The Jewish Waiter R.I.P.

September 25th, 2014 § 2 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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§ 2 Responses to The Jewish Waiter R.I.P."

  • jules Borrus says:

    Did he ever eat at Ratners ( Now Closed)? Oy! and the waiters wore gold jackets ,white shirts,black pants and black shoes. and bow tie to match. Every thing was good, never bad and always fresh so they told you.
    how ever the onion roll were the best and blintzes perfect..
    Ihen my father had to go into New York for treatment or exam st Mt Sinai Hospital, afterwards we My mother and father would drive down to Ratners have lunch and he would say best lunch I ever had out., and say to me better then those fancy resaurants uptown..

    Ah Memories.

    • Gerry says:

      I also have happy memories of Delancey Street and Second Avenue dairy restaurants. Potato pirogen, blintzes, kasha varnishkes, pletzels and bialys are tucked away in my memory bank.

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