***As an assignment for my Food Writing class, I will be incorporating my learnings from my previous “Field Trips in Food Studies” class into an ethnographic culinary landscaping of New York City. First stop: The Lower East Side
To be in the ‘Bowery’ was to be down in the dumps. The imprints of expired tenements and rectangled buildings now home to ‘hip’ and ‘hipster’ establishments preserve the structure of what used to be the homes and businesses of newly emigrés — those of the Jews and Eastern Europeans.
A trip to the Lower East Side is a trip to the 1800s and beyond.
A walk through the Lower East Side for my Field Trips in Food Studies class was actually a trip to my past. I remember driving up and down the Bowery as a child with my mother, as she sought after supplies from the hundreds of restaurant vendors that line the street. Bari was particularly memorable for me. I can’t forget about the gold coffee machine that was always displayed on their fogged-up window. It looked like it had been there for 90+ years, but there was nothing old about it.
I learned that Allan street used to be a giant latrine. That – as China Town gets bigger, so does NYU, in an unspoken battle to take over the LES.
Anyhow, back to what we came for: food. Here’s the list of places we went to on our first tour, along with a bit of what I could gather from my lovely professor.
STOP 1: Doughnut Plant — another one just opened on 23rd street – owned by the grandson of a Jewish baker who took recipe it and modernized place — succeeded first in Japan and now this new one in Manhattan
STOP 2: Kossar’s — sell Bialys — difference between a bagel and a bialy = a Bialy is just baked vs. a bagel, which is boiled and then baked — they come from Bialy, Poland; associated with Jewish food — it can’t be frozen so this is a reason why bagels became more prominent and bialy’s died out after the Post-Modern Era. Kossar’s has just reopened in Manhattan after a 6 month renovation period!
STOP 3: The Pickle Guys — Essex street – only sell pickles – completely kosher – pickled veggies and fruit too i.e good mangos
STOP 4: Essex Street Market — for me, where east meets west – “the Turkey of NYC”; lots of small-scale, but good quality food vendors
STOP 5: Economy Candy — Candy and drug stores used to be the same thing, which is what this was in the early 190ss; I had a halva there
STOP 6: Il Laboratorio del Gelato – next to Katz’s — made fresh-daily; a scientific-approach to gelato
STOP 7: Katz’s — when Jewish left — rebranded the place as a hip place where politicians should come and hang out; to this day, newly elected politicians need to come and take a pic with a pastrami sandwich; used to send some of their salamis to soldiers at during WWII; they have iconic New York egg creams here
STOP 8: Russ and Daughters — Jewish owned — as Jews left the LES, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans began working as butchers, slowly but surely integrating them into the ethnographic landscape of the LES
STOP 9: Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery — they sell sort of a “Jewish Empanada”