Mrs. Stahl’s delicious Brighton Beach knishes

Yonah Schimmel gets credit for inventing the humble knish in 1910 at his still-thriving knishery on East Houston Street.

But knish fiends all over New York still lament the loss of Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes, a dingy place tucked under the elevated train at Brighton Beach Avenue.

The shop served up hand-made cushions of potato, kasha, and cabbage inside flaky baked dough. They were truly legendary.

Photo at right from Jack Szwergold’s flickr page.

The real Mrs. Stahl was a local lady who sold her home-baked knishes up and down the beach in the 1930s.

In 1935 she was persuaded to open a store, which thrived through the 1980s; there was even a short-lived Upper West Side branch. But Brighton Beach changed, and cravings for cheap Jewish soul food plummeted. By 2005, it was gone.

“The first thing that hits you as you walk in—besides the crisp sea breeze coming from the ocean a block away—is the warm, oniony smell of potato filling….” stated Brooklyn Bridge magazine in a 1997 article (photo: Brooklyn Bridge)

“In small back rooms, huge bowls of thick, just-boiled potato filling cool down and trays of perfectly shaped, doughy knishes wait to be put in giant ovens. Their destinations are varied. Thousands are sold from the store each week, and thousands more are shipped to gourmet delicatessens across the country.”

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60 Responses to “Mrs. Stahl’s delicious Brighton Beach knishes”

  1. Julian Says:

    This makes me cry. The former Stahl’s is now a God-damned Subway!!! The west side one a Dominoes. This is the kind of change America doesn’t need. At this rate we won’t have a history to talk about. The word ‘local’ will become meaningless.

    • Susan Says:

      Right on nothing is left from the old neighborhoods we used to go to Mrs Stahls once a week. My grandfather would bring home a large assortment of Knishes and we would eat our favorites on the ride back to Manhattan Beach.

    • Glen Russell Slater Says:

      Of course, you mean a Subway sandwich shop. In NYC, that has to be clarified!

      Yeah, it’s sad.

      Glen Russell Slater

  2. Jack Says:

    Saw your site linked via Vanishing New York today. I think your heart is in the right place by documenting these things. But your lack of credits or linking on photos is a tad disconcerting.

    Case in point: The top photo of Mrs. Stahl’s is my photo and was was taken from my Flickr stream.

    Please credit anyone who you take photos or information from. Otherwise, don’t take their work and misrepresent it.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    I just fixed the text to credit you and link to your Flikr page. My apologies; I did not know it came from Flikr. The photos on this site are either taken by me, sent to me by readers, in the public domain, or are otherwise credited.

  4. martin acker Says:

    but did you ever try the borscht shake?? uniqu to Mrs Stahls–
    I did not know that it was gone- a eal caamity

  5. barbara hewitt Says:

    My grandparents Anchel and Lily Greenberg opened the first Kosher Caffeteria in New York City and Fanny Stahl worked for them in the kitchen. My grandmother taught Fanny to make kinshes. She was Austrian and a fantastic cook and baker. She was legendery for her kinsh dough – she used strudel dough – and to this day I yearn for the taste and smells of her kitchen as she pulled potato, kasha and cabbage knishes out of the oven.

  6. barbara hewitt Says:

    P.S. and I can remember, as a child, watching Fanny sell knishes on the beach. They were divine.

    I now live in Los Angeles and knishes are just a memory to me – I haven’t found any to compare to those I had as a child in Brooklyn.

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Thank you so much for writing. I too remember as a kid the wonderful tastes and smells of those fantastic kasha and potato knishes. I accept that nothing in New York can last forever, but I wish the one exception was Mrs. Stahl’s knishes. Heavenly.

      My father too remembers Mrs. Stahl’s out on Brighton Beach, selling her knishes.

  7. Justin Weingast Says:

    My grandparents, the Weingasts owned the shop in Brighton Beach…i can remember as a kid playing with the “old fashioned” cash register while my grandfather made knishes. They were the best… My grandfather is celebrating his 90th birthday tomorrow!!!

