Junior’s: Tourist trap or historic Brooklyn destination? Since it opened as a Kosher-style restaurant on Flatbush Avenue in 1950, Junior’s has expanded into a mini-chain with two locations in Times Square and another at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. Expansion aside, the original Brooklyn location still has a lot of heart, thanks to its friendly staff, its endless menu, and of course, its famous cheesecake. If you’re playing tour guide to some out-of-town visitors or just planning a tourist-in-your-own-town Brooklyn staycation, we’d recommend a stop at Junior’s—especially if you’ve got kids in tow.
No matter how old you are, this deep crock of mac and cheese really hits the spot. Their classic take on the dish, with creamy elbow noodles under a sprinkle of crispy breadcrumbs, got two thumbs up from our 8-year-old macaroni and cheese connoisseur. The kids menu also includes some tasty chicken fingers, grilled cheese, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, all served with generous helpings of fries. A kid-sized portion of linguini marinara or silver dollar griddle cakes is also available for the child who prefers pasta or pancakes.
The moment we sat down, our server brought us a basket of bread and a bowl of rugelach, just so we could do some complimentary carb-loading while we perused the menu. Our kids were greeted warmly with coloring pages, crayons, cups with straws, and chit-chat from the staff. When our server noticed that our 4-year-old was shyly checking out the rhinestone-encrusted, Minnie Mouse-ears phone case that was sparkling from her apron pocket, she smiled and slid it across the table to give our daughter a better look. Watching my daughter’s eyes light up, and listening to the elderly gentleman laughing over sandwiches at the nearby bar seating, it seemed clear why this restaurant has withstood the test of time. Above all else, it’s just a welcoming place.
The Junior’s menu spans from disco fries and Buffalo wings, to potato pancakes and pastrami sandwiches, to fried chicken and a breakfast menu that’s served all day long. It’s comforting, upscale diner food, with a couple of unexpected dishes in the mix. My husband ordered the (giant) lunch portion of Jamaican jerk chicken, which cost a hefty $18.75 but lasted for two meals. It wasn’t the most authentic, deeply spiced jerk chicken in the borough, but flanked with collard greens and coconut rice and beans, it’s made a solid lunch option for a big appetite. On the (slightly) lighter side, I opted for a bowl of French onion soup. Topped with a giant rye crouton that melted into its rich, salty broth under a canopy of melty, stringy Swiss, it was a very satisfying way to spend $8.75.
Despite the oversized portions, you’ve somehow got to save room for a slice of Junior’s iconic cheesecake, which comes in a wide variety of flavors, including chocolate swirl (pictured above), raspberry swirl, red velvet, black forest, and brownie explosion, to name a few. In each variety, Junior’s classically sweet, dense, cream-cheesy cake sits on a sponge-y, cake-y crust. If you’re a cheesecake fan, it’s a must-try, but even if you’re not, there’s something so enchanting about the cheesecake-filled glass cases near the restaurant’s entrance. I had to hold my kids back with one arm as I kneeled down to snap some photos, but I completely understood their impulse to press their little noses against this dreamy, destination-worthy pastry case.
Junior’s, 386 Flatbush Avenue EXT, Brooklyn, NY 11201