Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Diner: The Underrated Gourmet, also known as The Greasy Spoon

There are two kinds of diners in America. There are the ones exploiting that innate nostalgic quality particular of any thorough-bred American Institution in order to overcharge on soggy fries and burgers of questionable composition, and there are the ones that are the "real deals". By "real deals" I don't mean to suggest that these venues of gratuitous, overly greasy consumption are at all equatable to the points of their origin: covered lunch wagons serving foot-sore employees of the labor industry during the late 1800s. I mean only that there are some that doggedly retain a bit of this original integrity; their stools worn with the unmistakable indentation of the over-worked, exhausted girth of the Working Class Person.

The East Village happens to be one of the few, remaining New York City strongholds of such blue-collar business practices, with bustling streets still peppered by the finger-prints of a largely working class Ukrainian population. As the money driven evolution of NYC streets continues to sweep, though, the survival of all those kosher store-fronts balances precariously on their ability to straddle the divide between Yiddish and Yaris. B&H Dairy has managed to build a singularly imaginative bridge to this effect, becoming a comfort-food joint just as easily able to attract the most boisterous and barrel-chested of working men as the slimmest slack wearing of late-night artists.

B&H boasts a room that is only wide enough for a counter and three tables, but it still provides a generous amount of elbow room to those that find themselves routinely perched atop one of its eight-or-so stools. Simple and cheap, it remains absolutely true to the spirit of the American diner while maintaining some of its original, kosher integrity. I mean that it brings something new to the table (literally). The Macaroni and Cheese ($4.10) resides comfortably alongside the Matzo Brie ($4.50) and the Pierogis (4 for $5.00). The Lasagna ($5.50) gets chummy with the Kasha Varniskas ($6.45). The real queen bees of the whole bunch are certainly the home-made soups, though, starting with Vegetable and ending at Hot Borscht ($4.00 a bowl). With coffee and tea running at 80 cents a cup, and heaping sides of challah bread served underneath or alongside most dishes...what's not to love?

1 comment:

george said...

Your story reminded me of Myra's Dionysis located near the University in Cincinnati. Customers entering Myra's were greeted with an amalgam of aromas from the kitchen help preparing an eclectic menu. You are lucky that B&H is still around. Myra's was leveled under the name of urban renewal. It was my favorite place to eat.