When it comes to food, New York City has it all. We recently visited in the name of recipe research, in search of the best blintzes we could get our hands on before returning to the test kitchen to develop our own blintz recipe.
Where We Went
The east side of lower Manhattan holds dozens of restaurants serving specialties brought by immigrants from Eastern Europe.
The best blintzes feature tender crêpes wrapped around sweetened farmer’s cheese which can be breakfast or dessert. Now served in diners all over the country (and in homes all over the world), this traditional Eastern European dish even has a blintz district in New York City.
Never ones to try to perfect a recipe before doing our research, we knew we had to go taste the experts'. So staff photographer Steve Klise, America's Test Kitchen CEO David Nussbaum, and I met up in New York City and dined at three of the city's most reputable blintz joints. Here's some information about each one, including what to get when you go (and you should go!).
B&H Dairy, just down the street from Veselka, is a kosher storefront that seems to be made for skinny people, because I can barely squeeze myself and my appetite through the room to a table that claims to seat four. A very tall man behind the counter shouts my order into the kitchen—four blintzes, please: cherry, blueberry, apple, and cheese. Here the fruit compote is rolled up with the cheese into the crêpe, which is then sautéed until lightly browned and crisped, a bit of filling oozing out of the ends in a beautiful mess. B&H opened more than 80 years ago; not even a gas explosion on the block in 2015 was able to shut it down.
If You Go
Restaurant: B&H Dairy
Address: 127 2nd Ave., New York, New York
What we ate (and loved): A variety of fruit-filled blintzes, matzo brei
Insider Tip: Old-school New York counter service at its best, B&H Dairy’s kosher cuisine should be on everyone’s East Village bucket list. Their blintzes sport a golden brown, crisp, almost deep fried-looking exterior, and the staff excel at juggling line-cooking and front-of-house responsibilities. Controlled chaos with a big bowl of borscht on the side. Snag a spot wherever you can in the long, narrow dining area, sit back, and watch the show.
Russ & Daughters Café
Sitting on Orchard Street in lower Manhattan, trendy Russ & Daughters Café is a polished 21st-century offshoot of the 100-year-old Russ & Daughters shop a few blocks away. I rub elbows with hip patrons perched on stationary stools at a marble-top counter to nosh on smoked fish served on wooden boards. Blintzes follow; at Russ & Daughters, they are about the size of an enchilada and are tightly wrapped, with their ends tucked in to contain the filling while they’re browned on the griddle.
If You Go
Restaurant: Russ & Daughters Café
Address: 127 Orchard St., New York
What we ate (and loved): Cheese blintzes with blueberry compote, Shtetl platter (smoked sable, goat cream cheese, a bagel, tomato, onion, capers), Russ & Daughters fishsticks (made with trimmings and ends from slabs of smoked fish), halvah ice cream
Insider Tip: The sit-down outpost of the long-lived appetizing shop of the same name, Russ & Daughters Café is an upscale take on classic Jewish cuisine. With décor reminiscent all at once of an old-school deli and a mid-century pharmacy, it’s a great spot to sit down with a big platter of smoked fish with all the fixings, or, if you’re feeling fancy, caviar and rosé.
At Veselka, a diner-style restaurant situated in New York City’s East Village, the fare reflects the neighborhood’s deeply rooted Ukrainian community—stuffed cabbage, goulash, and borscht are staples, along with blintzes. Here, the crêpes are folded into quarters, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and eaten with a bright berry compote. When it was founded in 1954, Veselka (the name means “rainbow” in Ukrainian) was simply a newsstand serving takeaway lunches; today, early-lunching old timers and late-night club kids keep the tables crowded 24 hours a day.
If You Go
Address: 144 2nd Ave., New York, New York
What we ate (and loved): Cheese blintzes with raspberry compote, matzo ball soup, pierogi (mushroom, potato, cheese, and sweet potato), shashlik (Ukrainian-style spice-rubbed pork chops)
Insider Tip: Next time you’re in New York’s East Village, come to Veselka for their cheese blintzes and extensive menu of Eastern European classics, but if you’re out past midnight, stay for the eclectic late-night crowd. Nothing goes better with outstanding people-watching than a big bowl of matzo ball soup.
Cheese Blintzes with Raspberry SauceWe took the best of our New York City eating tour back to the test kitchen and developed an impressive, approachable recipe we can make anytime.
Read about some of our other trips around the country, in the name of recipe research: