Haig Schneiderman, the silver-haired, Willy-Wonka-esque owner of Knish Nosh, has not been working here his entire life. He bought the store in 2003, as a lifelong fan who would do whatever was needed to keep the place running.
The pressure of preserving Knish Nosh’s reputation, which reaches as far as Queens expats have been willing to relocate over the past sixty-five years, was intense from Schneiderman’s first day on the job. While he understood that this little knishery was a local favorite, he hadn’t fully grasped how strongly its fans felt that it was a piece of their livelihood as much as his. In response, he took a steady series steps to ensure the survival of its legacy: keeping longtime knish roller Solomon Flores, hiring seasoned Kosher chef Ana Vasilescu, expanding the menu under Chef Ana’s watch, and moving the business to a more affordable location in Rego Park. Through it all, he’s played to Knish Nosh’s biggest strength: the feeling of eating a meal where every dish is a comfort food.
Today, Knish Nosh’s namesake remains a knish to make all other noshes bow their heads in shame. The tender, flaky crust is just sturdy enough to be eaten by hand, the flavorful potato-based fillings never overstay their welcome, and the variety of filling flavors make it possible to eat an entire meal of knishes without pausing once for a break. Chef Ana’s smörgåsbord of Eastern European and Jewish American dishes, from a classic matzoh ball soup to handmade liver pierogi to a savory strudel that can feed a family of four, backs up the knish menu with just about anything one would want to stress-eat.
As Schneiderman imagines ways to grow the business, he keeps the stories of longtime customers close to his heart. While he believes the knish could be a breakthrough hit outside of New York, it’s the boxes he’s sent to people living out their final days on Earth that stick with him the most.
© Photographs by Donnelly Marks.
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