Wherever Lynn and I go, we never skip an opportunity to try local specialties. New York City is no different, other than the fact that it has a ridiculous number of them. Whether it’s pasta and pizza or bagels and babka, New York City has it all, and you can be sure we’re on the hunt for it. You might have read about my not-so-closeted obsession with the venerable soda fountain. Here’s a fun fact about me: when I get into something, I tend to go deep—bananas deep. I’ve made no exception with one of the quintessential soda fountain concoctions: Egg Creams. And Egg Creams are, without a doubt, a New York specialty.
Now, there’s a lot of history and nostalgia involved with this magical elixir. There’s also a lot of debate, from its inventor to the origin of and reasoning behind the name (a misnomer: as it contains neither eggs nor cream). And, of course, there’s the incredible diversity of recipes. However, I’m reluctant to launch into the background, particularly since our good friends recently gifted us a copy of Julia Wertz’s fantastic Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, which has an entire section devoted to Egg Creams. In an illustrated guide, no less! (If I may be so bold, this book should be a mandatory addition to your coffee table if you are a self-professed lover of all things New York City.)
Instead, what I’m going to do is suggest three iconic establishments in Manhattan where you can order an Egg Cream, on its own or along with your meal. All three spots are conveniently located in close proximity to each other in the Lower East Side, so here’s a handy guide based on how famished you are.
If you’re very hungry…
Have a Pastrami Sandwich with your Egg Cream at Katz’s Deli
Katz’s is legend, and an Egg Cream is exactly what you need to wash down a plate of pickles and 13-plus ounces of pastrami jammed precariously between two slices of afterthought rye bread. (If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll say you won’t eat it all in one sitting, but of course you will.)
Pro Tip: Order your Egg Cream at the grill before you go up to the Cutters for your Pastrami Sandwich. Also, each person gets handed a ticket when you enter Katz’s. Hang on to each ticket even if you combine your orders. You have to surrender all tickets when you leave, even the blank ones (to prove nothing else was ordered). There is a “lost ticket” fee of $50.
205 E Houston St
Friday: 8:00am-Open all night!
Saturday: Open all day!
Sunday: Open until 10:45pm
If you’re moderately hungry…
Have a Bagel Sandwich with your Egg Cream at Russ & Daughters
Not to toot my own horn, but my Russ & Daughters game is pretty strong. I take a ticket for the crowded fish counter where they make the bagel sandwiches, and while I wait for my number to be called, I go to the snack and beverage counter and secure my Egg Cream. Trust me, having an Egg Cream in hand makes the time go by much faster.
Note that Russ & Daughters isn’t only iconic for its delicious offerings, but also for its amazing history. Soak that up while you’re there.
179 E Houston St
If you’re mildly hungry…
Have a knish with your Egg Cream at Yonah Schimmel
Yonah Schimmel is, in my humble opinion, the TOP of the knish game in town. A single knish, heated for you when you place your order, is a meal in and of itself. An Egg Cream is the perfect accompaniment, and they do it right at this institution.
For the uninitiated, a knish is a filled dough wrapper. Yonah Schimmel offers a number of savory vegetarian options such as potato, spinach and mushroom. But don’t miss out on the sweet cheese versions that are coupled with fruit fillings.
137 E Houston St
If you’re just looking for a salad…
You’re reading the wrong blog. 😉
If you don’t live in or near New York City…
Make your Egg Cream at home
As I stated before, recipes for Egg Creams abound. And, for the most part, they’re similar at the core. The sticking point is the list of ingredients used. Sure, you can skimp in a pinch, but why deny yourself the real deal? Below I’ve included a basic recipe for the classic Egg Cream with the traditional ingredients. Drink up!
Classic Egg Cream Recipe:
2 tablespoons Fox’s U-bet Chocolate (for Brooklyn-style) or Vanilla (Manhattan-style) syrup
1 ½ ounces whole milk
6 ounces of seltzer (I prefer Vintage, Hal’s or Schweppes, but the main thing is lots of fizz)
A soda fountain glass (for best results)
Pro Tip: If you have specific dietary requirements, Fox’s U-bet offers a gluten free and real sugar version (a little higher priced, of course).
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