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Feb 24, 2010 03:11 PM

GOOD Jewish Bakery in Brooklyn???

Am I tilting at windmills? I feel like I've been on a sporadic, yet eternal, search for the Jewish bread and rolls of my childhood (which wasn't SO long ago). Born in Brooklyn in 1964, I mostly grew up in Nassau County. Most of my family remained here, some were in every boro but the Bronx. There was never a shortage of great bakery stuff, it was only a matter of whose was best.

I live in Kensington now and have plenty of access to Boro Park and Midwood. I can't tell you exactly what places I've visited since none have warranted a return visit. I've sampled on 18th Ave, New Utrecht, Macdonald, 13th and 14th aves. I guess I haven't really searched Kings Hwy. Just the other day I finally got to Isaac's on ave J, having seen recommendations on CH, and found it completely forgettable.

To be clear, I'm not talking about pastries and cookies. I can find a decent babkah, strudel, etc and many of those items overlap with other Eastern European bakery cuisines, so the chances are better. I generally don't bother with rugelach. I have found a palatable one here and there, which to me means a minimum of chemical aftertaste of most commercial stuff. But none are as good as my mom's and I don't expect them to be.

Certainly, I can find a hearty, chewy, flavorful rye bread at a boutique shop supplied by a high end baker. It's not EXACTLY what I want, but Grab in the South Slope, for instance, gets a great version. Maybe, it's a bit too chi-chi. I find it shocking, though, that almost every rye from an actual Jewish bakery is barely salty enough to even have flavor.

Any onion roll I come across in the Jewish areas is simply tasteless bread, with a desultory stripe of onion and poppy inside. I'm looking for an entire layer of moist onions almost enabling the roll to be cleaved by hand. The blackened onions on top should cover the whole thing, and the roll itself should be dense, yellow and moist. We used to call it a "Miami Roll" but when I ask at any Kosher place they look at me like I have two heads. I still don't know what they call the crappy rolls that do have the onion inside.

At Isaac's I asked for a salt stick, and he asked if I wanted sesame or poppy! Uh, a salt stick isn't just an oblong roll - it's egg brushed and topped with tons of caraway seeds and kosher salt. I never had poppy or sesame salt sticks. For some dumb reason I took two flavorless salt stick shaped rolls home and threw them out.

Finally, I haven't found a cornmeal rye in twenty years! Again, I ask and get blank stares and even dismissive barks. I don't make the mistake of calling it corn bread anymore. (I stopped that after visiting the South for the first time.)

Any new, or overlooked old, news would be amazing. Thanks, esteemed CHers.

Isaac's Bake Shop
1419 Ave J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

438 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

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  1. Well i know what you are talking about.
    Lived in Rockland county for most of my life and my family in Brooklyn.
    We had a great bakery that made corn bread and the miami rolls you spoke of.
    I havent found the rolls but the bread is a staple of Rockland Bakery in Nanuet NY. They sell under the name Pecters and Rockland bakery
    They are wholesale but you can walk into the back and buy off the rack.
    They have the closest thing to an old time bakery.
    The other thing you cant find is an Onion board or Pletzel. The closet place i find it is at Rockland bakery or Kosher bakery in South Fl. The onion boards i knew of were hard with a ton of onion and poppy seeds. Very crisp and great with butter or cream cheese.
    It could be a great sat or sunday drive up to rockland. Watch the rolls come out of the oven and then cool down. Get a ton of bread and rolls and bring them home to freeze. W do all the time. There cakes are good too. I wind up spending why too much there and i live near by.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jcohen552003

      Thanks J! Who knows, maybe I'll take you up. But, I rarely find myself in Rockland. It's sad that the places I knew out on the Island are gone. And you're absolutely right about the onion board! Nobody's seems to come close, including Kossar's.

      I'm hesitant to write this, but I've been wondering if this is evidence to the diaspora of the assimilated, largely less or not religious, Jewish population that moved from the boros to the suburbs in the fifties and sixties, and is now spread too thin. Perhaps there was a not specifically kosher cuisine and culture in general that's being supplanted by more observant Jews. And perhaps they have different priorities and/or different tastes?

      1. re: Jcohen552003

        Where in south Florida is this bakery? What's the name? I vacation there all the time and would drive all over for some good bread. I get an Onion Board occasionally at Heartland Bagels in Staten Island but it still doesn't do it for me.

      2. Try Tina's in Canarsie ( Ralph ave near Foster). I think they have what you want.

        Teena's Cake Fair
        1568 Ralph Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11236

        1. There is one other thing that i do now because most bread stinks. There is a book Artisan Bread Baking in Five Minutes a Day. Its by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This is great bread. It has a few differnt doughs. There is no kneeding and you keep it in thr fridge for days and weeks at a time. You can also freeze the dough.
          Its some of the best and easist bread to make and Oh so fresh. The house smells so good. My wife loves it when i bake bread and my friends just love it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jcohen552003

            There is a cookbook Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein that has the type of recipes you are looking for, Miami Rolls, Pletzel, Corn Rye Bread (no corn, actually except for dusting, etc.
            Im not Jewish but agree that the range of eastern european breads available in NY has radically changed, and not for the better, in the last 30-40 years. I havent baked from this book but the author is very careful about his flours and his methods

            1. re: jen kalb

              If only I ever lifted a fork to help out in the kitchen!

              Jen - I've read about that book before, thanks for reminding me! Found mentions online and was reminded how dense Corn Rye is! Heavy, most and sour!

