Junior’s Birthday Cake

November 3, 2015

There I was, minding my own business in Downtown Brooklyn, when I was approached by a member of the NYPD.

“Hey!,” yelled the cop.


“Do you like cheesecake?”



Despite momentarily wondering whether “cheesecake” might be a code word for some type of illegal activity, I admitted that I did, in fact, like cheesecake.

With that, the officer told me that to celebrate its 65th birthday, today Junior’s restaurant was selling cheesecake for 65 cents a slice.

To Brooklynites, there is no question about where Junior’s is located, what it serves or why a 65 cent slice of their cheesecake is worthy of a proclamation.

Junior’s restaurant was founded by Harry Rosen on the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue on November 3, 1950. Rosen said that if his was going to be a great restaurant, he had to have a great cheesecake. He and his pastry chef began tinkering with formulas for the rich sweet until they found what they considered to be the perfect recipe. The pubic agreed and Junior’s cheesecakes have gone on to worldwide acclaim.

Junior’s is now in the hands of third-generation owner Alan Rosen. The little corner restaurant with the scrumptious dessert has become a local landmark. There are branches in Manhattan at Grand Central and Times Square and a location within the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. There is a mail order business (said to sell over one million cakes per year), several cookbooks and scores of awards naming theirs the best cheesecake in the city. And a single wedge of Junior’s classic cheesecake sells for $6.95.

To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the restaurant announced that it was selling slices of its famous original New York plain cheesecake for just 65 cents—one per customer—only at the original Brooklyn location on Tuesday.

The line began forming before the sun rose. Celebratory signs and balloons were fastened to the restaurant’s famed orange exterior, crowd control barriers erected, security guards posted at the front door, a squadron of police officers stationed at the curb. Behind closed doors, thousands of cheesecakes were baked, sliced, packaged and bagged for the waiting crowd.

By the time doors opened at 6:30 a.m., the queue stretched down the block and around the corner. Some passersby called out that people had to be crazy to stand outside like that “just for a piece of cheesecake.” But they were wrong. It wasn’t “just cheesecake”—it was Junior’s.

The crowd waits

The deal

One slice per customer

Security guard keeps order

The hard working countermen

The cake

Welcome to Junior’s! Remembering Brooklyn With Recipes and Memories from Its Favorite Restaurant
Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook
Junior’s Dessert Cookbook
Junior’s Home Cooking
Junior’s Restaurant
Brooklyn Eagle: Junior’s fans come in droves with loose change
NY Daily News: Slices of famous cheesecake for 65 cents
PIX11: Junior’s Cheesecake celebrates 65th anniversary
Foxwoods Casino

Selling the Bear Necessities

August 17, 2015

PinkyOtto, a women’s clothing store with several locations in New York City, is advertised as “a fun-filled, charming place for stylish girls.”

Their whimsical window displays include mannequins topped with teddy bear heads. These fashion figures are in the Flatiron District store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.



Teddy Bears

A Neighborhood Tragedy

August 11, 2015

I was surprised to see the pastry shop closed, and at first I thought that some kind of itinerant florist was selling bouquets in front of their lowered metal gate.

Then I noticed a sign taped to the gate and crossed the street to read it. That was how I learned that Muyassar Moustapha, the man who ran the shop with his brothers, had been killed by a speeding motorist.

Oriental Pastry, along with the family that operates it, has been a Brooklyn fixture for decades. Walking through its doors is akin to taking a trip into the past or a foreign land, with heaps of spices and dried fruits spilling from bins and barrels, a small glass case filled with fragrant, freshly baked sweet and savory pastries, a revolving selection of purring resident cats, and friendly, caring proprietors.

As I gazed at the bouquets arrayed on the sidewalk, two neighborhood boys, both about 10 years old, came over to talk. They asked whether I’d known the man who died. Yes, I had.

Tremulously, one boy worried aloud about what would happen to the cats that lived in the store. They’ll be OK, I told the boys. They’ll still have good lives. But they’ll remember Mr. Moustapha, and they’ll miss him— just as we all will.

Flowers in front of the shop.

The sign.

