A Forest Hills institution since 1952 and located at 98-104 Queens Boulevard since 2015, Schneiderman recently announced an expansion of Knish Nosh, with a first Manhattan store set to open in the next six to twelve months.
“We plan to open, preferably, in the four corners of the city and we’re also entertaining bids for Central Park,” he said, adding that locations in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights are also under consideration
Schneiderman compared the new concept to Chipotle, but the taco would be replaced with a knish.
“You’ll pick a knish and select meat toppings such as pastrami, corned beef, brisket, turkey, chicken, or you’ll select cheeses or grilled vegetables from our vegan bar,” he said. “We’ll have our soups, and in the summer, a salad bar.
“Instead of getting guacamole in the end, you’ll get a bit of chopped liver with a bagel chip,” he added.
According to Schneiderman, the original owner, Sam Heller or the “Godfather of Queens Boulevard,” always wanted to introduce toppings.
“We have always been the Rolls-Royce of knishes, an all-natural and fresh-baked product, and now we’re going to serve it a bit different,” he said. “I think it will revolutionize the deli business, since we’ll introduce fast casual dining as opposed to the sit-down style deli. You see it, grab it and go, and we can serve more people at a better price point.”
Since dairy will be offered, the new locations will be “kosher style.”
“We want everyone to enjoy the knish, as we envision expanding into airports and Yankee Stadium, but the Forest Hills branch will remain kosher,” Schneiderman said.
Knish Nosh began in a small shop at 101-02 Queens Boulevard in 1952, followed by a larger space at 100-30 Queens Boulevard in 2001. Despite the moves, what remains familiar in Forest Hills is the aroma of knishes among a full lineup of kosher favorites such as matzah ball and mushroom barley soup, kugel, kreplach, perogies, and Chef Ana’s garlic chicken and stuffed cabbage.
Back in 1952, a knish was 20 cents, and the first varieties were potato, kasha, and liver. While liver knishes are a distant memory, today’s favorites include the classics and pastrami, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and carrot mushroom.
“We sell around 7,000 to 10,000 knishes a week between wholesale and retail,” said Schneiderman, whose personal favorite is the meat knish. “It’s like a shepherd’s pie. It has chopped sirloin mixed with potato, and it’s fantastic.
“Everything we make is from scratch,” added. “With the exception of meat knishes, knishes are vegan, have just over 200 calories, and they’re loaded with vitamin B6, B12, and iron. They’re a healthy snack or meal and very filling.”
Schneiderman feels like he is living a dream he's had since the age of 15 after purchasing the business and recipes in 2003.
“A family tradition was to travel from Riverdale to Knish Nosh for a knish, a frank, and a Dr. Brown’s, but my best memory is taking my son here as a little boy before and after we played at the West Side Tennis Club,” he said.
Shortly after he bought the restaurant, he befriended Chef Ana Vasilescu, a native of Romania who worked next door at Lazar’s Butcher Shop, mostly behind the scenes. Today, she works long hours and greets her clientele with a warm smile, while applying her cultural influences to her cooking.
“My grandma encouraged me to cook when I was very young, and I admired Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, my greatest influences,” she said. “Today the community is my inspiration.”
According to Al Heller, son of the late owner Sam Heller, Hy and Stanley Tabb were the original owners of an on-site knishery beginning in 1945. In 1951, Sam Heller and his childhood friend Harvey Wallis would rename it Knish Nosh after Sam’s wife, the late Nettie Heller, agreed that the product was good. By 1990, Sam became the sole owner.
“Through dad's approximate half-century of preparing knishes, he was loyal to his customers and workers,” said the younger Heller.
The trademark has become nationally recognized by diehards who consider the shop a must-stop during any New York visit. Knish Nosh t-shirts, hats, and cooler bags will be available at all the shops. “I’ll pull out all the vintage stuff,” Schneiderman said.
Knish Nosh will be expanding their delivery business, and Schneiderman hinted that an app may even be in store down the road. “If anyone is interested in investing in Knish Nosh, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” he said.