The people who have brought the Pittsburgh area six iterations of Pamela’s have opened Squirrel Hill’s first Jewish bistro in recent memory — Nu, at 1711 Murray Ave.
It has been open for two weeks but yesterday was its official opening — an offering to media wretches.
I went looking for knishes. A late-September fire at Gabila’s, the oldest knish factory in the country, in Copiague, N.Y., has put the hurt on knish lovers throughout its distribution area, notably New York and New Jersey. According to the Associated Press, the fire damaged the machinery that makes the company’s biggest seller — “The Original Coney Island Square Knish.”
I have spent a little time trying to find out how the shortage was affecting Pittsburgh eateries and grocers, if at all. In searching likely carriers of knishes, I found two small local retailers and did not hear back from either one.
Of friends on Facebook who read my message — where can a body get a good knish in this tahn? — Saul Markowitz
of Markowitz Communications shot back an invitation to be at Nu’s press feeding Tuesday morning.
Pamela’s owners, Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith, who run a Pamela’s directly adjacent to Nu, consider this a sister venture, which will be operated by Pam’s sister Rise’ Cohen and chef Kelsey Sukel.
Nu, A Modern Jewish Bistro, will be open every day but Monday from 11a to 9p. The word "nu" means several things in Yiddish, including so? huh? what's up?
Kelsey said he was recruited while trying to get out of the restaurant business, but he succumbed: “I have always been a huge deli fan,” he said. “With such a large ethnic Jewish population in Squirrel Hill, this was a ‘duh’” proposition.
It is not a deli per se. And it is “more than Jewish,” he said. It goes back to tap the old universal methods of pickling and brining. The menu includes latke, kreplach (which I'm told is kind of liek a pierogi), Israeli salad, borscht, Jewish penicillin (chicken soup), babka and a sandwich called a Jewbano (a variation on a Cuban sandwich).
One of the specialties is Montreal smoked meat — beef brisket that is house cured [brined] for 10 days, smoked for 12 hours and steamed for three hours before it is hand sliced. A feature of the Nu BLT is crispy chicken skin instead of bacon, with a chicken liver pate schmear.
Oh, and they do have a version of knish — a reuben knishwich. I will probably fantasize about those at least a few times before I make it back
there. They make them on-site, so no factory fire shortage at Nu.
Pam and Gail wanted everyone of us to have more, so while we were eating, they brought around plates of more.
“Anyone want a Nu BLT?” Pam asked, hovering near the table beside mine, where a photographer for Table, the local food, culture and lifestyle magazine, said, “Why not? Life is short,” and Pam shot back, “This will make it shorter.”
What’s that old saying? “If you resolve to give up (fill in the blank), you don’t actually live longer; it just seems longer.”
Photos: Top, Rise' Cohen (crouching) and, from left to right, Gail Klingensmith, Pamela Cohen and Kelsey Sukel, partners of Nu, Modern Jewish Bistro... Middle: a plate with a knishwich (front right)... Bottom: a Montreal smoked meat sandwich