That is it, folks: another year in the books. Whether it was a fine year with lofty heights or a forgettable one with some deep-valley lows, we can all look forward to January 1 to start anew. For me, this year was happily filled with visiting those old-school New York establishments throughout the city that are still open and keeping the quality high. We lost a few of the gems along the way, but overall, throughout this constantly changing city of five boroughs and eight and a half million people, we’ve held on to many old-school treasures, which are tucked away in every borough. And as our parents told us to say, “We should be very thankful.” We are.
I visited numerous places this year, traversing the city from the Upper East Side to Williamsburg, from Greenpoint to the East Village. And I found many establishments that still perform at the top of their game.
Venerable East Village mainstay the Stage Restaurant (128 Second Avenue, 212-473-8614) continues to turn out delicious, scratch-made Ukrainian diner specialties, just as it has since 1980. Owner and upstairs apartment resident Roman Diakun can still be found behind the counter six days a week, greeting customers and serving daily specials like corned beef and cabbage or homemade blintzes.
Just a few blocks away, Andrew Ilnicki is keeping 44 years of tradition alive at the East Village Meat Market (139 Second Avenue, 212-228-5590). He makes fresh kielbasa, smoked ham, and easily the finest (and strongest) deli mustard in the city. On any given day, the store is a mixing pot of people sharing in the same fine foods — that makes it a New York landmark.
Upper East Side perennials like JG Melon (1291 Third Avenue, 212-744-0585), Sable’s Smoked Fish (1489 Second Avenue, 212-249-6177), and Glaser’s Bake Shop (1670 First Avenue, 212-289-2562) churned out excellent classics. Now 112 years after the oven was first turned on, Glaser’s is still making some of the finest cookies, cakes, danishes, and breads this city has ever known. The place is now run by third-generation owner Herbert Glaser. Don’t miss his black-and-white cookies.
Over in Brooklyn, Williamsburg still has some of its remaining gems, held over from the days of the neighborhood being predominantly Italian. Arguably the two best sandwich shops in the city, Emily’s Pork Store (426 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-383-7216) and Graham Avenue Meats and Deli (445 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-383-0756), can be found just two short blocks from one another. Both turn out sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread from Napoli Bakery just up the street.
We cannot end 2014 without remembering those great places that have passed. Cafe Edison, the longtime Broadway diner hangout for locals and celebs alike, has served its last cup of matzo ball soup, due to an overzealous landlord. East Village mainstay De Robertis Pasticceria closed its shop after 110 years of espresso and sugar cookies. With their passing, we fondly remember the good times we shared inside their walls and hope their distant cousins and relatives continue to live on.
There are still many more old New York classics to try and discover. Let’s raise a glass and toast those standards that have changed little along the way.