S and I were on a King of the Hill kick a while back, and one of my favorite episodes was the one in which an authentic Jewish deli opens up in their not-terribly-cosmopolitan Texas town. Bobby, Hank and Peggy’s prepubescent son, becomes overly fond of chopped chicken liver (“I love it! It’s meat I can eat with a spoon!”) and as a result, develops gout. There are tons of funny lines in the show, but the one that really tickled this Jewish New Yorker’s funny bone was when the whole Hill mishpachah went to the deli together. Puzzling over the menu, the none-too-bright Luanne asks, “What’s a kay-nish?” Peggy, who’s far smarter than Luanne but nowhere near as smart as she thinks she is, answers authoritatively: “It’s pronounced ‘Nish,’ honey. The ‘k’ is silent. And I have no idea.”
Tonight I saw my friend H, who’s getting ready to open a small, casual restaurant on the Lower East Side. I met her at the space, which is still largely a construction site, so I could see the progress. On the way there I passed a New York City landmark: Yonah Schimmel Knishery, on Houston Street a few doors west of the Sunshine Theater. They’ve been making traditional round, baked knishes (not the fried square ones) for almost a century. Naturally I had to stop in—I wasn’t sure if H and I would be eating dinner, so since Yonah’s was open I figured I’d pick up a kasha knish to eat later. In recent years Yonah Schimmel has expanded their repertoire: what used to be a simple menu of potato, mushroom, kasha, and the like—you know, the classics—now includes such ridiculous items as cheese-and-chocolate knishes. Someone actually ordered one of these while I waited on line. I won’t comment on this, other than to tell you that right now I’m stifling a giggle.
H and I did go out for a bite, but it was just a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. The whole time my knish sat in its bag, begging me not to forget about it. How could I? An hour or two later, I popped it in the oven to reheat. I must admit I was a little disappointed in the end: the kasha was too moist, almost mushy, though it had a lovely flavor and nice bits of sautéed onion mixed in. And the crust was delicate and almost flaky, and crispy from the oven. All in all, it was $2.50 well spent.
Yonah Schimmel Knishery is at 137 East Houston Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues, (212) 477-2858.