    • wildnewyork Says:

      They were the best. Congrats to your grandfather too!

    • Michelle Rusch Says:

      Some of my fondest memories are going to Mrs. Stahl’s in Brighton Beach… I wish my children could have had the opportunity to share this with me!

    • Simon Silverstein Says:

      I am a former Brighton Beach resident who once enjoyed the Stahl’s knishes, but I am left wandering around in the wilderness. I’ve been trying to reproduce them at home. Mainly, I’m trying to get the detailed recipe for the dough, and also the method of enclosing the filling before baking. Any ideas? Any help you might offer would really make an old knish-aholic very happy. Thanks.

    • Glenn flugman Says:

      Are your grandparents still alive? Do you think they would send me the recipe? I used to buy them all the time when we went to Brighton Beach Baths when I was a kid. Glenn Flugman, flugman1@att.net

    • Barry Persky Says:

      I was both a long-tine customer at the store and also worked with
      Eleanor Weingast.

      She still refused to grant me a discount at her brother’s store.

      Dr. Barry Persky

  8. CR Says:

    I loved Mrs. Stahl’s…BUT I loved Shatzkins Knishes even better. Especialy when my dad came out of the subway tunnel on Eastern Pkwy and bought us a shatzkin knish from the street vendor or from the store on St. John’s Place or Coney Island

  9. Marilyn Says:

    How can I get knishes mailed to me

  10. A Taste of Canarsie Says:

    There were so many great knishes in NYC back in the day! Less we not forget the amazing fried knsihes of Ruby the Knishman or the incredible big fat round baked knishes of Grabstein’s Delicatessen in Canarsie. We all had our favorites but they were all simply amazing!

  11. wildnewyork Says:

    I wish I could go back in time and try one of those. They sound absolutely wonderful.

  12. Elliot Rubin Says:

    In 1961 when my grandmother died my grandfather came to live with us. He told my mother, his daughter, to buy an upright freezer and he would pay for it. Then he had us drive him to Brighton and he bought dozens of boxes of knishes of all varieties, so that my mother would have something to serve when relatives visited him on Sundays. We must have had hundreds of knishes frozen ready to heat. And they were all delicious!

  13. wildnewyork Says:

    I like his thinking.

  14. max sorokin Says:

    I remember Ruby’s, Mrs. Stahls, Grabsteins, Knish Nosh…….Top Spot in Canarsie……all gone? sigh.

  15. Pat Furman Says:

    I grew up in Brighton Beach, and not only was there Mrs.Stahl’s,but also Irving’s Deli under the subway on Br.7th St. and ZeiMar’s Deli next to the Oceana Movie Theater. On the way home from school (Abraham Lincoln) you could treat yourself to a charlotte russe from the SeaLane bakery or have a slice of pizza from the only Italian restaurant in Brighton, on the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Br.Beach Ave. next to the “40 thieves” candy and cigar store.

    • Evelyn Says:

      als knishes, Zei Mar,The Forty Theives , the Oceana movie theater, Brighton Beach Bathes and all the Brighton Beach had to offer.

      I am still in the neighborhood and I have been trying to figure out how to make those knishes that I used to eat on the way home from the beach.

      They were wonderful!!!

      Thank you for the memories.

    • Roy Says:

      I lived in the 50′ ‘s down the street at 3145 Coney Island Ave and Brighton 10 th street. What a great time! I have a great picture of Mrs. Stahls before they closed it down. Living in Santa Monica now
      near the beach…. No knishes here.

  16. morgenstern,charlene Says:

    -char chat- as a baby to-mid 1980,s ,, even ,when it was russian resturant, but still madel the kinishs, my family, went to bbb from 1955-80, I am in my 50,s now- kasha and cheery cheese were my favorite, I am now in my 50,s- left b;klyn around 20- yrs ag- we were from bayrdige, only when we were at bbb that it was convient- I – also livedi in mahatten beach for 3 yrs in mid 1980,s, mrs stahls, kinish,s was a frequent ,stop off the train .if, it was sitll open- ( I also went to John Dewey HS with 1 of grandson,s now around age 52 )- good memories for millions, thanks to Stahl,s family– C. Morgenstern

  17. Simon Silverstein Says:

    I am trying to make at home a potato knish similar to Mrs Stahl’s. The filling is no problem. The outer skin is the problem. Anybody have a recipe for the dough and also for the way the filling was enclosed?.

