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A Slice of New York Right Here in Jacksonville

I just realized that I haven’t thought about the foods I miss from New York until I had to think about the foods New York is best known for. As a New York girl turned Floridian in 1991, I’ve officially been a southern girl longer than I was a New Yorker, however, you can take the girl out of NY, but you can’t take NY out of the girl. Whenever I think about New York, I immediately get a different accent in my head. Any other NY transplants do that?

There’s a lot I miss about New York and National New York Day (which I have no idea what that really means) is a great day to just reminisce on all things New York and point everyone in the right direction to find all the best NY foods right here in Jacksonville and The Beaches.

#1 – Hot Dogs

Come on ya’ll (or should I say “you’s guys”) there’s nothing better than a New York hot dog. To be honest though, I’m from Long Island and the ultimate hot dog was from the original food truck, Charlie’s Hot Dogs. Charlie’s Hot Dogs in Brentwood, Long Island is beyond legendary since 1963. I can’t tell you the number of times my parents and I stopped at Charlie’s on the corner of Islip Avenue and Spur Drive South! You couldn’t pass without stopping. But I’m also talkin’ Nathans, Coney Island and the best of all, a “dirty water dog” from the street vendors in NYC. Mama mia! Now that’s New York – just DO NOT look at the water when they open the lid to grab a dog, what you don’t know won’t hurt you! Good luck finding one as good as the authentic NY hot dog themselves, but Hot Dog Hut in Jacksonville Beach comes pretty close! If you want to do it full NY style, don’t toast the bun. New Yorkers don’t need no stinkin’ toasted buns! For the record, I’m not opposed to a Gate Station Hot Dog either but it’s my “desperate measures”, I’ve got a wierd craving and Hot Dog Hut is too far, place!

#2 – Pizza

Let me preface this with, you will NEVER find a true New York style pizza outside of New York. It’s just not going to happen. There’s a certain amount of grease that needs to be present on pizza for it to be anything like a New York slice … yes, it’s a slice ya’ll …. and YES, we fold it in half! What I really miss even more than the slice, is a Sicilian Pizza! I love the corner slice of the square sicilian pizza! I have two local favorites though that remind me somewhat of NY style pizza. My go-to is a toss up between Biggie’s Pizza which is great because they are adding different locations around town. My other favorite is Tony Pepperoni in Atlantic Beach. When you say Tony though, you need to say it with your NY accent …. Toooooww-neeeeee! It’s a requirement! *Side note: Get the garlic knots too at Tony’s. They are fantastic!

#3 – Bagels

Every Sunday morning in New York starts with a trip to get the bagels. I loved those mornings when I stayed at my cousin’s house and my uncle would pick up bagels on the weekend! Oh, the smell of those fresh bagels! In 30+ years, I’ve NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, found an authentic NY style bagel. Sure, there’s “chain” restuarants with bagels but they are polar opposities of NY style bagels. An authentic NY style bagel is boiled AND baked. Skip this step and it’s an imposter. My favorite bagel that I can find is in Jacksonville Beach at Bagels ‘R Us. Their service is amazing and they don’t skimp on the cream cheese. Skimping is not allowed!

#4 – Friendly’s Ice Cream

If you’ve never had a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup sundae or a Fribble, have you really ever lived? Once upon a time, I would travel to Daytona just for Friendly’s Ice Cream. I lived in Mandarin and would load the kids up for ice cream and travel south 75 minutes just for a sundae. That’s love you’s guys! That’s love. Then Friendly’s came to Jacksonville on University Boulevard. I was in heaven. They lasted about two years and both the Daytona AND Jacksonville location closed. I’ve been in ice cream remorse ever since. The nearest Friendly’s restaurant is in Orlando, 130 miles from the beach! Road trip anyone? I have found half gallons of their top flavors in Winn Dixie in The Villages when I visit my parents. This doesn’t surprise me since 75% of the population in The Villages is from New York. My local favorite is Brusters where they have a replica of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup sundae …. and you can get it in a waffle bowl!

