In a day when most people were lucky to place a vote without waiting in line, a few hundred New Yorkers deliberately stood on a frigid, windy corner to make sure they didn’t miss a bite of pure Brooklyn.
Junior’s Restaurant celebrated its 60th anniversary in style on Tuesday, with balloons, a chocolate-dipped special-edition of their famous cheesecake, deeply discounted 60-cent slices, and a bake-off by three amateur chefs which was held in the legendary restaurant’s own kitchen.
Diners inside the restaurant enjoyed free slices of cheesecake, but most of the indoor activity centered around the cheesecake tasting.
Three contestants of 500 had been selected for to bake what they thought would be the best new Junior’s flavor. The delicious finalists: Moon Pie; Brooklyn Blackout and Joyful Almond (a takeoff on Almond Joy). The cake will be on sale for a limited time at the flagship restaurant at 386 Flatbush Ave., and the winner landed an $1,800 cash prize.
The lucky tasters were Alan Rosen, the third-generation owner of Junior’s, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Dahlia Stephens, of the Bronx, a lottery-drawn reader of the contest’s sponsor, the NY Daily News. (NY Daily News is a local partner of Yahoo!).
Meanwhile, members of the cult of cheesecake who weren’t picked to vote waited out lines of up to 45 minutes to pick up some cheap slices or the limited-edition cake. Normally, a slice of Junior’s goes for $5.95. (According to Junior’s, 5,000 slices of cheesecake were sold.)
“It’s the only cake we really buy,” said Sandra Medina, 45, who came with her daughter from Crown Heights for the deals. She said she waited for 35 minutes until she could purchase her $19.50 cake — priced for the year the restaurant opened. Her daughter bought a few slices. (A plain cake is normally $29.95).
If she was to offer an anniversary wish to Junior’s, “I’d say, keep on making that cheesecake!” she said.
Inside, the normally bustling dining room was at a hush, as owner Rosen finished up his judgment of the cakes.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m very impressed,” he began. “These are all very delicious, and I may reproduce all of these.”
Finally he announced the winner – Suzanne Banfield, a former Brooklynite now living in Basking Ridge, N.J., for her Almond Joyful cake. Banfield, who has celiac’s disease, said she would often lament seeing Junior’s cheesecakes on QVC, specifically, not being able to eat them. So her cake, in a nice twist for some, has a gluten-free crust.
Whether or not Junior’s will be able to replicate that is yet to be seen: the bakery equipment is not in a wheat-free environment.
“We will continue to experiment with it, just like my grandfather did sixty years ago,” said Rosen, who said they would start with her original recipe and see where they could go with it.
The restaurant had a busy day overall – according to Rosen the giveaway slices at meals were a hit - but slices to-go were by far the most popular part of the celebration, Rosen said, with people lining up from 5:30 a.m. till 12:30 a.m. at night.
But Rosen said it was the memories that made his day.
“I had a gentleman grab me yesterday who said he came here for the first time when he was ten years old, and he’s 70 now,” said Rosen.
“There was a lot of people like that, it was just a great day all around, a lot of people were talking to me about my father and my grandfather; I got a little teary-eyed in the afternoon… but it was good.”
Photo credits: Jess Wisloski for Yahoo! Local