For those of us who love food, Yom Kippur is a challenging holiday to say the least. If you’re not Jewish, just imagine not eating or drinking anything at all for an entire day. After fasting for 24 hours for this Jewish Day of Atonement, you might find yourself craving a humongous dinner. It’’s a good idea to have a game plan once the sun sets on Wednesday night, so you don’t pass out from hunger. New York has some of the most famous Jewish delis in the world: Russ and Daughters, Barney Greengrass, and Katz’s are all equipped to cater your dinner of whitefish, lox, smoked sturgeon, and chopped liver on bagels, bialys and rye bread. Kutsher’s Tribeca has an entire menu dedicated to breaking your fast on Yom Kippur, featuring luxe latkes topped with caviar and a 36-ounce kosher bone-in rib eye. Or you can indulge another Jewish tradition and go for not-so-traditional Dim Sum, the likes of pastrami egg rolls at Red Farm. If you’re in the mood for something irreverent (i.e. not kosher), Traif in Williamsburg has a cheeky menu for pork and shellfish loving Jews (myself included). There’s no shortage of great places to break your fast this Yom Kippur. Here are some of our favorites, from the traditional to the unexpected.
Address: 541 Amsterdam Ave., btwn W.86th & W.87th Sts.
Phone: (212) 724-4707
Where else to break fast than Barney Greengrass, the ultimate Jewish deli that’s been serving New Yorkers for 100 years (83 years in the same location!)? This Upper West Side institution is the perfect place to pick up platters for the family gathering. It closes at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, so you’ll have to plan ahead to break your fast later in the evening with Barney Greengrass’ legendary smoked fish, and bagels. (They’re famous for their caviar if you feel like ushering in the New Year with a bang!) A deluxe platter comes with smoked sturgeon, Nova Scotia salmon, kippered salmon, sable and whitefish for $95, and is served with potato salad or coleslaw and all the traditional fixings. Throw some Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda on the pile and you’ll be in smoked fish heaven.
Address: 529 Hudson St., btwn Charles and W. 10th Sts.
Phone: (212) 792-9200
Coming in at a close second in Jewish dining traditions is the love of Chinese food. While it’s not typical to break the fast with dim sum, you might want to start a new tradition this year. Besides, when you consider the fact that owner Ed Schoenfeld is a Chinese food loving Jew himself, it’s entirely appropriate. We think Katz’s pastrami egg rolls are a perfect, new beginning. This ain’t your average dim sum. There’s pan-fried lamb dumplings, shrimp and snow pea leaf dumpling. And very un-kosher pork and crab dumplings. Of course, there’s non dim sum offerings, like grilled and sautéed beef ribs and Chinese broccoli with superior shitake “flower” mushrooms. Toast to your fast with a Red Farm Manhattan (Bulleit Rye, sweet vermouth, agave nectar, bitters) and you’re ready to tackle the New Year.
Address: 205 East Houston St., btwn Ludlow and Orchard Sts.
Telephone: (212) 254-2246
Not only does Katz’s serve perhaps what is one of the best pastrami sandwiches in the world, the restaurant has become a quintessential part of New York culture since it opened on the Lower East Side in 1888. (See the Meg Ryan scene in When Harry Met Sally.) The family-run business offers a high-holiday menu at $25.95 per person or dinner for 10 for $319.95. Orders for Katz’s catered meals must be placed one day in advance, and they include your choice of roast chicken, sliced brisket, roast turkey, matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbages, smoked fishes, chopped liver, challah, and more. If you’d rather dine in at Katz’s, wait at the counter and order Katz’s special egg cream, which pretty much tastes like heaven on earth, and take in the old school décor.
Address: 186 Franklin St. btwn Hudson and Greenwich Sts.
Phone: (212) 432-0606
If you’re looking for something a little more chic, there’s a new breed of Jewish deli in town. Kutsher’s, a self-described “Jewish-American bistro,” offers a fancified take on traditional Jewish cuisine. For Yom Kippur, Kutsher’s has prepared a special “Break Fast” menu of traditional dishes divided into meat and dairy. For starters, there’s duck borscht, caviar-capped latkes or matzo brei. We’re especially excited about “The Works” smoked fish platter and The Delicatessen platter, which includes Kutsher’s own housemade pastrami, smoked veal tongue, spicy salami, duck pastrami, and chopped liver, all served with rye bread, mustard, pickles, and horseradish aioli. If that’s not your guy, try the kosher, dry-aged bone-in 36-ounce rib eye, served with hand-cut fries, for $49 per person. The Yom Kippur dinner menu will be available Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., or they’ll happily cater your at-home feast for you.
Mile End Deli
Address: 87A Hoyt St., btwn Pacific St. and Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
It’s not often that a deli takes a city by storm, but with its delicious smoked meats and imported bagels, this Boerum Hill spot has just done that. They’re so hot right now that they just opened an unexpectedly stylish sandwich shop in downtown Manhattan and released a cookbook to boot. (Plans for world domination are underway.) The focus at Mile End is Montreal-style Jewish cooking, so in addition to delicious smoked meats and fish, you can find the Canadian delicacy poutine, fries with cheese curds, and mushroom gravy, i.e. the perfect thing to break a fast. After sunset on Wednesday head to Mile End for a sandwiches to-go, like their now famous, cured and smoked beef brisket served on house-baked rye with mustard, or sit down for dinner and enjoy the veal schnitzel, with heirloom carrots, sunchokes, and brandied prunes.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Address: 13 Doyers St. near Bowery
Telephone: (212) 962-6047
Another option for great Dim Sum is Nom Wah Tea Parlor, serving standout dumplings and more in Chinatown since 1920. Nothing on the menu is over $10, so you can eat to your heart’s content, which is exactly what you’ll want to do after abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours. The dim sum is made to order, so it comes out of the kitchen perfectly fresh and piping hot. Sample their shrimp and snow leaf dumplings ($3.50), egg rolls and fluffy pork buns, just $1 each while you sip on tea from the mismatched tea cup collection and relish this New York gem.
Russ and Daughters
Address: 179 East Houston St., btwn Allen and Orchard Sts.
Telephone: (212) 475-4880
If after fasting the first thing on your mind is a bagel and the second thing on your mind is lox, you’ll want to get to yourself (as fast as you can) to Russ and Daughters, a legendary New York deli with top-notch smoked everything. Ever had kippered wild white king salmon or pickled lox? We hadn’t either until we christened our palettes here. There’s smoked salmon tartare, peppered mackerel, pastrami cured salmon and so much more. Save room for dessert because they make a mean Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka, and Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons. It’s too late to place an order, but it’s not too late to break your fast here. Just grab a spot in line close to sun set and get your dinner fresh that day
Address: 229 S. 4th St., btwn Havemeyer and Roebling Sts., Brooklyn
Telephone: (347) 884-9578
If you’re in the market for an irreverent place to break your fast this Yom Kippur, Traif’s your guy. Named for the Hebrew word for ‘not kosher,’ the restaurant specializes in pork and shellfish and is located right on the border between hipster Williamsburg and Hasidic Williamsburg. You gotta love a restaurant with a sense of humor, especially when it’s turning out such smart small plates, like Berkshire pork belly served with rhubarb, grapefruit, blackberries and sugar snap peas or seared foie gras with fingerlings and ham chips. And for dessert? Two words: bacon doughnuts.