Six Miracles of East Village Ungentrification
Click on any image to enlarge
Miraculously, lunch counter B & H Dairy remains, from the era when its stretch of Second Avenue was known as the Yiddish Broadway.
As a tribute to E.V. Grieve, the East Village's chronicler of closure and demolition, we present this collection of foodie landmarks that have remarkably remained open, despite the neighborhood's influx of soaring glass towers. Take a moment to savor a bite in these six gems. They may soon be gone.
1. B & H Dairy--This wonderful Jewish dairy restaurant--of which too few remain in the city--was founded in 1942, when this stretch of Second Avenue hosted a half-dozen theaters putting on plays in the Yiddish language for overflow crowds. In 2013, B & H remains a paragon of the meatless half of kosher Jewish cuisine, featuring cheese-squirting blintzes, egg sandwiches, savory soups, and some fish dishes--though still describing itself as "vegetarian." Sit at the long lunch counter, or at one of the tiny, tight tables, and be transported back in time. And the place remains wonderfully cheap, too. 127 Second Avenue, 212-505-8065
B & H's vegetarian spinach soup comes with homemade (and well-buttered) challah.
2. J. Baczynsky (aka East Village Meat Market)--This East Village Polish [correction: Ukrainian] butcher is all that's left of a cadre that included two other Eastern European butcher shops in the immediate vicinity, places where the bone-in ham was king and the cold cuts a damn sight better than anything peddled by Oscar Mayer. And don't forget about the rice-filled blood sausage, either, or the prepared foods: the mayonnaise-y salads, roast chickens, and bulbous kielbasas perfect for picnics; plus pastries, breads, berry jams, and bottled goods galore. Rumors of J. Baczynsky's demise are frequent, but somehow the meat ship sails on in a churning sea of frozen yogurt. 139 Second Avenue, 212-228-5590
You want smoked sausages? J. Baczynsky's got 'em!
3. Sapporo East--Nowadays, we take the East Village's Little Tokyo for granted, encompassing perhaps three dozen restaurants, sake bars, noodle shops, and grocery stores. But back in 1983, when Sapporo East was founded, it was nearly the only Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood (the only other one was Mie, on Second Avenue and 12th Street, now defunct), slinging bargain sushi, ramen and udon, and hot entrées like teriyakis, tempura, and katsudon. And it still does a magnificent cheap eats job of it.245 East 10th Street, 212-260-1330
Sapporo East's bargain-priced chirashi has been feeding East Villagers for 30 years.
next: three more gems
4. Veniero's--This pastry shop, all shiny marble and metallic surfaces, has been peddling Sicilian pastries for almost 120 years, and you won't be surprised to learn that Frank Sinatra was a regular. This place was dispensing espresso made by talented barristas way before the mass market thought of it. The pastries themselves are superb, especially the miniature tarts vended by the pound, filled with deep yellow custard and dotted with fruit. 342 East 11th Street, 212-674-7070
morrisonhotelgallery.com via Adam Kuban
5. Stromboli Pizza--Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Stromboli Pizza was one of a very few East Village eateries that were open after midnight, and it was a favorite of riotous rock musicians (above, the Beastie Boys in 1986) post-gig from clubs like CBGB, Studio 8, Mudd Club, Tier 3, and Stinky's (aka The Black Hole). The sauce was slightly on the sweet side (it still is), and the crust perfect of its type. Nowadays, as twee whole-pile places like Nicoletta and dollar slice joints like Two Bros. invade the area, Stromboli remains a bastion of great neighborhood pizza of the kind that was once available on nearly every corner.
Beloved of many, the iconic Stromboli slice
6. Moishe's Bake Shop--One of the few kosher institutions remaining in the East Village, dating from the 1960s, Moishe's is master of hamentaschen, rugelach, kuchel (pronounced "kickel"), and other pastries of Eastern European Jews. There's a savory side, too, with poppy-seed-bearing breads and bagels. And the staff couldn't be nicer. 115 Second Avenue, 212-505-8555
Moishe's sweet, crisp kuchel are the size of dinner plates.
Check out Our 10 Best Places To Eat on St. Marks
Follow me on Twitter if you dare! -- @robertsietsema
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.