    • charlene morgenstern Says:

      Gabrilia,s Knishes, ,another knish company is not what you wanted, , they, do make rd knishes too, so u can order from them on line already made,
      – ( coney islands is where they started the business- square hard crsuh knishes is, what they are know for square hard crsu knish—- I ordered from them recenlty rd knish, other jewish style stuff on line 2 weeks ago-, come close to Mrs Stahl,s still in business– You, can, also ,order already made jewish style foods too-

  18. wildnewyork Says:

    I would love to know this too. If anyone wants to take a stab at it….

  19. hey now Says:

    What a great story, and very well-written I might add (“hand-made cushions,” “Jewish soul food” – love it!) Did you know that they actually opened up a branch on the West Coast?? Must have been the early 90s in West L.A. But it was VERY short-lived. What a mean trick!

  20. Mo Says:

    I worked at this knish shop for a short time as a young lad. It was kind of a sweat shop and I was eventually fired for dropping a tray of knishes whilst bringing them up from the basement, where the clearance going up was so minimal you had to arch your back backwards in an ungodly angle. However, I always loved the knishes there and am sad that it is gone. I have fond memories of the shop along with the Oriental Movie Theater. But, then again, I haven’t lived in Brooklyn for some 14 years — and all things Brooklyn make me wretch with nausea. It is a borough more aptly thought of as a slum in my mind. No offense to anyone living there now or who has fond memories of the place.

    • Simon Says:

      Mo, your story about having to contort your body coming up the stairs from the basement brought a chuckle and reinforced a theory I have about the evolution of Mrs. Stahl’s. For many years, they had a little person working there. He was quite amazing. I think he must have worked in a circus before settling in at this job, because he would effortlessly scamper about at all levels of the place. I am sure he had no problem with the basement stairs. Then, after many years in attendance, he died (or quit). From that time on, the knishes and the ambiance were never the same…Your other comments about Brooklyn being a slum are ridiculous. Just because you were abused, doesn’t make the place a slum. The slum surrounded you, not the borough. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a real slum.

    • Dorothy Berman Says:

      I live in Brooklyn and it is probably one of the most decent places to live in this country. The people ( the diversity of people is amazing) are good. You can get around by public transportation 24 hours a day and never need a car. The schools are still good and the food is terrific. Your neighbors in Brooklyn will come running if you need help.
      Dorothy Bermna

    • Josh Says:

      I used to have your job in the late 60′s, I know what it was like carrying those knish trays up the stairs and I remember the low ceiling over the staircase quite well! I share your thoughts about Brooklyn, I moved away about 40 years ago.
      Josh

  21. Iris Says:

    I grew up in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn with the Weingast family. I was great friends with their daughter Anita. Our entire childhood was feasting on Mrs. Stahl’s knishes. Her dad used to bring boxes of the most incredible knishes for all of us kids in the neighborhood. I love the cabbage knish, the kasha knish was insane and blueberry cheese was like desert. I spent many years of my childhoodhanging out in theat little store under the el in Brighton Beach. Thank god for memories. Will never be able to ever duplicate those knishes. Much love to everyone from that amazing time in Brooklyn. You all know who you are.

  22. Stanley Kalish Says:

    Stan K says ” Brighton is not and was not indicative of Brooklyn. Yes, I too miss the onion pletzel and the Stahl’s potato knish. Where else could a group of young kids walk 1:00AM to a Chinese restaurant and expect to return safely. To go to the movies for 18 cents, and see two feature movies and a cartoon and win a prize as well. Who remembers all metal water guns that had a copper front nozzel, charlette rouge ice cream etc.

