A Little Bite of Heaven

Photograph by John Gruen

Forget Levy’s. The best Jewish rye bread I’ve ever tasted came fresh from the ovens of The Garden Bake Shop, on Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, Queens. Fetching a loaf—with or without seeds—was the one chore my brother and I welcomed. This was the mid-1950s, long before there were bagel stores on every corner; in fact, I don’t recall bagels on the bakery’s menu. It was the beckoning smell of rye bread that lured us into the shop. If you were lucky, the bread was still warm when it came from the slicer. My brother and I had a ritual way of eating a slice as we walked home: first, we would punch out the center, sometimes even rolling it into a ball and nibbling as we walked. Then we would snap the circle of crust and feed it, like a long snake, into our mouths. Yeasty, chewy, endlessly satisfying.