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F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.
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Kossar's, the Lower East Side Jewish bakery, which opened in 1936, is a New York institution on the order of Katz's, Russ & Daughters, and Totonno's. The specialty, as you might guess, is bialys, a bread once popular enough to demand its own union and, current co-owner Evan Giniger says, for Kossar's at one point to "bake something like a million bialys a year." The bialy, brought to New York by immigrants from Bialystock, Poland, never caught on like the bagel, the Polish-Jewish bread to which it is most often compared, but it nevertheless has a cultlike following among a particular sect of New Yorkers. That sect includes Giniger, whose father grew up on Rivington Street. In 2013, he teamed with Dave Zablocki (a Flushing, Queens, kid) and Marc Halprin (who left in 2014) to purchase Kossar's. Two years later, they closed the shop for a five-month renovation, reopening it with a refreshed look and broadened scope. They were careful to toe the line between preserving the old feel and not turning into a theme restaurant. So they saved the terrazzo floor and refurbished old equipment, while making the space look more modern and expanding the menu to include more sweets, sandwiches for the first time, and Jewish-American things like pizza bagels, flagels, and an original creation called the pizza pretzel, made with Jewish flatbread. There are, as well, new specialty-flavor bialys, like olive and sun-dried tomato, which will stretch the meaning of the bialy for traditionalists, who constitute roughly 100 percent of the bread's dedicated fan base. Don't fret, though: You can still get your classic onion bialy, baked according to the same old recipe, and at $1, it costs you a meager ten cents more than it did before the remodel.