The knish, it appears, originated generations ago somewhere in Eastern Europe. But you can almost hear the first knish maker planning it out: "What if we combined the bread and the potatoes?"
Today, it seems to me, the knish is the ultimate comfort food - an Atkins-busting medley of bread dough, mashed potatoes and occasionally extra goodies. At some delis, the knish remains mostly an afterthought. Not at the Knish Shop in Pikesville.
The small shop sits in a strip shopping center on a busy stretch of Reisterstown Road. A long deli counter runs the length of the room, which has a handful of tables and is painted in various shades of tan and beige. The deli offers several kinds of knishes each day as well as a large selection of sandwiches, soups and prepared dishes, much of it kosher.
On a recent visit, the service was pleasant and brisk. And the food, while not stellar, was plentiful and adequate.
First, of course, the knishes. The basic potato knish ($2.50) had a thick, golden-brown crust and was filled with a good amount of potato stuffing. A dab of mustard livened it up considerably. A mushroom knish ($2.50) had bits of chopped mushroom in the stuffing and was also good. The meat knish ($3.95) had only a thin pastry shell around a large scoop of slightly flavored ground beef.
We tried several other dishes as well. Chicken-and-rice soup ($2.50) featured a tasty broth and loads of rice, but not a trace of chicken meat, unfortunately. The tuna salad ($6.95) had plenty of onion bits and lots of fish but not much flavor. However, it did come with an impressive garden salad that included a nice selection of greens, olives, peppers and even some baby corn.
The oven-roasted brisket sandwich ($6.95) was quite good - a big pile of meat on tasty rye bread, with mustard. And the corned-beef sandwich ($6.95) was devoured by my 15-year-old.
From the shop's formidable selection of prepared foods, we settled on the herb-roasted chicken ($5.99 a pound), which was lightly flavored and perfectly fine.
The Knish Shop had only a couple of dessert offerings: kugel and apple cake, both frozen. The apple cake ($2.95) was a winner, a small concoction made with applesauce that ended the meal nicely.
There's parking out front.
Food: ** 1/2
Service: *** 1/2
Waiting area: ***
Where: 508 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Friday; closed Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Soups, deli sandwiches, salads and smoked fish from $2.50 to $9.95; credit cards accepted
Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *