My first job when I moved to NYC was at a bookstore in Greenwich Village, where co-workers raved about a tiny hole-in-the-wall a few blocks away called B&H — a Kosher Vegetarian lunch counter. Being a non-Kosher carnivore with an unworldly palate, I brusquely dismissed the rave reviews. I could not have been more wrong. Over the years, I learned to appreciate the joys of Eastern European comfort food, Jewish food in particular: challah bread, mushroom barley soup, stuffed cabbage, matzo ball soup, and so much more.
So, when I finally stopped into B & H Dairy one morning for breakfast — my favorite meal of the day — I was wowed. First off, it was a bargain: a pair of perfectly fried eggs, vividly seasoned home fries, thick-cut, darkly toasted slices of challah bread, tea and orange juice, all for $7. In a city that tends to have average breakfasts at higher than average prices, this one really stood out. I also picked up a loaf of challah for $6.00, which made outstanding French toast for the next few days.
Lunch is no slouch either. When I look at the specials and the list of soups, the phrase that comes to mind is “Jewish soul food.” A pierogies & cup-of-soup special is, for me, two sauerkraut and two potato & cheese, all fried, with sour cream, a cup of mushroom barley soup and a couple of slices of that excellent challah. On a rainy day, that soup is very comforting. Maybe it could use a bit more seasoning and a heavier hand with the dill, but I’ll get it again in a heartbeat.
B&H has been around since 1938. It looks like very little has changed since then. It really is a place that the neighborhood locals come for a square meal. It’s very small. During a recent visit, I was sitting at a table next to the wall and the counterman leaned over the counter — literally all the way across the restaurant — to hand me my bowl of soup!