Ahh, New York City’s Upper West Side. Once the home of quirky book and bagel shops and slightly dilapidated but well-worn public spaces, it’s now another nabe that’s got as many chain stores and glistening glass structures as a suburban mall.
But even as pockets of uniqueness struggle to hold out against the tides of gentrification and change, we thought we’d take a nostalgic and very food-focused look back at growing up Jewish (or anything, honestly) in the neighborhood where the Sturgeon King reigns supreme, therapist offices and synagogues dot the lands, and giant rats attack strollers.
Here are 22 signs you grew up Jewish on the old UWS.
—You used to wait in a line around the corner for H&H bagels hot out of the oven–especially right before and after Passover.
—You pretended you were in All of a Kind Family on thrilling trips to the Lower East Side.
—You always went out for pizza between school and Hebrew school and showed up to class with garlic breath. Bonus points if it was a giant slice of pizza from Koronet.
—Central Park West and West End Avenue became thoroughfares on the High Holidays, and you side-eyed well-dressed families walking in the opposite direction.
—You can still taste the pareve rainbow cakes at Grossinger’s bakery or Zabar’s.
—You injured yourself on the hot blacktop or unsecured rope-swing of a pre-liability era playground.
—At some point, you did Tashlich in a public park. Therefore squirrels, pigeons, or let’s face it, giant rats, munched the crap out of those sinful bread crumbs.
—You got invited to at least one bar mitzvah at a fancy “club” or hotel in Midtown, and the lavish party could accurately be described as “insane.” ‘Nuff said.
—You got fitted for new school shoes by the cranky guys at Harry’s Shoes, and at least one person you knew got their camp clothes labeled at Morris Bros before they shipped off to Maine for the summer.
—You still know how to order a lox and bialy sandwich like a pro—and the staff at Barney Greengrass or the slicers at Zabar’s nod at you in approval when you swing by.
—You have favorite spot for Hamentaschen in all the following categories: regular, yeast dough and cream cheese dough.
—You found drug paraphernalia, or worse, in your playground or playing field as a matter of course.
—You ran into everyone you knew while eating scallion pancakes at Ollie’s.
—When you were older, you snuck in to the West End (RIP) to get served drinks alongside some classy Columbia freshmen, and you thought you were extremely wild. Bonus points if you then went out for a giant slice of pizza at… Koronet.
—You ate mac and cheese at 2 a.m. at Big Nick’s (RIP) after a show at Roseland (RIP) or Webster Hall (RIP) . You mention these and others late great institutions frequently to your non-native New Yorker friends and sigh knowingly.
—Somewhere out there, a day school teacher or Hebrew school teacher still cringes remembering your smart-alecky backtalk.
—You read Bob Herbert’s New York Times column religiously starting at age 11 (and quoted him to your Hebrew school teachers.)
—You also had a strong and lucid opinion which side of black-and-white cookies to eat first.
—You ice skated in Central Park before any rink had “Trump” in the name. It was a more innocent time.