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In Praise of Dairy Restaurants

A visit to B&H Restaurant on Second Avenue brings back memories of milchig establishments of yore

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Eve Jochnowitz eats blintzes at B&H Dairy Restaurant on Tuesday, May 7.(Tablet Magazine)

B&H Restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village was once part of a neighborhood that vibrated with Jewishness. Yiddish theaters peppered the area. Ratner’s was down the street, and the 2nd Avenue Deli was just across the way. Opened in 1942, the dairy-only B&H has outlasted most of these joints—sure, the 2nd Avenue Deli remains but in a new location and not even on 2nd Avenue—with its blintz and pierogi offerings gobbled up by hungry customers in a classic, narrow diner space brightened by lime green walls.

Little has changed on B&H’s menu. So says Eve Jochnowitz, a lifelong Greenwich Village resident, Yiddish scholar, and Jewish culinary ethnographer, who has just finished translating and editing a 1930 Yiddish cookbook by Vilna restaurateur Fania Lewando. In anticipation of Shavuot, for which many of us indulge in cheesecake and other dairy delights, Jochnowitz joined Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry for a visit to B&H to talk about the history of dairy restaurants, their forgotten cousin the “appetizing store,” and the unexpected pleasure of a soup made with pickles. Jochnowitz also offers her favorite vegan alternative to the cheesecake. [Running time: 15:00.] 

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Larry Kerman says:

Interesting and appetizing! But are they now closed as their website says?

My favorite was the Grand Dairy Restaurant on Grand Street….long closed

Linda Vadász says:

I haven’t been there in about 35 years, but I can still taste their split pea soup!

AuntySemantic says:

There were dairy restaurants all over town. There was another Ratner’s on Delancey. Also Rapoport’s, Steinberg’s, Farm Foods and others. I also remember a place in Queens called Henry’s.

There was a well-known dairy restaurant on 72nd Street – frequented by Issac Bashevis Singer. I think it was called the ‘Famous’ – but am not sure. I grew up on the Upper West Side. Does anyone recall the name of the place? It was on the south side of 72nd – bet. Bdway and West End Ave. (it was near a well-known Chinese restaurant on that street – the Good Earth.).

Great report, entertaining and informative!

snessnyc says:

There was a wonderful, relatively upscale (a sit-down restaurant, not a counter) diary restaurant on 14th St. near 2nd Ave. Woody Allen used it in a scene from “The Front.” It closed in the very early 80’s.
And a note to Eve, Neptune Polish restaurant on First Ave (11th/12th) still serves a delicious potato pickle soup.

Howard Orenstein says:

In the 1950s, I remember eating in a Kosher dairy restaurant called Turk’s, located on Canal St., near Orchard St. Also, I remember another dairy place called Stolzberg’s. My father owned a dry goods store on Grand St. (near Allen St.) and when I went to his store on Sunday, we ate lunch at these places. My favorite things to eat, which everyone in the restaurant heard announced by a waiter called Max, were “Kasha Varnishkes, 2 pieces of rye bread, and one milk—chocolate!”

ajweberman says:

We would go to Ratner’s high on acid. The old Jewish waiters looked even more distorted than usual. They hated us with a passion.

Elaine says:

Sundays going to the Lower East Side was a treat. Eating at Ratner’s or Rappaport’s was so delicious. I believe it was at Ratner’s where there were bowls of chickpeas on the tables for noshing before your order arrived. Oh, the good old days! Just thinking about the great dairy dishes like the blintzes and the vegetarian liver make my mouth water.

The one on 14th Street was named “Hammer’s”, I believe

Ross Diamond says:

After listening to this podcast my wife and I ventured to B & H and it was AMAZING! Thank you for turning us on to this amazing find in the village/LES.

Faleen says:

I attempted to subscribe to Ms. Jochnowitz’s blog just now…it keeps asking for my google account and password and i really dont care to insert that… will not allow me to get past that point…and yes you are right, i should have posted this note on her blog in the contact her section…but although there is a place where it does say ‘contact me’, when you click on it, it takes you nowhere…so i am hoping that this will eventually reach her and perhaps i can subscribe more readily…thank you


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In Praise of Dairy Restaurants

A visit to B&H Restaurant on Second Avenue brings back memories of milchig establishments of yore

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