A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 16, 2004
Knish
A knish is an Eastern European snack food with a filling (usually potato) covered with dough. Was the knish started by Max Green of Rivington Street, almost 100 years ago?

The Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery (137 East Houston Street in Manhattan) was founded in 1910. Second Avenue of the Jewish Lower East Side was dubbed "Knish Alley" because of the many Eastern European Jewish restaurants there.

A "knishwich" (knish + sandwich) is a knish with an extra filling, such as pastrami or corned beef.


Wikipedia: Knish
A knish /ˈknɪʃ/ or knysh is an Eastern European snack food consisting of a filling covered with dough that is either baked, grilled, or deep fried.

Knishes can be purchased from street vendors in urban areas with a large Jewish population, sometimes at a hot dog stand or from a butcher shop. It was made popular in North America by Eastern European immigrants from the Pale of Settlement (mainly from present-day Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine).[2]

In the most East European traditional versions, the filling is made entirely of mashed potato, ground meat, sauerkraut, onions, kasha (buckwheat groats), or cheese. Other varieties of fillings include sweet potatoes, black beans, fruit, broccoli, tofu, or spinach.

27 January 1916, New York (NY) Times, "RIVINGTON ST. SEES WAR. Rival Restaurant Men Cut Prices on the Succulent Knish," pg. 7:
Rivington Street is the latest scene of war. It is a knish war. In the event that there are any persons in the city who don't know what Knish is, it may be explained that it is a dish that was peculiar to Max Green's eating house at 150 Rivington Street until it became popular in the vicinity and competitors sent their chefs to taste it and discover it ingredients.

It was made of mashed potatoes with onions and a sprinkling of cheese, all wrapped up in baked dough, like an apple dumpling, and its inventor was doing a land office business selling knishes - or knishi, or whatever the plural is - at 5 cents a knish.

The dish became so popular that one M. London, who denied that he is the Socialist Congressman, opened up a rival concern directl across the street, at 155 Rivington Street, a few weeks ago. He hung out a placard announcing that his establishment was the "United Knish Factory." The inventor was not to be easily defeated. He reduced the price of "the only real and original" knishes to 3 cents. His competitor followed and went him one better by introducing a cabaret show as a side attraction, the knish still being the piece de resistance.

Green, the originator of the great knish, is an Austrian. He retaliated by hiring a German band to play in his knish emporium. His rival commenced hanging out placards claiming his to be the best knishes in the world. Green made a contract with a coupon company and began giving coupons with his knishes. It is said that one ambitious knish eater, who was trying to get enough coupons to trade for a pocket knige, ate twenty knishes at a sitting and was carried home. Each knish is about the size of a pie.

Yesterday Green decorated the front of his store with placards describing the virtues of his knishes and explaining the secret of his success, and last night the rival concern was being bedecked with new placards. The neighborhood is eagerly awaiting today's flank movements.

8 August 1919, The Mediator (microfilmed from 1917-1919; on the same reel as The Jewish Bakers' Voice), pg. 12, col. 1:
"K" in Knisch as in Pigs' Knuckles

It is pronounced, or, better, they are pronounced - k-nisches, the accent being smeared impartially over the k and the nisches, as in the word k-nuckles, when used in connection with pigs' knuckles.

Ask anybody in Rivington Street about knisches, and you will be steered either to Max Green's polite dining-hall, in the basement of No. 150, or Morris London's United Knisches Bakery, across the way, at No. 153. It all depends whether the person you pop the question to is pro-Green or pro-London. In any case, he, she, or it - meaning the young idea of Rivington Street - is sure to be pro-knisches. The East Side has gone clean crazy about these knisches.

Hence the great knisch war.

As a conscientious gatherer of war news, your correspondent has to report that he has visited both fronts - and rears - and that, so far as he is concerned, may the best knisch win. But which is the best knisch? Ah-ha, that's the question.

Max Green says he's the inventor of the knisch. Morris London says Max isn't. (...)

The Knisch Commandments
And Max--what does he say? Well, Max says simply that he is the originator of the knisch, and points with pride - though doing so means quitting the cash-register trench, hard by the gefuellte-fish counter, and walking right out on the sidewalk, where one is exposed to the enemy's fire - to the two-story sign done in Yiddish by Rosenthal, the well-known black-and-red artist of Norfolk Street, which informs the public that the undersigned, Max Green, is prepared to prove that he has faithfully observed the "Ten Knisch Commandments."

Before hearing what these Ten Commandments are, you should know that whereas Max Green has been established in Rivington Street these last thirteen years, Morris London, field-marshal of the United Knisch Bakery forces, entered the campaign only a few weeks ago. (Col. 2--ed.) The exact date was one week after the knisch first appeared on Max's counter as a novelty in the eating line, at five cents per knisch.

And this, as far as can be learned, was the sequence of events: Morris opened his United Knisch Bakery across the street and advertised knisches at three cents per. Max met this challenge with a similar reduction. Morris bought a phonograph and advertised music with knisches. Max retained the services of a German band and hung up a sign reading, "Music Free Every Evening." Morris reinforced his staff with a ladies' orchestra and built a platform for it in the back of his shop. He also introduced what is popularly known as "singink." (...) (Col. 3 continuation - ed.)

But by this time your appetite is surely whetted to know what is it, a knisch. A strictly neutral investigation of knisches a la Max and knisches ala Morris reveals much. While, as all Rivington Street is convinced, one knisch differeth from another in glory, not to say lusciousness and perfection of workmanship, there are, speaking by and large, three recognized types or species of knisch. To wit, the potato knisch, the cheese knisch, and the kasche knisch, or buckwheat knisch. The potato knisch is head and shoulders above the others in point of popularity. Max and Morris both agree on that. They sell twice as many potato knisches as they do cheese and kasche knishes combined. But from the outside one knisch looks surprisingly like another. They all bear a strong resemblance to the dumplings that the new cook tried to concoct before you heeded her request for the "proper utensils." And if you don't consider that sufficient recommendation, you might be interested to know that Max says he disposes of 1,000 knisches every Saturday and Sunday night, and that Morris, on hearing this, stated for publication that he doled out 2,000. The average daily consumption is said to be 537. (...)
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, July 16, 2004 • Permalink


Where can I find the microfilm mentioned in this wonderful post about the Knish War? I’m looking for The Mediator (microfilmed from 1917-1919; on the same reel as The Jewish Bakers’ Voice), 8 August 1919, pg. 12, col. 1:

Also where will I find the Knish Commandments?

I have searched online and NY Public does not seem to have the mediator film....can you tell me how these two knish mavens resolved their war?

Posted by Joanne Oppenheim  on  03/24  at  03:26 PM

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