              I'm running to Teena's asap!

          2. noisejoke
            Sorry re Isaacs i gues that was my rec
            I adore their pastries, havent had their breads
            For corn bread u have to go to Manhattan
            I guess it is called Moshes but it is on second avenue about 6th st on the west side of the street
            their corn bread is top notch

            7 Replies
            1. re: foodismylife

              I assume they are still in business...for reasonable bialies and pletzels, try the store on the east side of Coney Island Avenue, a bit north of Avenue U. I don't know if Bell's on Flatlands by E 80 St still sell retail, but worth a phone call.

              Coney Island Bagels & Bialys
              2359 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11223

              Bagels by Bell
              10013 Foster Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11236

              1. re: MoxieBoy

                Bell's moved from E 80th street a few years ago. I think they relocated to 101 st and foster.

                1. re: MoxieBoy

                  Bell moved to E 80th and Foster and while they now distribute worldwide, they do still sell retail there.

                2. re: foodismylife

                  But when Isaac's was Ratchick's...ah machaiyah! The best rye, eyeglasses, elephant ears, bowties with enough sugar to kill a diabetic, and rugluch almost as good as my grandmothers.

                  The deli diaspora...we Jews left Brooklyn...but never established a new place to fress with gusto. What remains, feh!

                  Show me a good appetizing store already!!! With indian nuts, shoeleather, schmaltz herring, fresh pickled herring...matchez herring...(enough with the herring already!)...joyva gel rings and two kinds of Halvah...

                  Now all you can get in a supermarket is Salsa...not seltzer. Pulkas, not pulkees. Chinese buffets. Indian Buffets. American Buffets...but not one piece of kishke...chulupshkis...kasha varnishkes. Nan, panni, si! A shtickl pumpernickel with gribbinis? Am I asking to much to close my arteries just a little sooner?

                  WE NEED GOOD BAKERIES. With the noisy bread slicers. With the boxes with the red and white string tying machines...with the black and whites. The plain vs seeds. The sugar falling off everything. The machine you push the handle for the paper number that says 39 when they are still up to 17. WE WANT THEM BACK.

                  Have a good day.

                  1. re: MoxieBoy

                    moxie boy you are breaking my heart some of this stuff is still available but just not in one place
                    ah the joyva jells and the chocolate covered halavah
                    gribbines go to sammy's rumanian my son had his bar mitzvah there
                    russ and daughters is still a great treasure
                    in newark hobby's is a wonderful deli
                    they even have a sandwich place in the new prudential center
                    herring go to acme on fridays when they sell retail in greenpoint
                    Flatbush was and is still the world in my memory bank
                    do you remember when a deli wrapped the mustard in wax cones?
                    Forget sushi, that is what a hand roll should be.

                    Acme Smoked Fish
                    30 Gem St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

                    1. re: MoxieBoy

                      MoxieBoy said: "WE NEED GOOD BAKERIES. With the noisy bread slicers. With the boxes with the red and white string tying machines...with the black and whites. The plain vs seeds. The sugar falling off everything. The machine you push the handle for the paper number that says 39 when they are still up to 17. WE WANT THEM BACK."

                      I know this is under "Jewish Bakeries" but just like Levy's Rye Bread used to advertise "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's", maybe you don't have to be German to love Rudy's Konditorei (a/ka Rudy's Pastry Shop) in Ridgewood, Queens, on Seneca Ave. immediately north of Myrtle Ave., reachable by car, M & L subways and a myriad of Brooklyn and Queens buses that terminate in Ridgewood. It's got just about everything MoxieBoy is looking for.
                      I go there instead of Teena's in Canarsie, where I still live; the difference is palpable in atmosphere & taste. Also try their apple strudel, cheesecake or Bienenstich (Don't know what that is; ask there; they're friendly)

                      Teena's Cake Fair
                      1568 Ralph Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11236

                      Rudy's Pastry Shop
                      905 Seneca Ave, Queens, NY 11385

                      1. re: BrooklynBigApple

                        YOU LIVE NEAR TEENA'S? I lived on E 77th by Ralph Ave for 8 years! I didn't know they could still stay in business until now! Is the kosher supermarket there?

                        I remember getting my GI Joe "Action Figure" at the Pancake House on the corner back around 1964. it changed.

                        And the bialies...the one thing my wanted to stay for.

                  2. «I finally got to Isaac's on ave J, having seen recommendations on CH, and found it completely forgettable.» So close, and yet so far. For bread there is no place like Ostrovitsky Heimishe Bakery 1124 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY. Best time to go is early Sunday morning (we got the last 2 lb seeded rye left at 10 AM).

                    Ostrovitsky Bakery
                    1124 Ave J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

                    Isaac's Bake Shop
                    1419 Ave J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bobjbkln

                      it used to be possible to get good breads in the stores on Brighton Beach Ave. Has anyone explored those places recently?

                      1. re: bobjbkln

                        I haven't tried the bread at Ostrovitsky but on a recent visit I was very impressed with the apple strudel.

                        Ostrovitsky Bakery
                        1124 Ave J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

                        1. re: bobjbkln

                          For folks in Park Slope, D'Vine Taste on 7th Avenue carries a large range of baked goods from Ostrovitsky as well as bagels from the Bagel Hole.


                          D'Vine Taste
                          150 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

                          Ostrovitsky Bakery
                          1124 Ave J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

                          Bagel Hole
                          400 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215