Gothamist: Owner Of Oriental Pastry In Cobble Hill Reportedly Killed By Driver
Gothamist: Cobble Hill Mourns
Patch: Brooklyn Pedestrian Struck, Killed by Mercedes-Benz
NY Daily News: Man, 66, Mowed Down
Yelp: Oriental Pastry & Grocery

That Didn’t Take Long

April 13, 2015

Well, that didn’t take long. On April 3, Hillary Clinton announced that she would be locating her presidential campaign headquarters at 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn.

Today, vendors were selling t-shirts with the slogan “Brooklyn Loves Hillary” on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Politics may sometimes be slow, but capitalism and consumerism move quickly — at least, that’s how it works in Brooklyn.

Hello Brooklyn shirt.

Brooklyn Loves Hillary shirt.

Time: Hillary Clinton Leases Office Space in Brooklyn
LA Times: Hillary Clinton bases campaign headquarters in Brooklyn
Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters to be based in Brooklyn

Marathon Meal

October 31, 2014

I get all the exercise I need by jumping to conclusions, climbing the walls, bending over backwards, sticking my neck out, pulling out all the stops, and pushing my luck.

It’s an old joke. And while I don’t avoid all forms of exercise, I am not, by any means, a marathon runner. So when a stranger offered me a VIP ticket to the New York City Marathon Eve Dinner, I didn’t know what to expect.

The dinner, held in an enormous white tent erected inside Central Park, was open only to ticket holders. My VIP ticket meant that I was able to walk past the long line of runners waiting in the chilly night air.

As it turns out, the Marathon Eve Dinner is a beloved tradition of the race that was first organized in 1970 by Fred Lebow and Vincent Chiappetta, co-presidents of the New York Road Runners Club. That year, one hundred and twenty-seven men ran around Central Park and 55 crossed the finish line.

Today, New York’s is the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 participants from around the world. The current course goes through all five of the city’s boroughs, where an estimated two million spectators line the streets, highways, and bridges that are closed for the race.

Because authorities say that a large intake of carbohydrate rich foods before a marathon can increase stamina and enhance performance, the night’s menu featured salad, two pasta dishes, and beer—all with unlimited refills.

While they listened to speeches, watched presentations and ate and drank, the polyglot crowd laughed, exchanged tips, recounted past races, and formed friendships. And then, quickly, the beer and spaghetti-filled runners withdrew to their hotel rooms, eager to get some sleep and make it to the starting line early in the morning.

VIP ticket

Inside the tent

Distributing dishes and utensils

Aproned server

Filling dishes

Making their way to tables

Diners in action

The meal

New York Marathon
TCS New York City Marathon Eve Dinner
Runner’s World: How to Carb-Load for Marathon Week

Emily With a Ukulele Bag Lives in Brooklyn Heights

October 27, 2014

It is just an ordinary Brooklyn bodega near a subway station in Brooklyn Heights.

But today, as I passed the store, I noticed a sheet of paper taped to the front window. I read what it said, then sought out a worker and asked him for an explanation. This is what he told me:

A Chinese guy sees this girl, he talks to her. He knows she live around here. He look for her but he can’t find her. So he write that … poem. He put it on the ATM, on the front, in the back. He put it many places. He thinks maybe she see it.

He didn’t put his phone number on it.

He put it on the ATM.

So what happened?

She see it. She take from ATM machine. 

Was this today?

No, no, one week ago. 


I don’t see her again. I never see him. But I think he love her. 


Sign in the window


The poem

I Shudder to Think …

August 30, 2014

I was walking along 15th Street when something caught my eye — a spot of bright blue that seemed out of place on the sidewalk in front of a toy store.

I stepped closer to investigate. A blue bowl and a basket that were labelled with small paper tags.

However, the words I read gave me pause. I know that orange juice is made from oranges, and apple juice contains nothing but apples.  But what is the stuff in that blue bowl, and how was it made?

I shudder to think.

Kidding Around 2
A spot of blue on the sidewalk

Kidding Around
A closer investigation

Kidding Around 3
What is in that bowl?

Kidding Around


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