#5 – Knishes

Let’s go back to Charlie’s Hot Dog truck. They had the best knishes ever! What’s a knish? A knish is a dumpling of dough that is stuffed with a filling (commonly potato) and baked or fried and no one had a knish as good as Charlie’s. My favorite topping? Lots of mustard!! Years ago in San Marco I stumbled upon Wormons Deli. Amazing knishes, but not NY style. For starters, they were round! What? A round knish? These days when I visit my parents in The Villages, I stop at TooJay’s deli for a knish. Other than that … my search continues! If anyone knows of a great knish place in town, definitely let me know!

#6 – NY Cheesecake

I’m not one to snub my nose at a cheesecake. Not all cheesecakes are alike but I will still eat whatever kind you put in front of me at the table. What’s the difference in a NY cheesecake versus the traditional cheesecake? In NY we like our pizza greasy, our bagels boiled AND baked, and our cheesecake to be ultra-rich. If you’re an Italian New Yorker, you’re swapping out the cream cheese for ricotta cheese instead! Don’t knock it ’til you tried it. Maggiano’s wins my vote for best New York Cheesecake.

#7 – Egg and Cheese Sandwich

New York is the city that never sleeps. New Yorkers are always on the run, driving fast, running to not miss the train, grab a cab or whatever. We don’t have time to sit waiting in line for Panera to make our simple sandwich, and we certainly don’t consider a chain restaurant could make a decent egg and cheese sandwich. At least not to our standards. The New York egg and cheese sandwich should never be mistaken for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit at McDonalds either. You can’t order a #1 with a coffee and consider it an authentic egg and cheese sandwich; it can only be ordered individually and to your exact specifications. “Gimme two scambled with cheese and crispy bacon on a soft roll.” That’s my all time favorite! And honestly, if that’s what I want … I have to make it myself. In New York, there’s an amazing deli on every street!

#8 – The Black & White Cookie

Honestly, what I miss more than the actual black and white cookie, is the bakery selections in New York. Try as you may, you will never find one like it around here. When I was a kid, my parents would always go to Pathmark (aka the grocery store) for holiday dinner meal items, and then to the bakery for the bread. Ummm, they had bread in the Pathmark bakery section but it wasn’t the same. It had to come from the bakery! My favorite thing about the bakery, was the machine that would wrap your box with the red & white string. Some of the bakery employees took that seriously too! It was like a competition to see who could get the fastest wrap for the day. It was all very specific but I digress! So, the black and white cookie? It was never really my favorite. I actually never realized it was a “thing” until the Seinfeld episode in Season 5. I still don’t get it. But I’ve never tasted a cookie I didn’t like — just point me to the Publix bakery!

My non-food related things I miss about New York?

  • New York Yankee Games
  • New York Ranger Games
  • The Subway
  • Montauk Point
  • Broadway Shows
  • Field 2 at Robert Moses (IYKYK)
  • Fire Island
  • The City
  • Snow (but only once a season and not lots of it please!)
Jenn Heller is the Operations and Marketing Manager with The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, with over 17 years experience in Real Estate.  She is a Jacksonville resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a crafter, chalk painter and an avid fitness enthusiast.

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3 Responses to “A Slice of New York Right Here in Jacksonville”

  • Lucy Falcone
    Written on

    Loved your blog hijita…I also miss NY and Charlies knishes. You have no idea how your father and I have gone crazy trying to find a place around here that have them to no avail. We finally found frozen ones in Publix…but YUK. Guess I am going to have to order them from Katz in NY. Love you.

  • Wow, reading this article really took me back! As a fellow New York transplant, I totally get what Jenn is saying about missing those iconic flavors from home. πŸ—½πŸ• The struggle to find an authentic NY-style pizza, bagel, or hot dog outside of the Big Apple is real! And don’t even get me started on knishes – I’ve been on the hunt for a good one since forever. It’s like a piece of home that’s missing. But hey, at least we’ve got some decent substitutes here in Jacksonville, like Hot Dog Hut or Bagels β€˜R Us. Still, nothing beats the real deal. Anyone else have any luck finding some hidden gems in Jax that remind you of home? πŸŒ†πŸ”

    • Jennifer Heller
      Written on

      The knishes!! Can’t find them as good as NY. I may need a road trip north!

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