Dante Takes on the Lower East Side

You all know my friend Dante, AKA  Dante The Actor, Dante from Yonkers, or Dante the awesome food tour guy.

Dante is officially the only person I know from New York and I actually think I’m a tiny bit cooler because someone there actually knows I exist, so thanks for that buddy!

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In all seriousness, Dante really is an awesome food tour guide.  He works for Sidewalks of NY.  They are a tour company that offers a variety of food adventures, mad men cocktail tours, and historical tours all at a very affordable price.  In fact, I consider their tours a must do for at least one lunch while you are in the City because they let you experience much more for your buck than had you just simply sat down in one restaurant.

I had taken the Downtown Food Truck Tour in September when I was in NYC for the cooking contest and I was incredibly impressed.  Impressed because I love food, I love allotta food, and I love the big city even more so I want a tour guide that can really give me the lowdown on stuff.  I had to roll away from that tour at the end because I was so full of fabulous food and I felt like I had a piece of the city to take back with me in the way of all the fun history Dante gave us about the areas we were in and the way food truck operations work.  It was a foodies dream.  You can read about that tour in my post called Sunny, Sidewalks, and The Big Apple.

This time I decided to take the Lower East Side Eats Tour because I was very interested in the historical Jewish bakeries, delis, and the mom and pop shops of Old New York.  I wanted to try some of the foods and places you always hear about but can never fathom actually visiting.   The tour did not disappoint and I can say that the entire group, about ten of us, I think, had a really great time.

I’m gonna give you the low down now about our adventure and I hope to inspire you to meet up with Dante and his company on your next visit!

The candy store Dante is standing in, in the above photo is the Economy Candy Company They are filled to the brim with pretty much any candy you could ever crave.  Still can’t get over the fact that the candy I ate in childhood is now referred to as “retro”, but it is what it is.  This is a great place to pick up some NY souvenirs for the kids and Dante will hook you up with a sample while you’re shopping.

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Our actual first stop on the tour was Yonah Shimmel Knishery.  It does definitely appear that it’s been here since 1910 as the sign says, but please do not be fooled by the humble surroundings.  This guy cooks up a potato knish that will keep you warm and full inside for hours, if you can finish a whole one.  They are dense, flavorful, and a really great representation of comfort food at it’s best.  Plus, isn’t it just fun to say “Knish”?   They actually have a working dumbwaiter (not a dumb waiter), in this building that they still use.  Dante says they aren’t allowed any longer due to fire code, but the old places get to keep their existing ones.  See all the fascinating tid bits of history you get on these tours?  It’s really fun.

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We then stopped at Russ and Daughter’s Bakery.  Back in NY of old, there were mostly family businesses and Russ didn’t have any sons, so he did the only thing he could and boldly names his shop Russ and Daughters.  I’d say he was an early feminist, but I’d just be making that up.  We had the traditional raspberry rugelach.  They are bite sized little crescent shaped sweets that really pack a punch of flavor.  Our group didn’t leave until we’d snarfed down the entire box.

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We paid a visit to The Pickle Guys.  They really capture for me some of what New York is all about.  They literally have a store that resembles a driveway and at the bottom of that nondescript piece of concrete is an oasis of the most crunchable, flavorful pickles you will ever taste.  Not to mention the array of other veggies they pickle and sell.  You can order your pickles in three different intensities, depending on how long they sat in the juice.  I advise you try the olds-they have soaked up some serious briny goodness while sitting in those barrels.

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We also visited Kossar’s Bialys.  Their Bialys are kind of a cross between a bagel and and English muffin.  Instead of perforating a hole in the bagel, they leave a thin layer of dough and fill it with sweet, dried onions.  These have a texture that is unique only to them and they are tasty.

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Do you see that little yellow sign in the picture below that is partially obstructed by a tiny traffic sign and also partially obscured by a Volvo?  Well that is Prosperity Dumpling.  Let me tell you that fifty square feet that restaurant takes up is put to perfectly great use because you can get four of the most delectable, juicy, flavorful dumplings there for a buck.  It is a buck well spent-move over Taco Bell.  This is the magic of a food tour, guys.  You are brought to these little gems that you’d probably not otherwise even see, let alone walk into.  Yet, it is places just like this that have you craving their food all the way back on your boring flight home.  I just kept repeating in my head, “man if I only had some of those dumplings right now”!

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We visited the Doughnut Plant to try the Tres Letches Doughnut that beat the one and only Bobby Flay.  The donut was really great.  It had a crackly glaze and a cakey interior that enveloped a ribbon of creamy tres letches.  Can one say any more about that?  Nah, we’ll just let you sit with that while you book your ticket to NYC.

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This was the cute group of people we went on the tour with.  They were all so friendly and nice.  That’s another reason to pick Sidewalks of NY over other tour groups, they keep the groups very small.

I had to save the best and craziest place for last:  Katz Deli.

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You’ve seen it on TV.  You’ve heard about their pastrami.  Well, I can simply tell you that I have never enjoyed a plate of meat as much in my entire life.  I told Chad that I just wanted to order a literal pile of that pastrami, grab two forks, and just go to town.  I would do it right there without shame.  It is that good.  I am sorry I didn’t get a picture of it, but I had snarfed down my share before I could remember, so you’ll just have to go try it yourself.

Now the thing about Katz is that it’s a historical icon and it is the busiest craziest place I’ve ever seen.  They pack people in there more like they do in a nightclub than in a deli.

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They give you a pink raffle ticket when you walk in.  Your order goes on that and if you think you’re gettin’ out the door without it, you are mistaken, so for all that is Holy, please don’t lose your ticket.  This deli’s got bouncers people and they aren’t about to let you out the door without paying.  If you are anything like me and you lose things in your purse, the bathroom, or just on the way to your table, I suggest you pay very close attention to it’s location at all times!

No one seems to mind the true madhouse that Katz is because it’s all part of the fun.  Besides, they are all in meat comas from eating too much of that pastrami!

Well peeps, it is 1:oo AM this Thursday night and I’ve got to work in the morning so our tour ends here.  I am STARVING now, so I really hope I can find a good bedtime snack before I turn in.

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Thanks again Sidewalks of NY and Dante especially for another great tour.  I’ll be back in exchange for one thing, please follow me on Twitter!  I have been waiting patiently for a follow back @haveyrselfatime!

 

Shauna

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  4. I am so behind in my blog reading since my husband’s been in the hospital the last two weeks – love the Dante recap! If I ever go back, I’d definitely do that tour – next time get a pic of the pastrami! 😀

    • I’m so sorry to hear that your hubby has been in the hospital, Biz. I hope he’s ok! I don’t think my picture would have done that pastrami justice, but I promise when I go back I will snap a pic for sure :)

  5. I am really looking forward to trying the Greenwich Village tour.

  6. What a great way to see NY.

  7. I loved reading about your adventures! I’m so glad you got to go.

  8. Rosann Havey says:

    Now I really want to go do this–after it warms up though.

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