Cheesecake Boss: Alan Rosen Recounts Three Generations of Junior's History
Sixty-four years ago, Junior's (386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn, 718-852-5257) owner Alan Rosen's grandfather Harry decided he was going to open a restaurant that served great cheesecake. So he went to a number of restaurants lauded for their baked goods, bought cakes, and took them to his baker, Eigel Peterson, to experiment. The pair tinkered with crust and consistency, eventually settling on a recipe that's still used at Junior's today, four decades after the Voice first declared it the best cheesecake in the city. "We're not just a restaurant, we're an institution," Rosen says. "I take that responsibility quite seriously."
Junior's via Facebook Alan Rosen, left, with his father and mayor Bloomberg
Rosen's family history on the Brooklyn block where the original Junior's still resides dates back even further -- Harry had owned a restaurant there as early as the '20s. It was part of a small chain of Enduros, and when the stock market crash and ensuing fallout of the Great Depression happened, it was the only location he held onto when he was forced to liquidate the rest of his assets. The Enduro eventually closed -- Harry later went broke again, but the tireless restaurateur resurfaced with Junior's.
And so began a true family business: Rosen's father and uncle skipped college to join Harry at work, carrying on the Junior's legacy of "great food, great cheesecake, and great service," Rosen says. "They were never trying to be what they weren't. That's what they did their whole lives."
The youngest Rosen got his own start when he was a toddler, when he'd help separate doilies to line the front pastry cases. After bussing tables and working in the kitchen, he took over the business (though his dad still stops by the restaurant), and he saw growth potential. So he built a small mail-order business especially for ex-New Yorkers who had moved elsewhere but craved cheesecake, and he expanded with outlets in Grand Central, Times Square, and at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut.
Sadly, the original Junior's location is up for sale, though Rosen says he hasn't yet accepted an offer. But he confirms that he's plotting another Brooklyn location nearby, this one slightly closer to Barclays Center -- and it'll carry on the Junior's tradition.