The Jewish deli is alive now more than ever in New York City, with new Jewish restaurants, and cafes opening up in hip and trendy places like the Lower East Side, Soho, and all over Brooklyn. With so many fantastic Jewish food options in NYC–bagel shops, knisheries, bakeries and delis galore–it can be hard to decide what and where to nosh.
Here’s a collection of our favorite places to get Jewish food, including new shops and plenty of old favorites.
1. Matzah Brei from Barney Greengrass
This award-winning Upper West Side establishment has been a classic appetizing store since 1908. It’s restaurant menu has all of your favorite Jewish comfort foods, but the matzah brei is definitely the best–served pancake style or scrambled with your choice of preserves or applesauce.
Photo from Aly Miller
2. Potato latkes with salmon roe and creme fraiche from Russ & Daughters Cafe
Just a few blocks away from Russ & Daughters’ iconic store is their sit-down cafe, which opened in 2014 and has since been named one of the 10 best restaurants in NYC by the New York Times. Their latkes, almost two inches tall, are the best in the city, seasoned perfectly and fried with a satisfying crunch.
Photo from Katz’s Deli Instagram.
3. Egg Cream from Katz’s
The egg cream, which contains neither eggs nor cream (who would’ve thought?), is made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, whole milk, and seltzer. It comes in a tall, 20-oz glass–you might want to ask for two straws! Of course, you might as well order a pastrami sandwich, matzah ball soup and thick-cut fries while you are there.
Photo from Kossar’s Instagram.
4. Onion and Poppy Seed Bialy from Kosar’s Bialys
Next stop is Kosar’s, which is one of the longest running businesses in the Lower East Side. Since 1936, they’ve specialized in bialys. Not sure what a bialy is? They put it best:
“The Jews from Bialystok, Poland brought their local bread, called (not surprisingly) a “bialy” that they ate with every meal.”
In the early days, they sold bialys by the bag. Today, they’re resurrecting the tradition of bialys, offering new flavors, great coffee, and plenty of other Jewish foods like bagels, babka and hummus alongside.
5. Gribenes or Chopped Liver from 2nd Ave Deli
2nd Ave Deli might no longer be on 2nd Ave, but nothing else about this restaurant has really changed since it opened in 1954. The chopped liver is the best in the city, made with a mixture of veal, beef, and chicken liver, hard boiled eggs, and onions. It pairs magically with crispy curls of gribenes, fried chicken cracklings. If you’re feeling especially hungry, try on of their triple decker sandwiches, especially the “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” which just might be our favorite.
6. Grilled Cheese Challah from B&H Dairy
The best challah sandwich is found at B&H Dairy, which was established in 1938, a time when Jewish restaurants typically specialized in either meat or dairy to keep kosher. This place has the kind of old-school soda counter vibe that harkens a time when kosher delis and Yiddish theaters lined 2nd avenue.
Photo from Veselka’s Facebook.
7. Borscht from Veselka
Although Veselka isn’t a Jewish restaurant, it’s been a part of the Lower East Side for decades. The New York Times reports that in the early 1900s, non-Jewish Ukrainians began immigrating to the Jewish neighborhoods of the East Village and Lower East Side, where they felt at home with “the sounds, smells and tastes of the villages they had left behind.”
Borscht, and many other items on the menu, were definitely among the things that these two groups had in common. This deeply flavorful borscht, made with home-made stock and vinegary beets, is perfect accompanied with Veselka’s equally famous dumplings. They also have a vegetarian version which is as delicious as its meat counterpart.
8. Babka from Breads Bakery
Breads Bakery is relatively new compared to the others on this list, but everyone says its babka is the best. Countless layers of laminated dough are spread, rolled, and twisted with a chocolate hazelnut filling for the ultimate sweet treat.
9. Pickled Lox from Zabar’s Upper West Side
Sure, you’ve had your standard nova or lox. But have you tried Zabar’s Pickled Lox? These bite-sized chunks of fish in a creamy, salty brine are a perfect balance of sweet and sour. While you are there, try any of Zabar’s other smoked fish offerings and their delectable baked goods, like their cheese Danish.
