December 16, 2013

Fire Highlights Popularity of the Knish in Changing Kosher Food Scene

COPIAGUE, NY  For those who thought that the knish was a relic of the Lower East Side of yesteryear, think again. A fire at a major producer of knishes became a media story especially when it resulted in a shortage of the iconic square knishes. What we learned through this entire experience is that the knish really never faded. It quietly continued to grow even as the kosher palate was moving to sushi, gourmet meats, and exotic sauces. 

The fire on September 24th was at Gabila’s and it destroyed the machinery that produces the square knishes. Gabila’s is the only producer of square knishes in New York, and the item is an icon in delis across the boroughs. Of the 15 million knishes sold by Gabila’s each year (count that 15,000,000!)  approximately 12 million are of the square kind. The shortage is taking its toll on businesses who usually buy the square, fried knishes by the truckload- not to mention the people that eat them.

Gabila’s Knishes has been around for 92 years, and is a cultural icon in NYC. Originally started from inside the home of Elli and Bella Gabbay, it slowly graduated to a pushcart, a factory in Williamsburg, and recently, the current Long Island plant. “The mainstream food trends are more focused on health than ever,” says Gabila VP Stacie Ziskin. “Although a knish isn’t the stereotypical healthy food, most people are pleasantly surprised to see the nutrition facts.” A large, fried square knish comes to 280 calories. 

Gabila’s products include potato, kasha and spinach square knishes, sweet potato, mushroom, vegetable, and potato round knishes, and a variety of other blintzes and pancakes. All are vegetarian and contain no trans-fats, another reason demand has stayed strong through the “healthy” revolution. Demand for the square knishes remains unsatisfied, with production still stalled. More people are buying round knishes as they wait for their favorite to become available. Gabila’s hopes to install new machinery at the end of the month, and to get the line running again by early next year.