Monday, April 4, 2016

Kossar's Scoops

Kossar's Bialys, under new ownership, got a makeover a couple months ago. So I went by to check it out.

Founded in 1936, it's still on Grand Street and it's still called Kossar's. So there's that. The interior used to be unfussy, haphazard, almost industrial. I liked it that way.

Here's what it used to look like:

(Note the lack of cute sandwich names on the menu board.)

Now the place is shiny and new. With cute sandwich names. Which is the way everything seems to go.

Here's what it looks like now:

The new place is basically inoffensive. Nothing to be excited about and nothing, really, to complain about either.


The menu offers two special services: "YES," it reads, "WE TOAST AND SCOOP!"

This is not a message to New Yorkers.

This is a message to tourists and to the extended-stay tourists known as recent transplants who don't ever intend to become New Yorkers. Because while some New Yorkers might toast their fresh bagels when putting butter on them, scooping is a definite no-no. A shonda, you might say.

Here's Gothamist's take on scooping: "Did you ask for the dough to be scooped out from your bagel? Really? You demanded that the soul of your bagel be removed? Well, neither toasting nor untoasted freshness can save you. Please leave bagels alone forever. We have nothing more to say to you."

And the Post agrees, saying "Bagel scoopers are ruining NYC." In addition, it's wasteful.

Also, that exclamation point? Totally for the tourists.


Barbara L. Hanson said...

People go to Kossar's for bagels? That's like going to L&B for Texas toast.

James said...

I saw this coming.
Kossar's was on my short list of amazing recollections when describing my first extended stay in Manhattan in late 1981. I stayed at "the Seward Houses" at a kindly NYU professor's apartment, only steps from Kossar's. Besides bialy's, which I hadn't known in the Midwest, there were great big onion wheels, which had real texture. The shop itself was fascinating because ground flower carpetted the entrance and sidewalk out front. You stepped on cardboard upon entering - the bakery equivalent of sawdust on a saloon floor. Like so many Manhattan must-sees, it was a sea of humanity well into the evening.
In '81, it seemed such businesses were brave for sticking it out - even Ratner's on nearby Delancey. It was a tough place. One of my hosts informed me that he always checked on his car with a fiver in his pocket, as it was better to have cash in case you were mugged. And so Kossar's was kind of a beacon of light and warmth in the dark winter of that year and place. I was so happy it was still here when I moved to the city in '85. I kept checking on it ever since and was relieved that it merely re-modeled, rather than moved to Westchester, or worse. Pretending that the Lower East Side is still the Old Jewish Quarter is kind of pointless. [For the real thing, visit the Tenament Museum or the Eldridge Street Synagogue.] Still, so long as you can get real Bialy's, is it completely tragic that the store now looks au courant? I personally don't scoop, like Mr. Lipman's Top of the Muffin to Ya. That's merely a reflection of the foolish society we have built upon having everything your own way. But I'm glad there is still a Kossar's.

Brian said...

Reminds me of Top Of The Muffin To You episode of Seinfeld.

Unknown said...

The scooping, non-scooping complaint is hack. My grandfather, who was born in a tenement at the corner of Hester and Eldridge Streets in 1918 and was as Jewish as the day is long and my father, another Jew, born and raised in the Bronx after my Grandfather moved the family up north, are both scoopers, as am I (I was born in Westchester, so say what you want about that). So using that as a benchmark of authenticity is BS. We all enjoy our bagels with herring in cream. That should be the real benchmark. Maybe they have a cute name for that kind of sandwich?

Unknown said...

Nor would I particularly trust Gothamist or the Post on what constitutes authentic New York, because they are probably all staffed by transplants now anyway.

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Never heard of scooping until this kerfuffle.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Bialys or everything bagels. No scoops. Toast bialys at home sometimes, or bagels if they've been sitting around for a bit. Otherwise not necessary. Cream cheese. Lox. Whitefish. I am blessed with a fabulous bagel & bialy store nearby, & every time I go there I'm grateful for the experience. Smallish, dense perfection!

Natasha Finkel said...

Native New Yorker here and Jew! I don't need the carbs so I scoop! Never scoop a bialy. Kossars didn't even slice bialys before let alone make sandwiches. A needed improvement. Cutesy names? Whatever! As long as the quality remains and the store remains! Been going there since I was a kid. My great aunts lived at 457 FDR Drive!

Trixie said...

Does anyone remember the Kossar's on 14th Street between A and B? It was there when I moved here in 1978 and I still miss it. I wonder if it was a satellite of the Grand Street location, or what?

Unknown said...

My friend, an authentic Yiddisher from Brooklyn, scoops because he's diabetic and needs to limit his carbs. Otherwise, no bialy with lox spread.

TPB said...

Trixie I remember the one on 14th street. My family would go in all the time.