Manhattan’s lower east side beams with culture, confidence and charisma. The neighborhood is inspired, with a presence of a tenacious young generation that makes the area split at the seams with innovation and creativity. However, the areas’ deep seeded historical roots provide an unexpected sense of character. Today our focus will center on taste. Yes, that’s right…we are talking about food.
We will tour three historically rooted food establishments in the lower east side over the course of this article. I have found three locations that share one common ground: a family ownership. The tastes, the smells, the process, and the traditions have not changed one bit and the patrons are, to this day, ever loyal.
Our first stop is Streit’s Matzo Factory (Aaron Streit, Inc), located on 148 Rivington Street and owned and operated by Aaron Striet. This matzo factory has been in the same location since 1925. Not only that, the machines and tools used within the factory to produce some of the countries best-selling matzo has not been altered in the slightest way since its first opening. The factory is warm and carries of the distinct toasted smell of freshly baked matzo. There is a Rabbi on the premises to make sure the matzo is always baked to the standards of being Kosher for Passover (I,e; the matzo is not allowed to be cooked beyond 18 min if it is to be produced in accordance with Kosher standards, amongst other strict requirements). Everything works like clockwork, and the tiny factory produces an impressive amount of matzo, especially around the time of demanding Passover orders. Even through all of this, Aaron Adler claims, “our market research is second to none.”
Next we head to one of the city’s most prized possessions, Katz’s Delicatessen, located on 205 E Houston Street. The establishment originally opened on Ludlow Street in 1888 and moved to its current location in 1910, and its current storefront façade was officially erected in 1946. The location still buzzes with eager crowds and the smell of the food is (believe it or not) only secondary to its incredible taste that has lasted generations and remained completely unchanged. From it’s famous “send a salami to your boy in the army” World War II slogan to it’s nostalgic interior, Katz’s is an incredible lower east side location that brims with historical relevance and family style tradition. Oh yeah, and the cured meats are brilliant as well.
Finally we make our way a small restaurant called Bombay Duck located at 190 Bleeker Street. The interior is small, to say the least, with just about four small tables. The restaurant delivers a very specific style of food known as Bombay (more properly known as Mumbai) street food; some of India’s most tasty snacks. Bombay Duck is owned by Rujuta Vaidya and her husband Ravi Pillai. The family has been working together on several projects over the last several years but they pride themselves on maintaining absolute authenticity in the ‘Bombay Duck’ venture. Most of the food on the menu consists of recipes that have been passed down for generations amongst women of traditional Marathi homes, and the food has not changed one bit. From fresh toasties (sandwiches) to masala fries and prawn curry, this place has some of the most unique spicy flavors the lower east side has to offer. Owner Rujuta Vaidya stated that she works hard to maintain the authentic tastes and flavors of home cooked Indian food, not the generic taste of Indian restaurant food that has become so prevalent in the United States.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about these three very special locations in the lower east side. So, now I encourage you to walk the streets to visit the establishments mentioned in this article and maybe discover new “finds” on your way! May you take several bites out of the big apple, I wish you all the best!