Cheesecake Mystery Unraveled

We finally got through The Times’ story on Junior’s cheesecake mystery and think it comes down to this: a guy in Florida whose dad opened a chain of Junior’s restaurants says that Brooklyn’s Junior’s licensed the name, decorating style and cheesecake recipe for $100 a year back in 1950.

But it’s not surprising that two restaurants were named Junior’s or that two restaurants, whose founders were Jewish and grew up in New York, served cheesecake, so where is the proof? Hey, we love these speculative stories about the origins of everyday items but would like a little reason to believe.

The story ran with a photo of the Florida guy, Jeffrey Horowitz, with his brother, Steve, in front of the Brooklyn Junior’s. But the brother isn’t even quoted in the article backing up the claim.

The only hint of corroboration comes from the son of the founder of Brooklyn’s Junior, Walter Rosen, who at one point says, of the $100 licensing fee, “I think he might be right.” But at another point he says that none of the Brooklyn restaurant’s operations came from Miami.

If this guy Horowitz is right, it’s awfully odd that the same cheesecake recipe would do so well in New York and so poorly in Florida. We only found one article in Nexis mentioning the Florida Junior’s cheesecake: a Miami Herald obit of Arthur Horowitz on Feb. 3, 2003. But the cheesecake was described as “fruit-topped,” which is funny because the famous Junior’s cheesecake doesn’t have any fruit on it–maybe a strawberry or two.

The Florida Junior’s (the younger Horowitz say there is no apostrophe; contemporaneous newspaper articles are inconsistent) was established in the late 1940s and then was sold to a larger chain and went out of business. When Arthur Horowitz, whose father Harry was a partner in the New York chain of Willow and Stewart cafeterias, opened a take-out business in 1995 recreating some of his famous dishes, a May 4, 1995, Herald article describes the menu:

… brisket of beef, Hungarian goulash, stuffed cabbage, roast turkey, lamb shanks. The cooler sections feature a dozen varieties of soups, vacuum-packed to stay fresh in the refrigerator for three weeks; fresh salad dressings; rice pudding; blintzes; creamed spinach; orzo with mushrooms.

Nothing about cheesecakes. Apparently, everyone went on a diet.

Matthew Schuerman Cheesecake Mystery Unraveled