A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 33: Oy, the Knish!

July 29th · 2 Comments

In  California, the knish is the only well-known cuisine of New York that no one tries to sell you. Bakeries like Noah’s purport to make New York bagels and corner pizzerias make New-York-style pies, but until today I had never even laid eyes on a knish.

What I did know is that knishes are Jewish, so much so that I first learned to fake a Jewish accent by talking about them. In high school and college, if anyone made a trip to New York, the proper response was (insert shtetl accent here), “Oy! You’re going to New York! Ya oughta getta knish!”

All the more ironic, then, that my first knish was cooked and delivered by a Moroccan named Aziz.

Aziz operates a rolling grillstand at E 58th and 3rd Avenue and sells knishes for $2. They are encased in foil and lined up on the edge of the grill. When a customer comes along he opens the starchy flesh with a knife and inserts whatever the customer likes, sauerkraut for example. I took mustard.

I unwrapped it to find mashed potato enveloped in dough, and its heft told me I was getting a lot of calories on the dollar. Just a bit smaller than a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder but much more dense, it had a mild flavor made only a little more tangy by the Dijon.

While I munched and stood blinking in the smoke from the sizzling kebabs on the grill, Aziz told me how the foreclosure crisis has eaten even into his modest business.

“It used to be you work for five years and” – he slapped his hands together – “you retire. These days, not so much.”

And the knish, he told me, is not helping. No one orders them these days except the vegetarians. And while I am not a vegetarian, I will become one for a meal, especially if it gets me this much bang for just two bucks.

Tags: Dining · East Coast v. West Coast · Personalities · Sights & Scenes · Why I Love This Town

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bev // Aug 3, 2008 at 4:22 am

    One word…YUM!, plus a few more…man! the vendors make THAT much to retire in a mere five years?!!! I’m in, no matter what it takes!

    Can’t wait til you visit the Soup Nazi…make that, Soup Kitchen International. As my (then) boyfriend and I inched up in line, I chickened out near the front (after seeing some patrons a few up get busted) leaving him with the task of ordering. Boy, was it worth the sweaty palms! If I could, I would scan and insert the picture here I took of all the posted rules and painted footprints on the sidewalk demanding proper soup purchase! So, when he reopens in the Fall, be a good boy so that it’s SOUP FOR YOU!

  • 2 Kimberly Winston // Aug 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    IN your picture you show a Sabrett’s cart. Have you had a real Sabrett’s hot dog yet? Extra onions?? Mitt kraut?? Yum! When I come we’ll get one together. Heartburn!

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