Food treasures in New York City

“Rugelach By A Brother”

Mr. Alvin Lee Smalls

Mr. Alvin Lee Smalls

Rugelach, those crescent filled sweet pastry, are the best known and most popular of all Ashkenazic baked goods in America, according to Gil Marks, author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food  But some of the best in the city can be found at Lee Lee’s Baked Goods in Harlem. Its owner, Alvin Lee Smalls, who is also the baker, is known affectionately as “Lee Lee,” or “Mr. Lee.” He’s been baking for 50 years; first by running the bakery at New York Hospital and then 19 years ago opening his own bakery.

Scaffolding hides the front of Lee Lee's Baked Goods at 238 West 118th Street

Scaffolding hides the front of Lee Lee’s Baked Goods at 283 West 118th Street

While Lee Lee sells a variety of baked goods, people come from near and far for his buttery “rugelach by a brother,” as he calls them. Why rugelach? He told me that he saw a recipe in the newspaper many years ago and decided to give them a try. He baked them over and over again until he found just the right flavor and texture. He wouldn’t share his special ingredients but said when he retires he hopes to publish a cookbook and all will be revealed then.

Trays of apricot rugelach

Trays of apricot rugelach

Lee Lee bakes 3 flavors of rugelach — apricot, chocolate and raspberry — but call ahead to see what’s available on any given day. You can also order them online.

February 18, 2013 - Posted by | Food, stores, sweets | ,


  1. I wonder how the taste of a rugala baked by a “brother”
    compares with the taste of a rugala baked by a “Bubby”…

    Comment by Shirley Friedman | February 18, 2013 | Reply

  2. Come to williamsburg Brooklyn ny where the original Hungarian bakerys produce the real Rugelech and Kipelech. Can’t bebeat

    Comment by jacket | April 19, 2013 | Reply

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