Photo from Taim’s Instagram.
10. Falafel and Fresh Pita from Taim
Get the flavors of Tel Aviv at Taim, a cozy falafel and smoothie shop in the West Village. Everything is made with fresh ingredients by hand, including za’atar-dusted pita, baba ganoush, and three must-try flavors of falafel.
Smoked meat photo from Mile End Deli’s Instagram.
12. Smoked Meat from Mile End Deli
In the style of Canadian Jewish delis, Mile End Deli doesn’t serve pastrami (gasp!). But their smoked brisket–simply referred to as “smoked meat”–might just become your new favorite thing. Wondering why Canadians prefer smoked meat and Americans prefer pastrami? Serious Eats leaves no rocks unturned.
13. New School Noshes from Peck’s
Head to Peck’s, a picture-perfect deli counter and coffee shop (with a backyard!) in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, for all things homemade, small-batch and Jewish. They make house-cured pastrami, potato and schmaltz pierogis, a number of pates, harissa-spiked shakshuka, and plenty of sweet and savory pastries (try the cornbread muffin with an egg baked inside of it!).
The owner of Peck’s was born and raised in the Jewish deli scene–his great grandfather started Ratner’s Kosher dairy restaurant in the Lower East Side–so we think you’ll enjoy this new-ish Jew-ish approach.
14. Chopped liver from Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse
Romanian-style chicken liver is really something you can only find at Sammy’s. Pete Wells calls it “the most wonderful terrible restaurant in New York” and describes its atmosphere as a “nonstop basement bar mitzvah.” Enticed yet? Their servers make their Romanian-style chopped liver right at your table, mixing in grated radishes, gribenes, and chopped onions.
15. Hummus from The Hummus Place
Looking for a no-frills spot to grab a hummus platter? This is the place. Just zip on over to the Upper West Side.
16. Knishes from Knish Nosh
Open since 1952, the Knish Nosh in Rego Park, Queens, is a knish destination worth the trip. Their hand-rolled knish varieties are filled with kasha, mushrooms, pastrami and more. If you can’t make it to Queens, get your nosh on at their Upper East Side location.
Photo from Miriam’s facebook.
17. Shakshuka from Miriam
The shakshuka at Miriam’s, an Israeli restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is our favorite in NYC. Its bright and flavorful tomato sauce is simmered with warm spices and its eggs are perfectly poached.
18. Bagels from Bagel Hole
Deciding on who makes the best bagels in NYC might be one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made. They all taste pretty good when fresh out of the oven. But the Bagel Hole in Park Slope raises the bar. You wouldn’t know it from its bodega-like exterior, but they’ve been making what they call “old-fashioned” bagels since 1986–small, crusty, and chewy all at once.
19. Uzbeki Pilaf from Taam Tov
Uzbeki pilaf (plov), is a rice pilaf with carrots, spiced with cumin and cardamom. New York Magazine says, “Dishes hail from the states around Bukhara, Uzbekistan, where Jews have lived since the Babylonian exile.” Taam Tov, Hebrew for “good taste,” is pretty accurately named, and probably the tastiest and most affordable meal you’ll find in NYC’s diamond district.
Photo of greybeh from Mansoura’s website.
20. Greybeh Cookies from Mansoura Bakery
Mansoura Bakery in Midwood, Brooklyn, was opened in 1961 by a Jewish family from Cairo, who came from a long line of Syrian bakers. Their specialties today include pine nut and pistachio macaroons for Passover (you won’t find coconut macaroons here!), and greybeh, which is a shortbread cookie with a roasted pistachio on top, made year-round. Be sure to also try their pistachio turkish delight!
Photo from Shelsky’s Instagram.
21. Gravlax from Shelsky’s
If you love smoked fish, Shelsky’s is the place for you. Their extensive smoked fish and sandwich menu is proof that we’re in the middle of a Jewish food renaissance. Hallelujah.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Pronounced: KOH-sher, Origin: Hebrew, adhering to kashrut, the traditional Jewish dietary laws.