OPINION: Junior’s is not just cheesecake

September 15, 2014 By Raanan Geberer Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Junior’s flagship location is at Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn.
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By now, most people know that the owner of Junior’s Restaurant, Alan Rosen, has decided not to sell Junior’s famed flagship location at Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue, instead opting to keep the restaurant in the same space it has occupied since 1950 (actually, 1929 if you count the old Enduro’s, which was also owned by the Rosen family).

Fans of Junior’s were ecstatic, even though the original plan called for the restaurant to merely move temporarily to another Downtown location, returning to the site when the new building was finished. By now, of course, Junior’s also has restaurants at Grand Central, Times Square and Foxwoods caino, and sells famed desserts throughout the country.

Junior’s best-known item, its cheesecake, is very good, perhaps the best in the city. However, those who equate Junior’s only with cheesecake are doing it a disservice.

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Junior’s itself popularizes its cheesecakes above all else. Its website is “,” with “our restaurants” just indicated as a sub-category. You can’t blame the chain on trying to capitalize on a good thing: Since Junior’s cheesecake was rated the city’s best by New York magazine in 1973, it has become world-famous.

However, if you look at sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, Junior’s high ratings come from more than cheesecake. The cheesecake is still the main draw (I was never a cheesecake fan until I went to Junior’s). But you also see praise for Junior’s hamburgers, pastrami, brisket, potato pancakes, chicken pot pie, strawberry shortcake, waffles, blintzes and much more. Incidentally, the person who praised the “cheese blitzers” at Junior’s Times Square location was probably watching too much CNN.

People outside of Brooklyn may also not know about Junior’s role in the political life of the borough, and indeed of the city. When President Obama and then-mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio paid a surprise visit to Junior’s last year, it was just the latest in a series of high-profile political events there. Bill Clinton visited the restaurant in 1992, and years ago, political boss Meade Esposito would sometimes hold meetings in the back room, according to The New York Times. Today, Brooklyn attorney Steve Cohn’s annual “pumpkin breakfast” at Junior’s attracts a wide variety of politicians from both parties who might otherwise be rivals.

Furthermore, Junior’s, a hop, skip and a jump from the Fulton Street Mall, helped keep the eastern end of the Mall area alive for many years until the area started to revive. In the 1950s, Fulton Street was alive with movie theaters like the Paramount and the Fox, both of which also hosted Alan Freed’s rock and roll shows.

One old-time Brooklynite who grew up in that era once told me that in her opinion, Junior’s is over-emphasized—back in the ’50s, “there were lots of places to eat on Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue.” She’s missing the point. Those places are no longer there, but Junior’s is still thriving. Now, Junior’s is finding a new clientele, since it’s a half-mile from Barclays Center. “Good Meal Near Barclays’ Center,” one of the Tripadvisor reviews is headlined.

Finally, Junior’s still has a menu that caters to the middle class. It fills the gap between fast-food eateries like Burger King and Wendy’s, on one hand, and the trendy, upscale restaurants that dominate many of the neighborhoods in greater Downtown Brooklyn.

For all these reasons, Junior’s is an important part of Downtown Brooklyn. It ain’t just cheesecake!

Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.

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