  23. Laura Says:

    Greetings Knish Lovers!
    I’m so happy to discover this thread and wanted to invite you all to my talk:

    Life and Times of the Knish at the New York Public Library
    on Tuesday August 8 at 6:30 pm.

    http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/45/node/153888?lref=45%2Fcalendar

    My knish research was sparked in large part by the disappearance of Mrs. Stahl’s, a fixture of my childhood and my father’s childhood…

    I’d welcome your comments…

    Barbara Hewitt, if you receive this, could I ask you to give me a shout at knish@me.com ? I’d love to hear your stories.

    Wild New York, do you have a photo credit for that second image by chance? the interior of Mrs. Stahl’s? I’d love to track it down.

    My very best,

    Laura Silver
    Brooklyn, NY

    • wildnewyork Says:

      thanks Laura, what a great idea for a talk! Mrs. Stahl’s was a fixture of my childhood too. My father remembers Mrs. Stahl herself loaded down with knishes going up and down the beach selling them.

      The photo is from a long-defunct magazine called Brooklyn Bridge that published in the late 1990s. I can try to get you the exact month it ran but don’t have that off-hand.

  24. laura Says:

    Hi there, thanks. Yes, I’d love to a reference to the issue number of Brooklyn Bridge magazine — I remember it — if possible… Wow. did your dad actually know Mrs. Stahl by chance?

    And, one more request, if I may… any chance you might be able to relay my comment to Barbara Hewitt? I’d love to get in touch with her but my other attempts have not been fruitful…

    My best and thanks,
    Laura

  25. linda leah Says:

    Hi we loved Mrs. Stahls knshes all of them and our children got to taste them also, if any body has a recipe even close to the Onion Pletzel we wold love to have it.

    Alll they seem to have is a bready plezel something like a bioly which no way resembles the Onion Pletzel.
    I wish the niice people from Georgia would tell us the exact name of the store they went to it would be most helpful and keep Mrs. Stahls name alive.

    We would all thank you.

    P.S. I would like to comment on the person who said they think of Brooklyn as a slum . It is the fourth largest city in America and as such it has its poor and rich areas

    The houses near my home sell for millions ( not a lot of land) but no slum

    we brooklynites are affended( and we don’t say thirty tird and tiird-33 and 3rd- and we don;t all say Ax instead of ask-

    I think an apology is needed – Isn’t that right Brooklynite’s!!!!!

  26. barbara hewitt Says:

    Barbara Hewitt has been found – barbarahewitt30@aol.com

    All your comments bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart – since I know I grew up eating the best knishes every made – by my grandmother Lily Greenberg. The dearest woman in the world, and the best baker. God bless her. And oh those cabbage knishes – heaven.

    Barbara

  27. Holly Says:

    My Uncle Mutt use to walk with my daddy to the trolley car to brighton beach hours later after they were done swimming on their way back they use to stop at Mrs. Stahls, for a few pennies they could buy a potato knish and sometimes they had enough money to buy 2. My Uncle Mutt now lives in San Francisco and they dont even know what a knish is At the jewish hoildays he has knishes and other food flown in from NY what a treat is was to eat Mrs. Stahls knishes I still myself remember them …his soul is in San Francisco but his heart is still in Brooklyn ..

  28. Jay Marshak Says:

    rip mrs stahls knishes!

  29. Lynda Sussman Says:

    I grew up in Williamsbug, and later moved to Sheepshead Bay. For over 45 years I have lived in Baltimore and every time my husband ( a native Baltimorean) and I went to NYC, we always stopped at Mrs. Stahl’s and double parked. One would run in and order at least two boxes of knishes to be frozen and we especially loved the blueberry and cherry cheese. Nowadays, we have rediscovered Yonah Shimmel which are now the best around and take boxes back down I-95. Maybe someday a Mrs. Stahl clone will reappear?

    Lynda Sussman

  30. Frieda Ciosek Says:

    Are the recipes anywhere around? If so, please contact me.

