New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hungry Huddled Masses Yearning to Eat Cheesecake


I am not one to rule out well known establishments a priori - I am quite willing to try household names, and if a place lives up to its reputation, I am more than pleased. Although I am as interested as anyone else in finding that secret place that lies off the beaten path, I am not obsessed with that quest. My mission is not to prove that those small, special secret places are better than the well known restaurants. There is nothing wrong with tradition and an enduring legacy.

After hearing about Grimaldi's Pizzeria in Brooklyn for decades, I recently visited, knowing full well that it is heavily touristed, typically mobbed with long queues to get in. The pizza was excellent, and the overall experience was a lot of fun. My friend and I also met a number of extremely interesting people. See story here.

Junior's, located at 386 Flatbush Avenue EXT in Brooklyn, is a diner styled restaurant, founded in 1950 by Harry Rosen. It is a full-service restaurant with an extensive menu, however their claim to fame is the cheesecake, based on a family recipe developed by Rosen with head baker Eigel Peterson. I was only in Junior's once, eons ago so I cannot speak to their quality. Reviews span the spectrum as would be expected, from those who adore to those who abhor. My hat goes off to Eileen's Cheesecake, a tiny cheesecake mecca at 17 Cleveland Place in Manhattan. Eileen Avezzano is one of the nicest business owners I have met, and her New York Style cheesecake is uniquely light and fluffy, owing to her own special recipe. See my story here.

Generally speaking, however, by the time a restaurant has achieved mythic, iconic status in New York City and it starts serving hordes of people, most likely the quality of food and/or service is likely to suffer. These places often become money machines with marketing, branding and even the opening of a small chain of shops.

In New York's harbor, Lady Liberty welcomed all, however, Ellis Island and now immigration services have controlled the influx of those with a ravenous appetite for America. At places like Junior's, however, no barriers to entry exist other than a few dollars for a slice of cheesecake. But to serve the volume, it has to step up production - how else to serve the hungry huddled masses yearning to eat cheesecake?

9 comments:

Thérèse said...

Nothing beats the "Cheesecake Factory" though. It seems you don't have any in N.Y. City... :-)

Mirela said...

I would be the one moving everyone out of the way to get to a good cheesecake piece... :) I'm not a big fan of Cheesecake factory, as I don't like when one tiny piece has 3000 calories, but Eileen's cheesecake sounds just like the one I'd love.

Chicken Underwear said...

Junior's is a diner known for its cheesecake. The Cheesecake Factory is a place where th obese go to stay that way.

Mary P. said...

So, do you or don't you like Junior's Cheesecake?
I rather like it, but like the breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs, served with complimentary mini danish that I really like. It may not be gourmet, but it's a real experience.
There's a good feel to the place when you have breakfast there.

Sérgio Pontes said...

The cheesecake must be very good there =)

Kelly said...

I lived in Brooklyn and finally went to Junior's one day when I had an out of town visitor, expecting a mediocre tourist trap. I don't remember how the service was but what I do remember is the meal was huge and OK but the cheesecake was AWESOME. Still the best I've ever had.

Brian Dubé said...

Mary P - The last time I was at Junior's was decades ago so I have no memory really. Also, at this point in my life, I have most cheesecakes much too heavy for more than a bite. That is why I enjoyed Eileen's - it is atypically light.

George said...

I still like cheesecake. Even if I haven't tried Junior's...

NYfan said...

I once tried to make cheesecake on my own. It was a mess though. I spent 3 hours in the kitchen. Well, it tasted good, but I never ever will do this again... You´re right, Brian, the cheesecakes I´ve tried till know were definitely pretty heavy.