Noah's Ark and Bialys, a bit of history still found on the Lower East Side
- jonkyo May 22, 2012 01:09 PM
On my way to visit the Jeremy Willis exhibit Jackie and Judy at the Allegra LaViola Gallery ( Allegra LaViola Gallery 179 East Broadway) on the Lower East Side, I decided to eat my first Bialys ever.
As I have read in Peter Beinart's newest book "Jews rarely eat bialys anymore", I thought I must try one of these unique Jewish breads, I have long known about. Especially having visited the city that the Bialys family came from, in Eastern Poland, Bialystok, it was high time that I enjoy a Byalys.
So I happened into the quaint shop at 367 Grand Street, Kossar's Bialys. definition: "Bialy, a Yiddish word short for bialystoker kuchen, from Białystok, a city in Poland, is a small roll that is a traditional dish in Polish Ashkenazi cuisine."
To my surprise as I headed further down Grand towards Bialystoker Street, just doors down from Kossar's is the best alternative to the pricy 2nd Ave Deli, a place that must have been hiding the times I have been in the area before.
This, new to me, though known for many others, is a very nice Jewish deli and restaurant called Noah's Ark, 399 Grand Street, and serves all the excellent sandwiches and more that one expects to find in a Jewish deli, with selections such as tongue and liver also.
Their excellent Corned Beef sandwich 1/3 pound is only 13.95 and the Hot Pastrami is the same price. That is enough meat for me though they have double deck 1/2 pounds at 17.95.
These two places are a must for any travelers, visitors or history buffs attending the Tenement Museum.
I had one of the most horrifying eating experiences of my life at Noah's Ark. Sadly, I couldn't recommend them to a starving homeless person. I wouldn't even call it a place for history buffs - I mean, a kosher "deli" serving pasta and fajitas? Not terribly old-school.
I wrote a review of it here some time ago, in the "Steer Clear" thread - but I'll copy & paste excerpts:
"It was VILE. And I don't use that word lightly. When we sat down, there were still remnants of other long gone patron's meals on the two tables next to us. A half-drank soda, a few pickles and some cole slaw. When we left an hour later, that stuff was STILL there. No one had cleaned it up."
"I decided to embrace my heritage to the fullest and go for the pastrami / chopped liver sandwich, and it was the worst chopped liver I'd ever had. To the point where I wasn't sure I'd be able to eat any liver ever again, lest it remind me of this experience. For the next week if I'd been offered foie gras I'd have to politely pass. It had the texture of cat food, and there was more liver than pastrami on the sandwich, so much it was oozing out the sides. The pastrami was tender, I'll give it that, but virtually flavorless."
"Worse still was her plate - a "Combo Platter" with stuffed cabbage, kishke, and latkes. Awful, all three. Kishke is usually flavorful, but here it was just a pile of mush, cracker meal soaked in bland chicken stock and formed into a puck. No spices, no seasoning. The stuffed cabbage was more of the the same - meat inside was dry, overcooked, and flavorless, the sauce nothing more than watered-down-ketchup. And the "latkes" - I use that term loosely, as they weren't like any latkes I've ever seen - were basically just deep-fried patties of mashed potato. A McDonald's Hash Brown was closer to a latke than this thing."
etc, etc, etc. Full review was here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7878...
...on the other hand, Kossar's make a solid Bialy, no doubt.
I don't get how Noah's Ark can be considered a cheaper alternative the second avenue deli - the larger or the two sandwiches you cite is 2 bucks more than the basic sandwich at Second Ave (which im sure weighs half a pound). I dont love the second avenue deli frankly (not keeping kosher myself id always prefer a place that makes its food decisions based on taste and not 6000 year old arbitrary preferences) but i think its a little unfair to say that an 18 dollar sandwich is a great alternative to the pricy 16 dollar ones at second ave.
Well, I have found that some Halah butchers actually offer meats that are far superior to regular supermarket meats. Halah is perhaps similar to what you describe as "6000 year old arbitrary preferences".
As for Kosher foods and meats, it is quite a non-issue for me, as I am not Jewish. Of course, I have never found that the kosher aspect of any kosher foods or meats is a deciding factor in its taste. It is, all determined by the preparations of the butchers and cooks, the taste that is.
I do not think that Jewish dietary rules or laws have anything to do with altering the taste of foods and meats. I typically like the selections of foods found in Jewish delis. Just as Greek diners can offer some nice ethnic specific dishes too.
Your posts are unique, honest accounts of your culinary adventures, and are to be cherished as such.
Noahs Ark is a pretty crummy restaurant, but the truth is delis like Katz's and 2nd Ave. are vociferously overrated.Don't be misled; Ashkenazi food is just German and Polish food without pork. Think that over.
And you didn't have to go out of your way to enjoy your first bialy . They are split, toasted, and sold wherever bacon and egg sandwiches are to be found.
I agree that Noah's Ark is crummy. It happens to be one of the worst deli's i've been to. As far as Bialy's go, Kossar's supplies many restaurants with bialy's, so it is true that you can get bialy's elsewhere. However when they come out of the oven hot is when you want to eat them. As far as Katz's vs. 2nd Ave Deli and Noah's Ark etc,,, katz's is kosher style not kosher. Katz's I do not feel is overrated. I think they have the best corned beef and pastrami in the city. 2nd Ave Deli back in the 80's i liked better than Katz's, but presently Katz's is way better. Interesting comment on Ashkenazi being Polish and German without the pork, I don't disagree with that, except I don't think Russian ( including Ukraine) should be left out.
When you order tongue at katz's , they ask if you want the tip or the less lean fattier part. I like to get both. The corned beef and pastrami , juicy is the only way to go. Their Philly Cheese steak is actually good too. The garlic wurst is something i always get there, i have them slice it , no sandwich. Also the round knish is much better than the square, But they try to talk to you out of it, because the cook is too lazy to heat it up. The french fries are terrible at Katz's, unless you get them immediately after cooking, not under the heat lights. nathan's french fries are my favorite.
As far as egg mc muffin goes, i get nauseous thinking about that. Bacon, cheese and egg is a popular sandwich, especially on a toasted roll. Ive never seen it on a bialy ,, in any case , I haven't had that sandwich in a decade.
Best breakfast sandwiches I've come across in town - often involving bacon (or some pork product) egg and cheese are at Made Fresh Daily, on Front Street down by the Seaport. A cute little hidden out-of-the-way gem, great for weekend brunch. Grab a sandwich and then go wander the New Amsterdam market on the weekend...