I’ve made no secret of my admiration for B & H Deli, a culinary gem in the East Village that consists of a lunch counter, a few tiny tables, and a crew of irascible waiters (years ago, there was a legendary waiter named Dave). A recurring diet plan of mine consists of eating soup there every day; indeed the place is most famous for its vegetarian soups served with wonderful challah made on the premises.
B & H is one of the few Jewish dairy restaurants left in town, and also represents one of the last vestiges of the days when Second Avenue in the East Village was known as the Jewish Broadway. (It’s meat-bearing counterpart was the Second Avenue Deli, which was emblazoned with mementos of its theater days, a place that should have been protected by restaurant landmarking if ever there was one.)
Anyway, instead of ordering soup the other day, I leafed through the menu until my eye fell on an unfamiliar entree in the Our Specials section of the menu, which also included blintzes and pierogi: potato knish with gravy, $3.25. Would it be a Coney Island square knish, or, the alternate formulation, the Yonah Schimmel style, streudel-type knish?
All heads at the Formica counter swiveled as the waiter carried my prize in, looking like a puffy British king’s crown. It was a gigantic mountain of pastry smothered in brown mushroom gravy. Wow! What a gutbomb, I thought.
With some difficulty, I cleaved it with my
sword butter knife, as my incredulous audience looked on. The crust was like a pie crust, but not quite as good, and the potato filling was nicely peppered, but lacked salt. The gravy was perfection, if you like gluey gravy. The function of this tuck-in is clearly to fill you up for the minimum amount of money, and I wondered if this knish architecture is unique to B & H.
As I swiveled off the stool, I thought sadly to myself, “I’m never eating this again.” 127 Second Avenue, 212-505-8065