When we visited New York City this past August, every day was a busy day. Wendi, the founder of this blog, and I made the journey with Randi and Shaun Vahl (Randi is Wendi’s sister). We averaged 10 miles a day walking, and it was always grueling. On Aug. 22, we began the day walking forever to pick up a ferry ride to Brooklyn. Part of the walk included a trip on the High Line, elevated train tracks converted into a walking trail. The day would take us to Ground Zero (you can read about an earlier visit here), Brooklyn, Grimaldi’s Pizza, Urbanspace-Vanderbilt, Gulliver’s Gate (a wonderful world of miniature models) and, ultimately, Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery in Times Square.
Junior’s was a place I eagerly wanted to visit because of how people rave about its cheesecake. I really love cheesecake … plain, with nothing on it. Incidentally, among the best cheesecakes I have ever eaten are ones baked by my co-worker Jeanine. Needless to say, I was not surprised when she said she used a recipe to make Junior’s cheesecake at home. Enough about cheesecake for now; let’s talk about the entrees and soup.
I decided I would begin with a bowl of matzo ball soup. I am not much of a soup eater, and especially not in the summer, but I figured why not. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I never had matzo ball soup before. The dish featured a gigantic matzo ball in a chicken-based soup. Matzo balls are made from matzo meal, and matzo meal is made from ground up matzo crackers, which are unleavened. In researching this soup, I came across an article from the Los Angeles Times in 1997. Someone wrote in to ask why Junior’s matzo balls were so big, yet still light and fluffy. You can read the answer here. I enjoyed it, and I shared it with the table so they could experience it, too.
As I was exploring the menu for what to eat, I kept eyeing the pastrami. I had wanted to make it to Katz’s Deli to try its pastrami sandwich, but we never made it there. I was thinking, do I really want to order pastrami at Junior’s. Turns out, I did. I talked with one of the servers there, and he said he would put Junior’s pastrami right up there with Katz’s. In fact, he liked it a little better. I had a pastrami sandwich the last time I was in New York at the famed, but now defunct, Carnegie Deli. And, just like the Carnegie Deli, Junior’s served up some pickles for us to enjoy while we waited for our food.
As for my meal, I did end up getting the pastrami. Instead of serving one, gigantic sandwich that is literally too big to eat (as Carnegie Deli did), Junior’s serves up two “smaller” pastrami sandwiches. I ordered them on onion rolls. It was a good choice. I really liked the pastrami. I still wish I had made it to Katz’s, but I am glad to get real pastrami. Where I live in Wooster, Ohio, the best you can hope for is to make an hour trip to Brecksville to buy some from Simon’s.
Shaun went with a Reuben sandwich, which he enjoyed; Randi ordered a cheeseburger; Wendi got a bacon cheeseburger.
The burgers at Junior’s are 10 ounces, think 2.5 quarter pounders. The burgers also come with steak fries and large onion rings. Everyone enjoyed their meals.
And, after dinner, dessert. Randi and Shaun split a red velvet cake cheesecake (and, of course, Shaun had to have his coffee) …
and, Wendi ordered the chocolate fudge layer cake. Her favorite cake is yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and this is basically what her dessert was: Golden cake layered with chocolate fudge frosting. She was excited to be able to order this cake, because she has rarely seen yellow cake with chocolate frosting in a restaurant.
But, for me, it was the plain cheesecake, the glorious, plain cheesecake. When I eat cheesecake, I really do not want anything else spoiling the taste of the dessert. Anytime someone tries to alter it, whether it is a pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake or whatever, the move takes the dessert into a different realm, usually making it more like a cake than what it actually is, a cheese pie. Junior’s was simply the best cheesecake I ever had. The Cheesecake Factory makes an excellent one, but it doesn’t compare. It was sweet, creamy and moist. Jeanine’s cheesecakes are very close, but Junior’s is just a tad better. If there is a better one, then please let me know.
Oh, as an aside, we also met Shaun’s doppleganger there. Here is the original Shaun (with his lovely wife, Randi) …
and, here is the fake Shaun.
Have you ever been to Junior’s? I think the original is in Brooklyn. If you tried it, then let us know what you think.