As much of New York’s old Lower East Side disappears with the changing times, there are still traces of the original neighborhood to be explored, and in the case of Yonah Schimmel’s knish bakery, eaten and enjoyed.
In 1890, Yonah Schimmel, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, sold his home baked knishes from a push cart around the Lower East Side. Yonah’s knishes were so popular amongst the Eastern European immigrant tenements of the area, that he moved into a small bakery on Houston Street. In 1910, the business moved across the street, to where it still bakes and serves to this day.
Knishes originated in Eastern Europe and traditionally consist of a filling of mashed potatoes, cabbage and onions, covered with dough and baked, but never fried, always round and not square. A simple, hearty and tasty snack, knishes were made and served throughout New York as more and more immigrants flooded the Lower East Side during the 19th century.
Yonah Schimmel’s is the oldest knishery in the United States, and is still owned by the family, currently run by Yonah’s great-nephew, Alex Wolfman. Today, whilst most of the original Lower East Side continues to gradually disappear, stopping in for a traditional knish at Yonah Schimmel’s, is to experience a genuine taste of the neighborhood that once flourished here amongst the tenement buildings over a century ago.