Eat, Drink, and Smoke at Nat Sherman’s Secret LairNat Sherman is still fuming about the city’s assault on smoking. Its phone message even takes a dig at the Man: “Your freedom of choice, often denied to you as a smoker, can be exercised here by choosing from the following menu.” But living well is the best revenge, and so Sherman plans on opening up the Johnson Club Room in the third week in February, on the bottom floor of its new location at 12 East 42nd Street. You’ll need to be a member eventually, but you will be able to pay the dues as you go for the first few months.
Back of the House
So This 2nd Avenue Deli Reopening — Is It Good for the Jews?
The 2nd Avenue Deli is back. But is it a harbinger of a Jewish renaissance or just the last fading pang of New York’s Jewish twilight? The question is raised in today’s issue of The Jewish Week, and it’s a good one. Despite the return of Chez Lebewohl, the world of Jewish food is already little more than a memory: Take away a few landmarks like Russ and Daughters, Katz’s, Yonah Schimmel, and Sammy’s Roumanian, and the entire world of Jewish food would be as forgotten as the Punic Wars. All the dairy restaurants, Romanian steakhouses, cafeterias, candy stores, bakeries, appetizing stores — they’re already forgotten, even in distant Brooklyn and Queens. The Week asked Arthur Schwartz, probably the city’s foremost authority on old-time New York food, and he gives a dismal picture: “Schwartz maintains that Jewish food has suffered greatly in quality over the last few decades, since Jews tend to eat their own food only on holidays — ‘and then we make everything we know, and then everyone gets sick.’” Add to that contemporary Jews’ horror of the fatty meats that were the Jewish kitchen’s stock in trade, and you have a recipe for cultural oblivion. Can a revived 2nd Avenue Deli, or the brisket revival staged by a few barbejews, stem the tide? Stranger things have happened.
‘Not Just A Deli Like Any Other’ [Jewish Week]
Related: It’s Time to Get Excited About the Second Avenue Deli
Where to Dine Alone; Julia Child’s Ghost Still Loves ButterIn a list of the world’s best restaurants to dine alone, the Modern Bar Room is right up there with London restaurant Itsu, where the former Russian spy is thought to have been poisoned with radium. [Forbes]
Related: No, Just Me [NYM]
“Page Six” figures out almost a year after the Times that Alain Ducasse is opening a space in the St. Regis Hotel. Ah, August. [NYP]
Two researchers spent a year compiling a book of New York gourmet shops; two favorites were Yonah Schimmel and Christopher Norman Chocolates. [NYDN]
Has Assimilation Ruined the Knish?David Katz, a writer given to elegiac moods, just published a column on knishes in the Jewish Quarterly. He decries the decay of the knish, which under the pressure of assimilation went from a delicate mashed-potato pastry to a tough square of deep-fried dough. “There’s a word for these street knishes, which are still sold today, and that word is vile,” Katz pronounces. The column concludes with a paragraph of praise for Yonah Schimmel’s old-time knishery, noted by us recently in our pre-obituary for Gertel’s last week.
Impending Jewish-Bakery Apocalypse?
Gertel’s Bakery, one of the last of the old-time Jewish bakeries on the Lower East Side, may be shutting down, another victim of the condo-ing of New York. “We haven’t finalized anything yet,” owner Abe Stern told us, without denying the possible closing, widely discussed in the neighborhood. If that bakery’s classic hamantaschen and rugalach are on the way out, we wondered, Can Yonah Shimmel’s knishes and Kossar’s bialys, other pillars of Jewish baked goods, be far behind?