Much in the same way as Carnegie Deli, Kossar’s has cemented itself eighty years ago as the quintessential spot to get classic New York City Jew food. From bagels and bialys with a schmear and some smoked or cured fish to sweets like babka and rugelach anything you get will make bubby kvell. It's been a short of Mecca for longer than I can remember.
You see, back when I was no more than seven, we piled into my parent's car and schlepped down to grand street for what were “Michelle, there's no bialys like Kossar’s bialys”. You have to remember, back then—I swear I'm not as old as this phrasing makes me sound—there wasn't a prevalent foodie culture, the idea of pulling your car out of the lot, driving past what has to be hundreds of bagel shops to expose your kid's palette to a specific flavor was almost unheard of. This is a newer hipster with kids kind of thing to do. I remember using my teeth to tear into my first bite of that right-out-of-the-oven super hot bialy and I've been booked ever since. I was reminiscing over this moment with my dad over their bialys with a hefty schmear and he countered with his own childhood memory. My dad's dad, aka my grandpa, owned a clothing store just around the corner and would send my dad there, when he too was about seven, with likely seven cents to buy lunch. Still using the same recipe as when they opened their doors on day one, it's cool to think that we both are the exact same bialy when we were the exact same age. I'm not sure there are a ton of establishment based foods I can say that about.
Based on the successes of eighty years of making Jew food worth traveling to a somewhat desolate part of the city, it's fair to say these guys know what they're doing. So, go for the Jewish food and stay to explore the “newish” food. Maybe it's for the food porn lovers, a way to stay relevant, or merely just for the fun of paying with already delicious food, either way, the guys at Kossar’s developed second menu called “newish food” where they have crafted more playful dishes built upon the firm grounding of the classics. You know you can't travel all the way there and not try the chocolate babka that they transformed it into an ooey gooey babka French Toast!
Thanks for introducing me to Kossar’s dad, now it's so my job to introduce you to their babka French Toast—I you're welcome!