Street, just off the Bowery on the lower East Side, and time has treated it lovingly.
On a cold Sunday morning the windows of the old store are so steamed up you can’t see whether it is open or closed. But as you get close you begin to smell something warm and good in the air, and that aroma is the best evidence that Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery, one of those neighborhood’s relics that is uniquely New York, is still in business, as always.”
40 years after this article was published, and 102 since the knishery opened in the year of Mark Twain’s death, Yonah’s is — to quote Mr. Singleton — ”still in business, as always.”
May it ever be so.
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol