Illustration: Steve MotzenbackerSomewhere in the world there may be a train line that covers more gastronomic territory than the B and V subway lines, which start in southernmost Brooklyn and end deep in Queens, but if there is, we don’t know about it. For the next twenty-odd weeks, we’ll be riding the B and V from Coney Island all the way to Forest Hills, jumping off frequently to rave about our favorite restaurants and food stores near the subway.
This Week: Grand Street
You don’t have to walk far on Grand Street to see how far it’s come from its past life as a center of Jewish life in New York. Now it’s a center of Chinese life, but still bustling. On one side is a playground, on the other various hardware stores. You can still see a remnant of what Grand Street once was at Kossar’s Bialys. The B Line has no greater gift for New Yorkers than this stark, sparse bakery, which alone produces the only great bialys left in America.
That, at any rate, was the conclusion drawn by Mimi Sheraton in her book The Bialy Eaters. Kossar’s bialys are moist and dense and slightly sour, and when toasted they become as close as you can get to the platonic ideal of perfect pizza crust. But you should take care not to miss the two other totally unassimilated specialty products there as well: the thick rolls called bulkas — ideal for stuffing with dried kosher salami for a long train ride — and the onion and poppyseed flatbread called pletzels, which you can nibble on as you sit on a hard chair next to a lake in the Catskills, talking about your grandchildren. Whatever you buy, get plenty, and freeze it away because … well … who knows? A certain Jewish fatalism hangs over the place, and so we buy all we can, just to be on the safe side.
If only the bialys lasted as long as the bakery — and the bakery as long as the photo.Photo: Lauren Klain Carton