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where do i find NYC cheesecake that IS NOT lemon-flavored?

i'm from los angeles and back home, "new york cheesecake" meant creamy, delicious, perhaps a bit tart, and above all, full of vanilla. it was what i imagined cream cheese-flavored ice cream to be if such a thing existed, except shaped like a cake finished with a crust.

now, every time i get the real thing in nyc, it seems to be lemon-flavored - yes, even when i ask for "plain." sometimes it even comes with a yellow, gelatinous layer on the top similar to key lime pie. what the hell!

could someone explain what the deal with this is, and moreover, direct me to places whose cheesecake lacks that nasty citrus? i'm partial to manhattan, but if you know of places in the other boroughs, i'd appreciate those as well. thanks!

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  1. Some people are big fans of S&S Cheesecake, 222 W 238th St, Bronx, 718-549-3888. Note: it's not a store, just a factory; ring the bell, go in, pay cash. Unfortunately, I've only been there the once, some months ago, and didn't have your vanilla versus citrus question in mind at the time. Off the top of my head, I recall the plain cheesecake as being just that, in terms of not having any special flavoring, like lemon, but I can't speak to it being especially vanilla-y, either. Now, these guys sell mostly to the trade and their stock of cakes with various toppings to walk-ins is correspondingly limited. When I got there on a Thursday morning at about 10AM, they were down to plain and pineapple as the options. Perhaps someone with more extensive experience with their products will chime in.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rpk

      I am one of the people who thinks S&S Cheesecake is the best in the city. But if you can't get to the Bronx, you can usually find it at Zabar's. They carry some. We regularly get the small-sized one there.

      I've never heard of ny cheesecake being "tart". It's usually very rich, creamy, and cheese-y tasting. I've never experienced a lemon flavored cheesecake. Well, except when getting Italian cheesecake.

      1. re: LNG212

        I would agree that S&S is the best cheesecake in NYC. I believe it is also sold at Zabars and they stock some of the restaurants in Manhattan only it isnt advertised.

        The problem here is we don't know where the original poster has been getting cheesecake. The simple fact of the matter could be that real NY Cheesecakes in NYC could be tangier than those that are replicated in LA. This would be akin to coming to NY and asking why NYC pizza doesn't taste like the NYC style at pizza hut.

        1. re: MVNYC

          I was told that the amazing cheesecake I've had at The Palm Too was from S&S, and that was the best NY-style cream cheese cake I've ever had.


    2. Maybe I just don't taste the lemon tones, but Junior' Cheesecake tastes like NY cheesecake to me (having grown up on "cream cheese" cake, and that's readily available at their outpost in Grand Central Station - downstairs. Is it the best in town? Probably not, but it's good when you need a fix.

      1. Where are getting this cheesecake? Neither Junior's nor Carnegie Deli have this "gelatinous" layer you describe. Try a piece of plain at either of those places and post back.

        1. ive never seen anything with a gelatinous layer on it (to be honest, it makes me physically ill just thinking about it). Junior's does not have that and their cheesecakes are good.

          1. Cafe Europa sells a cheese cake by the slice that has vanilla and no lemon



            1. I believe most NY-Style cheesecakes usually call for some lemon zest in the recipe. I think this is supposed to enhance the flavor and give the vanilla a little more interest. I always bake my own cheesecake and never buy it, so I don't know for sure, but I imagine some bakers use more or less zest. As for the yellow gelatin, I've seen that in cheap bakeries on the lemon cheesecake but never the plain. Regardless, I think it's just wrong....

              4 Replies
              1. re: jenhen2

                i live in the west village and have gotten "plain" cheesecake at rocco's pastry (on bleecker, really close to me). totally tasted like lemon. any deli or diner i go to seems to have this problem. good stuff diner, joe junior's, soup n' burger, moonstruck diner, to name a few.

                the gelatinous thing seems to be primarily with delis, though i recall encountering it at soup n' burger and moonstruck.

                hope that helps!

                1. re: chosungalbi

                  Delicious cheesecakes at Eileen's


                  17 Cleveland Pl
                  New York, NY 10012

                  (212) 966-5585

                  Very easy to get to...1 block from Spring Street subway station.

                  1. re: chosungalbi

                    I wouldn't order cheesecake in any of those places - they've got some low end commercial supplier - nothing at all like real NY Cheesecake. Head to Junior's. You've essentially been ordering Blue Nun and thinking it represents real wine.

                    1. re: chosungalbi

                      The "plain" cheesecake at Rocco's (a very good bakery IMHO) is probably an Italian style cheesecake, which isn't the same as the Junior's/Carnegie variety. Delis and Diners are not the place to judge cheesecakes.

                  2. D’aiuto’s ...although I have a major beef with them for changing their name to New York New York. Oh hell, I spent over a decade thinking their name was Baby Watson before finding out that Baby Watson is the name of the cheesecake.
                    405 8th Avenue
                    New York, NY

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ayun

                      Second Daiuto's (since when did they change their name? Travesty!) Best cheesecake in the city.

                    2. Lifelong cheesecake fetishist here. Disagree with most of these posters, and agree with O.P.- MANY cheesecakes in NY have the unwonted and unwanted lemony tinge AND the gelatinous layer. Junior's in particular is guilty, and I think the layer increases shelf life, extends freshness during shipping etc. The tartness hides a preservative taste, I suspect. You folks have been tasting the bad stuff so long, you forgot what the good stuff is supposed to taste like.
                      S & S is fine, as is Eileen's. The one made at home in less than an hour, from unadulterated ingredients, is the purest and best of all.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: addictedtolunch

                        The OP inspired me to get a Junior's plain cheesecake last night. No gelatinous layer on top, just a creamy filling with that tangy-vanilla-creamy texture it has always had. It is not what I would describe as "lemony", it just tastes like cheesecake.

                        Whether or not they put any gelatinous layer on the ones they ship I couldn't tell you, I got my cake at the shop in Grand Central.

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          just got back form eileen's, which was right on the money. thanks for pointing me in the right direction, y'all. no lemon flavor at all in their plain cheesecake - this is exactly what i thought new york style was supposed to taste like. i kid you not, it's the first time in the city i've not had that nasty citrus thing going on.

                          for all of you who think cheesecake in new york generally tastes like this, i agree with addictedtolunch - you must be out of your minds! eileen's is totally not the norm, at least if you're like me and generally get cheesecake at delis and diners.

                        2. re: addictedtolunch

                          I would say S&S is more than fine. Much better than Juniors and even Eileen's(second place for me). I think the OP should seek out S&S. If you can't get it at Zabars get on the 1 Train to 238th street. Walk half a block east and the factory is on the South side. The candy shop next store also sells the cakes.

                          1. re: addictedtolunch

                            Junior's has no gelatinous layer that I recall. Also, I always thought of the gelatin as a French thing. My cousin is a pastry chef, and she claims its value is purely aesthetic.

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              i just had juniors, nothing gelatinous going on there...that word still makes me sick.

                          2. Very detailed info for lemon and non lemon options: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/1...

                            1. I don't like to use the word "best" in any review since all things are never quite the same.
                              When I think of NY Cheesecake I always think of Juniors first. I am partial to their Strawberry Cheesecake. I remember going to Juniors way back inthe 50's for lunch after my mom went shopping at A&S on Fulton St. It has been consistently good over the years. I even had a huge Juniors Strawberry Cheesecake for our wedding cake. You can get it at the original Brooklyn restaurant @ Flatbush and DeKalb, Times Sq or Grand Central.