Yonah Schimmel’s celebrates its 100th birthday this year. It’s a true milestone for both its knishes, which are the last of a dying breed in New York, and the store itself. One of Houston Street’s holy trinity, which also includes Katz’s and Russ & Daughters, the knishery is one of the few surviving relics of an ungentrified, heavily Eastern European Lower East Side. But while the City Room yesterday marked the anniversary with an affectionate tribute, Yonah Schimmel’s signature product continues to provoke debate on, of course, the Internet.
Back in 2005, a thread entitled ‘Yonah Schimmel is a disgrace‘ was started on Chowhound, with the original author disparaging the quality of Schimmel’s knishes, which were described as “soggy potato balls” with “[no] flavor, no crispness whatsoever.” The post kicked off a debate that was still going on as of this past Monday. While the knishery has its loyalists, the general consensus seems to be that (a) the place has fallen off in quality, (b) the owner’s use of a microwave is unforgivable, (c) New York hasn’t had any good knishes for 30 to 40 years, depending which neighborhood you grew up in, and (d) if you really must have a knish, go out to Knish Nosh in Forest Hills.
We haven’t been to Yonah Schimmel’s since about 2002, and honestly remember the knishes less than the fact that Vincent Schiavelli — the fantastically creepy character actor famous for teaching Patrick Swayze how to jump through subway walls in Ghost — was there, eating his knish with a plastic fork and knife off a paper plate. But while the knishes may not be what they used to be, we’re glad that the place itself still is, and hope that it’ll stick around for another hundred years or so. And if they stop using the microwave, so much the better.