Though I’ve only recently moved to New York, I’ve been lucky enough to make a great group of friends. And by great, I mean they love food as much as I do. The conversations I have with my foodie friends obviously revolve around food; places we want to try, places we’ve been to, foods we’ve loved and hated, etc. Our love of food has sparked many innovative ideas, which have unfortunately amounted to nothing. Maybe we’re lazy, but even our best ideas haven’t motivated us to leave our jobs and dedicate our lives to making it happen.

The Schnitz Begins

But two siblings believed in their idea enough to do just that. What started as a simple conversation, and joking about opening a restaurant, led to 4 successful seasons at Smorgasburg, as well as opening an actual restaurant in the East Village last year. Who’s laughing now?

Sibling duo Yoni and Donna Erlich, along with their friend Allon Yosha, had aspired to open a restaurant for years. Finally in 2009, they teamed up and decided it was time to take their love of food and realize this dream. With little information or experience besides knowing they loved food and knowing there was a “Schnitzel void” in New York, they educated themselves completely. They did all the research they could by attending restaurant shows, reading books, talking to chefs, consultants, and many in the restaurant industry until they felt confident.

Getting the Call

Through their research they found Smorgasburg and saw it as an incredible opportunity to bring Schnitz, their small business, to a huge audience. Only ten minutes after their audition, they got the call they had dreamed of, letting them know they had been accepted to Smorgasburg. Now came the hard part – actually making Schnitz a reality. Yoni describes that first week as a “Smorgasburg of mistakes,” but a tough week couldn’t stop them. And three successful seasons later, and an invaluable number of lessons learned, Yoni was set on continuing the success.  “At the end of the day I love busting my ass. Yes it’s stressful, but there’s nothing better. I’ll never not love that feeling. I first got that feeling at Smorgasuburg. I went home that first day so full of emotion, of pride, and of happiness. That was when I knew I wanted to do this and that I could do this. I was working hard and people were liking it.”

After those three seasons, Donna and her brother got serious about finding a space and pinpointed the East Village as the place to be seen in the Manhattan dining scene. It has its own personality, which Yoni admits they had to somewhat adapt to once they moved in. It was important for them to be mindful of that and accordingly they broadened the menu. Fortunately, their new chef at Schnitz was masterfully able to take their original three sandwiches and create a vast menu that continues to evolve.

So what’s it like working with family?

First and foremost, trust is the most important factor, says Yoni, which he is lucky enough to have with his sister. “Of course there are the typical sibling nuances, and there’s no holding back when something is on your mind, but at the end of the day we are able to make it work, and then some.” Plus, they know their strengths, which they stick to. Donna has so much passion and is the real the “go-getter” of the two, keeping her eyes on the prize through it all. And Yoni describes himself as more of the operations guy, “I just get shit done.”

A photo posted by Schnitz (@schnitznyc) on

Through the years they’ve also built an amazing team of employees. Yoni believes in the team he has created because he knows they believe in the Schnitz. “Their faith in the product has built a beautiful foundation. These people want to grow with us and be there with us for it all.”

What’s next for The Schnitz?

Feeling confident after successfully being open for a year, Yoni and his team at Schnitz have no plan of stopping now. And this month they’re introducing a brand new breakfast menu, which will include their version of pretzel bread avocado toast and French press coffee.

Located at 177 1st Avenue

For more information about Schnitz check out their website

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About The Author

Profile photo of Julie
Healthy Eater

Southern girl at heart, minus the fried food. Fresh on the NY food scene, hungry for a healthy way to live in this food capital.