The Dairy Restaurant. Hot Weather Refuge.

July 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments

Thoughts of ice cold borscht and steamy New York weather make HG recall those refuges from the heat: Dairy restaurants. Dairy restaurants obeyed Jewish dietary laws and served only “dairy” and “pavre” food.

They served borscht (beet soup), schav (sorrel soup), blintzes (rolled crepes stuffed with cheese or potato) , kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats with butterfly shaped pasta), potato pirogen (boiled potato and onion dumplings) and more. Big bowls of excellent bread, bialys, onion rolls — also called “pletzels” and copious amounts of butter. Big bowls of thick sour cream were there on the table to accompany every dish. There was fish (considered “parve” a.k.a. neutral meaning neither meat nor dairy) including many varieties of herring; tuna and sardine salads; gefilte fish with strong horse radish.

No meat. Emphatically no meat. Forbidden. A kosher enterprise could not serve both meat and dairy products.

Every Manhattan neighborhood had a Dairy restaurant (okay, not the Upper East Side). The Paradise and Steinberg’s were popular on the West Side. Ratner’s and Rappaport’s ruled the Lower East Side. Scores more in The Bronx and Brooklyn. All gone. Assimilation or changing tastes?

SJ reports only one traditional “Dairy” remains: B&H on Second Avenue. Long may it cool fevered brows and clog arteries.

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