Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Bite of Brooklyn

386 Flatbush Avenue Extension
Brooklyn, NY
(also satellite locations at Foxwoods Casino, Times Square and Grand Central Station, but this is the real one)

Food: Black and Jewish food, and cheesecake
Hours: 6:30 AM-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 'til 2 AM Friday and Saturday
Alcohol: Says "Bar" and "Cocktails" outside, but no marketing of booze at tables; a friend says they specialize in "huge old-school cocktails"

When my mom was pregnant with me, my parents went to Italy, and one night in Florence, dad ate and drank too much.

They just kept bringing the food and wine.

The whole way home, my father moaned, "oh, the profits of moderation!"

Dad likes things in limited amounts.

He has a sweet tooth, but he just enjoys a little bite, or a "daddy tax," as he called it when I was a kid and he would take bits of various pies and cakes that my sisters and I would eat.

He didn't want a whole piece, so he would just take a bite out of our dessert.

Dad also never really liked New York Jewish delis -- the sandwiches are enormous and they'd try to charge you extra if you wanted to split your meal with someone.

And dad was never really into touristy stuff when I was growing up in Brooklyn.

So despite living in New York City for 18 years, I never went to the Statue of Liberty or a game at old Yankee Stadium.

Museums, yes, but not the tourist traps.

So needless to say, despite its being "as Brooklyn as it gets," I never went to Junior's for cheesecake as a kid.

Dad went once for breakfast after my mom gave birth to my youngest sister, since it was down the street from the hospital where my sisters and I were born, and he was tired and hungry and it was open.

That sister, being a bit more sentimental and touristy, dragged my more moderate sister to Junior's once "because you have to go" once, but I was out of town, and missed out.

So I was hanging out with friends, and one of them asked if I was going to do anything touristy during my time back in New York for the holidays.

I told him it wasn't likely, since I'd grown up in New York, but then my friend Dan from college called to schedule dinner.

We couldn't decide on a place, but we figured out that Junior's is about halfway between his place and my parents' place, so we decided to do dinner there.

I didn't really know what to expect, since you just see cheesecakes and pies with enormous meringues in the window.

But they've actually got a full restaurant back there with a real menu.

The best way of expressing the cuisine is to talk about the breads they run out: a clearly-Jewish poppyseed roll, and then Southern sweet cornbread.

It's half black Southern food and half New York Jewish food (place isn't kosher, though) with a little Caribbean thrown in.

So you can get catfish with corn and collard greens. . .

. . . or you can get pastrami on rye.

Or you can do Jamaican jerk chicken.

And on the wall, there's a picture of Eddie Murphy right near a picture of Barbra Streisand.

And they've got a whole wall dedicated to Ebbets Field.

The menu's extremely varied, even for a big restaurant, but it's all Brooklyn.

Dan did the matzoh ball soup followed by baked ziti.

I decided to go with that New York classic, pastrami on rye.

We both decided to wash down our meals with egg creams, that classic Brooklyn mixture of chocolate syrup (Fox's U-Bet, of course), milk and seltzer.

Before the main meal was served, our server brought out some pickles, beets, cole slaw and the above-mentioned cornbread and poppyseed rolls.

The pickles were good New York deli pickles, and the bread was great. I didn't try the beets or cole slaw because that's just too much veggie for one meal.

The matzoh balls in the soup were absolutely enormous -- at least an inch across, and they looked pretty tasty.

As for the pastrami on rye, unlike some other places I've been to, there was definitely enough meat -- it was a real Jewish deli serving.

Trying to figure out how you're going to have enough bread for all the meat on the sandwich is a good problem to have.

And they serve it with good brown mustard, though again, with that much meat, it's hard to put enough mustard on to get the proportions right.

The service was a little slow, and it showed with the pastrami not being quite as hot as I like it.

And the pastrami wasn't the most flavorful I've ever had, but it was solid.

In any event, meals aren't why anyone goes to Junior's -- it's the cheesecake.

I'm not really a cheesecake guy, and I was absolutely stuffed from my sandwich (not to mention the previous week's gluttony), so Dan and I decided to split a piece of cheesecake.

Since there's numerous different types, I asked Errol, our server, what he likes, and he said he likes the carrot cake, devil's food and strawberry ones.

Since I was in the mood for a "classic" one, we went with the strawberry one.

Like everything else here, it was huge -- four full strawberries on top of my half piece.

I'm not usually a cheesecake guy, but it was pretty darned good. The crust was tasty, and the filling was much better than what you usually get. It was creamy without tasting like I was eating a block of cream cheese.

I ate a whole three bites instead of the one or two I had room in my stomach for.

I'd definitely go back for another piece, and I'd even try their other cakes, which is saying a lot for someone who doesn't like cheesecake.

It's a little pricey, but you get a ton of food, and what do you expect at a landmark restaurant in New York?

And they didn't charge us for splitting the piece, which is better than a lot of places I know.

Rating: Seriously Considered Buying the Shirt


  1. Maaaaan. I would be in heaven there.

  2. Wow. I've never been to New York before...but if I ever go, I'll be sure to check this place out.

    What a great review!

  3. A classic Brooklyn dining experience. Try the Strawberry Cheesecake... I'm not usually a fan but Junior's makes it right.