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?