August 10, 2015

Kosher Retro Tells a Story

I was intrigued by a discussion on Elan Kornblum’s Great Kosher Restaurants Foodies Facebook page on some of the early iconic kosher restaurants of the ‘70’s and before. There was some lamenting about those retro kosher restaurants, even one urging the Facebook participants to gather a group of investors and reopen Kosher Delight. The discussion brought back many memories prompting my own short list of restaurants that had long ceased to exist but had left many memories. For example, several of my friends proposed to their wives-to-be in the circular seats at the La Difference Restaurant, which was in Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel. I remembered the businesses meetings at Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant on the Lower East Side where the pierogis became a classic. While the famous yarmulkes with their Chinese strings in the middle made the Shmulke Bernstein’s on Essex Street staff easily identifiable, it was the experience of eating a boatload of deli and cole slaw at Shmulk’s that made going out such a treat.

The infatuation with Chinese Food carried over to Moshe Peking, which in those days was more “upscale” and that was before Shang-Chai came to Brooklyn in what was the destination for an advanced date. And that was all before kosher branched out to other thematic restaurants like Cheers with its Italian food or Rosenbloom and Rosetti.  Each of these eateries became part of the social milieu of the kosher household much like Meal Mart was for awhile the only takeout destination or Lou G. Segal’s as the classic kosher restaurant with their ravishing Matzoh Ball soup, chopped liver platter and stuffed cabbage supreme. Remarkably, all of this retro set the stage for what became the kosher revolution of the 2000’s. Although I kvell at the choices today and the degree to which they went upscale, I sometimes get homesick for those restaurants.