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Secrets of Junior's Restaurant

Secrets of Junior's Restaurant

Secrets of Junior's: Bowling alley beginnings, movie roles

sshh!  Here are some little-known secrets of our restuarant today.  Actually, they aren't secrets at all but well-known history.  There's a whole-lot of stories after 65 years in the same location. Gotta love Brooklyn!

original building

Junior's started as a "kosher-style restaurant"

When Junior's opened in 1950, the menu included many delicatessen favorites, from pastrami and Reuben sandwiches to stuffed derma (intestine stuffed with grains and meat with brown gravy) to "chicken in pot" (chicken cooked in water and served with matzoh balls and vegetables). Also on every table: pickles, coleslaw, pickled beets and peppers. But Junior's was much more than a deli, and did not adhere to any strict dietary rules.

"We served gefilte fish and crab meat cocktail, so go figure!" Rosen said.

As Harry Rosen used to say, "All you want, as you want it."


The menu changed with the times, because as a business, you have to, Alan Rosen said. Stuffed cabbage is no longer on the menu, nor is Chicken in the Pot or derma. And the pastrami? It's the number 1 seller, Rosen says. Some things never go out of style...



Credit: HBO

'Sex and the City' filmed there
Two New York institutions in one. In fact, Junior's is such a New York institution that Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big traveled out of Manhattan to have their wedding dinner there. The 2008 movie filmed on location at Junior's, and all of the major characters showed up.

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

"Doin' It" was filmed at Junior's
LL Cool J's monster hit "Doin' It" was filmed in part at Junior's in 1996. Directed by Hype Williams, the video features the Brooklyn girl emerging from Junior's and getting into the car of a Queens guy (LL). "I represent Queens she was raised out of Brooklyn."

During the filming, Alan Rosen got his photo taken with LL. This is a Polaroid!

Credit: Mort Kaye Studios/ Courtesy of Junior's

Fire wiped out the "Burgundy Room," a banquet hall in the basement
Junior's took over the bowling alley space in 1960 and converted it into a banquet hall they called the Burgundy Room. For 20 years, the space hosted weddings, birthdays, graduations and Passover seders. The Aug. 17, 1981 fire that destroyed Junior's, causing it to close for 9 months, effectively ended the basement event space's run. The restaurant was rebuilt, but the Burgundy Room was not. It is currently used for storage.

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

A bowling alley was once located in Junior's basement
Junior's now occupies the entirety of the building at 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension but at one point there was a secretarial school on the second floor and a bowling alley in the basement. Albee Square bowling alley featured several lanes and was a popular spot for more than 30 years, Rosen said. It closed in 1960. According to the book "Welcome to Juniors! Remembering Brooklyn with Recipes and Memories from its Favorite Restaurant," by Marvin and Walter Rosen (the sons of Harry):

"I can't tell you how many times over the years someone from the alley would run upstairs and tell us that another kitchen leak was dripping water down below. It got to the point that they'd have to hang buckets over the lanes to keep them and everybody else dry."

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

The street was renamed for the famous owner and his cheesecake
Harry Rosen died in 1996 and three years later Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed a bill that added the name "Harry Rosen Way - Cheesecake Corner" to the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue.

"Because of the legacy that Harry Rosen left to New York City and to cheesecake lovers all over the world, it is therefore fitting that the northwest corner of Flatbush Avenue and DeKalb Avenue be named, "Harry Rosen Way - Cheesecake Corner," the press release reads.

old bkery
Credit: Mort Kaye Studios/ Courtesy of Junior's

The Best Cheesecake in New York
In 1973, New York magazine conducted a secret taste test and crowned Junior's cheesecake as the best in the city, beating out Stage Deli and Ratner's Dairy. The recipe will never change.

"I'm not gonna be the schmuck who changes it!" Rosen said. "Cheesecake is our calling card."


"If you love something, it's not for sale..."
When the Rosen Family decided not to sell the building and air rights to the parcel of land that Junior's sits on, cheesecake lovers and old New York lovers alike gave a collective sigh of relief. But people were baffled. How often does it happen that real estate interests don't come first in NYC? Alan Rosen has said that the top offer they received did not leave room in the ground floor for Junior's, and that was why they decided not to sell. But he told me that even if the offer had come as they wanted it, promising Junior's it could move back in after it was finished, he still wouldn't have taken it.

"Even the thought of closing for two years was too much...People's patterns change," he said. "I've been coming here since I was four years old. I couldn't not be here. I think i'd be miserable."

Rosen said offers are still coming in, despite the very public move on behalf of the family to say they aren't for sale.

"We're gonna keep selling cheesecake and pastrami," he said.

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

Origin of the famous cheesecake...
The famous cheesecake recipe was created by the baker Eigel Petersen (pictured) and Harry Rosen. As Alan Rosen tells it, they sought out cheesecakes from all over, tried them, teased out what they liked and didn't like, and then created their own.

"My grandfather would buy stuff, try it and better it."

And since then, the recipe hasn't changed, not even slightly.

"Not one ounce," said Rosen.

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

Everyone eats at Junior's: politicians, stars, business men and "bosses"
Junior's is an institution and is visited by U.S. presidents (Barack Obama stopped by in October, 2013), candidates and dignitaries the world over. According to Rosen, in the past the restaurant attracted bosses of all kinds.

"I don't want to speculate... everyone hung out here. It was a place to meet, a place to be seen," said Rosen. "If you want to see a real slice of New York you've gotta come to Junior's. It's a mix of people: business men, politicians... even Biggie Smalls used to come here!"

Credit: Courtesy of Junior's

Junior's stepped up when the community needed them
One Christmas season during the 80s, one of the department stores on Fulton Street - either Macy's or Abraham & Straus - decided to discontinue its annual Santa visit, Rosen said. No local child should have to go the season without seeing Santa, the Rosen family decided, so they asked a waiter named Bill Williams to be Santa for a day. The line snaked down the block, Rosen said.

Credit: NYC Municipal Archives/ Courtesy of Junior's

Junior's was first Enduro's
Before opening Junior's on Election Day 1950, Harry Rosen operated five Enduro restaurants, named after a stainless steel manufacturer (the name had a certain ring that Rosen liked), including one at the site of Junior's in Downtown Brooklyn. The Brooklyn location wasn't the first Enduro's Sandwich Shop - several were already open in Manhattan. In February 1929, Rosen opened up on the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb, across the street from the famed Brooklyn Paramount Theater and close by the Fox Theater and the Albee Theater. In September, 1929, Rosen married his wife Ruth and took a honeymoon to Niagara Falls. When they returned, the stock market had crashed. The Rosen's decided to close their other Enduro locations and focus just on Brooklyn.

alan entrance


The original entrance was on DeKalb Avenue
Junior's used to share their current location with Smitty's Luncheonette, a small lunch counter that was located on the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb. In 1942, Junior's (then called Enduro's) took over Smitty's, which had its entrance on the corner. Junior's original entrance was on DeKalb Avenue, and is still used today though the main entrance is now on the corner. The original sign still proudly welcomes customers, as does Alan Rosen, grandson of Harry Rosen.

By GEORGIA KRAL December 24, 2014; amNewYork