The Jewish Waiter R.I.P.

September 25th, 2014 § 0 comments

The old time New York Jewish waiter has disappeared. Nostalgia, of course, colors many memories of these flat-footed, bad tempered guys. They were not subservient. They did not introduce themselves: “My Name is Moisha. I’ll be your waitperson tonight.” They were not actors, directors, artists. They were career waiters and not happy about it. Most Jewish waiters disapproved of HG. At Gitlitz, located on Broadway and 79th, the best of all delicatessens, HG always ordered a sandwich that HG’s waiter considered an abomination: Pastrami and chopped liver on rye with Russian dressing. “You sure you want Russian dressing?” “Yes.” “Feh!!”, exclaimed the waiter. At the Paramount Dairy on W. 72nd Street HG would order warm gefilte fish in broth and wave away the proffered challah (egg bread). HG would accompany the fish with buttered onion rolls, undisturbed by critical glances. The Jewish waiter attitude was exemplified by a response HG received at Moscowitz and Lupowitz on the Lower East Side. “So, what’s good tonight?”. queried HG. “Whatever we got is too good for you.” The wonderful actor Fyvush Finkel, a stalwart of the Yiddish stage, was a long time customer at Cafe Royal on Second Avenue, the hangout of Yiddish actors, musicians, composers, directors, producers, press agents, playwrights, set designers and others connected with New York’s once vibrant Yiddish theater. Finkel always sat at one waiter’s table. He would watch some beautiful pot roast go by and order it. The waiter would shake his head. “Nem (take) deh chicken.” So, Finkel ate chicken. Went on for years. “Nem deh chicken.” Then Cafe Royal closed before he could taste the pot roast. Asked why he always sat at the waiter’s table, Finkel explained: “I am a masochist.”

Photo Credit: Rivka S. Katvan

Photo Credit: Rivka S. Katvan

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