  31. Dorothy Rosatti Rosato Says:

    My grandparents owned a home on Banner Avenue, Brooklyn, NY where the Weingast family also raised their children. The parents were kind, hard working, caring people. If I remember correctly Josh and Anita were the names of the two children who grew up and left the neighborhood. Mrs would go everyday to Brighton and sell the knishes, supervise the store and help her husband and promised to never have her children work as hard. Today as I read the posts of others I wonder where are they? What became of them and do they still make knishes for themselves or did they ever sell her recipe…Gone are the days my friend… We thought they would never end…..

    • Josh Says:

      The Weingast kids names were Anita & Barry, there certainly was a Josh who worked very hard at the Knish store for a few years.The Weingasts moved to Florida & they retired from the Knish business long ago. Sam passed away, Morris is still around.
      Surprise…I happen to be the Josh!

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        Thank you for writing in! To many of us who grew up eating Mrs. Stahl’s knishes, you are Brooklyn royalty!

      • Frieda Says:

        How wonderful that the family stays in touch with those who loved such wonderful products! Josh, have the recipes ever been published or divulged to anyone? We need to keep it alive!

      • Josh Says:

        Sorry I am not related, I worked there when I was approx. 16/18 years old at $2./hour. I had no access to recipes but you may want to contact Barry Weingast at barry.weingast@citi.com

  32. Joel Says:

    Looking in vane for the recipe for Mrs. Stahl’s dear departed cabbage knish and I finding neither the recipe nor a reasonable facsimile I tested and modified a recipe for something called a cabbage knish which I am happy to report comes close to my recollection. 1 lb. good sauerkraut, rinsed and drained. 1 medium onion, chopped and sautéed in olive oil. Mix together and cook for 15 minutes adding a little water as necessary for consistency and to prevent burning or drying out. Mix in 1 Tb brown sugar and cook on low for a few minutes stirring till dissolved. Wrap the filling in homemade or frozen prepared dough and cut into individual knishes. Oil a baking tray and bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.

  33. Checking out Little Odessa: Brighton Beach | The Weekly Nabe Says:

    […] the neighborhood’s main commercial thoroughfare. We marveled at what had become of the famous Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes. We also took a look inside the former Oceana Theatre, where Michael watched the premiere of The […]

  34. Jude Says:

    I, too, have the fondest memory of Mrs. Stahl’s cherry cheese knishes. I just picked 13 pounds of sour cherries at a local orchard and would love a recipe to try to triplicate them. if anyone has one, please forward. Thanks

  35. Ted B Says:

    I remember as a young boy when she came by. Mom always bought us knishes from her. Eventually Mom and and some other friends talked her into opening the store. I lived in the Joseph P Day apartments on Brighton Bch Ave and 15th Street. Dad and some other people loaned her $25 each and she started up. She paid everyone back. Alas, nothing is forever. But,—— we do have Zabar’s.

  36. david schantz Says:

    where could I buy the kinshes potatoe cabbage , etc thank you dave

  37. Bill Says:

    My grandparents lived in Brighton Beach till the late 60′s. I lived in Trenton, NJ and always loved Mrs Stahl’s. After my grandparents passed, we would drive to Brooklyn specifically to bring home her knishes. I remember in the late fifties being at the beach and seeing these muscular guys walking around selling knishes from these large boxes which were held up by straps that went around their shoulders. The last trip we ever took was when an Indian family took over and the knishes were not the same. Great memories, my mouth is watering!

  38. Heidi Sandra Says:

    My grandparents lived in Brighton Beach until the late 60s too. We lived in Teaneck and would buy Mrs. Stahl’s knishes every time we visited- probably twice a month. I still remember the incredible smells emanating from that shop. My favorite was the cabbage knish. I think that the whole Brooklyn experience- the immigrant Jewish grandparents, the salt air, sand and ocean breezes, the Jewish and other ethnic restaurants, various languages and accents all around, the whole milieu is something that can never be recreated. It was such a poignant tableau and it seems like all of us experienced the same thing. And now it is gone. I’m just glad that I was able to witness that culture and to partake of it’s memorable knishes.

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