This New York Eatery Is Best Known For Its Cheesecake
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When posed with the question of where you can find the city’s best cheesecake, every New Yorker will likely give you the same answer - Junior’s. The brand is linked to the NYC staple in a way no other brand in the city, or country, is today. Junior’s is the archetypal story of a restaurant becoming a cultural landmark in its home city on the merit of its terrific food. With a rich legacy that spans seven decades, Junior’s makes one of the finest slices of pie in the city that stays faithful to the old recipe that started it all. Junior’s began on the corner of Flatbush Ave Ext as a small business and now churns out over 10,000 cakes a day. 

Junior’s was founded in 1950 by Harry Rosen, an NYC native. Prior to Junior’s, Harry owned a chain of sandwich shops, the first of which was housed in the same space Junior’s landmark outlet is located today. Harry would go on to expand the original outlet, turning his Enduro brand into a full-fledged nightclub over the years. The outlet’s footfall would gradually dwindle as business fell and the chain soon closed its doors, leaving Rosen in a considerable amount of debt. Not one to give up easily, he remained adamant in his pursuit of open another restaurant on the famous corner. 

In 1950, he opened Junior’s, naming it after his two sons Walter and Marvin. Junior’s was a family restaurant that was modern in every sense: from bright neon signs and shiny wood countertops to the many naugahyde leather booths that would seat the restaurant’s patrons, the outlet was simply stunning to look at. The food didn't disappoint either, serving classic New York fare. The restaurant saw immense success from the day it opened its doors. There was one item on the menu that stood out from everything else - the cheesecake. Junior’s cheesecake came into its own during the 1960s when Rosen, a fierce competitor by nature, decided he wanted to create the best cheesecake in New York. 

He hired Danish-born baker Eigel Peterson to helm the restaurant's bakery. The two got working on perfecting a cheesecake recipe, seeing many trials and errors before settling on a recipe they deemed perfect. The recipe featured a vanilla cake bottom as opposed to the graham cracker crust most local bakeries used at the time. Their intuition proved to be correct as news of Junior’s delectable cheesecake spread like wildfire. The public and NYC’s elites drove down to the restaurant to get in on the action.

Junior’s was soon frequented by the city’s many famous politicians, actors, sportsmen, and authors. The restaurant would go on to see several major deals negotiated and important decisions made over a slice of its famous pie, a tradition that still stands today. Rosen oversaw the restaurant until his death in 1996, after which the mantle passed onto his sons Walter and Marvin. The restaurant is now owned by Walter’s sons Kevin and Alan. 

Junior’s has come a long way since its inception, making millions of cheesecakes every year and scaling up production impressively via a large scale bakery operation in the neighboring city of New Jersey, and transitioned from a mere restaurant to a brand. The company sells 19 different types of cheesecakes today, from the original cheesecake to modern innovations like the pumpkin cheesecake. 

Junior’s has been no stranger to adversity, from inflation affecting business (inflation had caused the cheesecake to cost twice as much to make) to supply chain issues during the pandemic. Covid-19 was hard on all hospitality businesses. Junior’s is one of the largest consumers of cream cheese in that country, and had no choice but to momentarily stop production following the great cream cheese shortage of 2021. Schreiber Foods, one of the biggest cream cheese manufacturers in the U.S., was hit with a cyber-attack right before the holiday season, forcing it to momentarily halt operations. That led to Kraft (makers of the Philadelphia cream cheese), Junior’s cream cheese supplier, facing heavy demand whilst they were facing ingredient and packaging shortages themselves. It took a few months of skillful management to normalize the situation. Junior’s was forced to cease operations till supply resumed, inevitably leading to a huge financial burden. 

The owners tried a number of methods to deal with this gordian knot: from automating traditional processes to expanding the supermarket menu and offering the rounds in different sizes. Fortunes finally turned as these led to a doubling of sales, with supermarket and retail sales accounting for approximately half of Junior's’ revenue. Despite the vicissitudes, Junior’s refused to change its recipe to cut costs     and stayed true to its heritage, a move approved by its legion of loyal patrons.