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The Rise of the Dairy Restaurant in New York City 
The proliferation of restaurants serving an Ashkenazic-style dairy cuisine in New York City after 1881 can be attributed to the unique historical confluence of events and ideas.
The historically unprecedented growth and concentration of a Jewish population provided a ready base of customers with a knowledge of, and taste for, Eastern European dairy dishes. Within a few years of their arrival, some of the immigrants and their children had amassed enough capital to go into business for themselves. The restaurant business was booming in New York and as everyone ate and cooked at home thet felt they had the skills to enter this field. Their clientele, in the aftermath of the meat strikes of 1902, were happy to avoid meat all together and trusted that their landsmen would handle the dairy and parve foodstuffs according to their commonsense understanding of Jewish dietary law---professional certification was unnecessary. The clientele was also spurred by an awareness of the vegetarian and pure-food movements. The health giving and ethical benefits of a dairy and vegetable-based diet were popularized in the Yiddish and American press. The model for their new dairy restaurant was readily found in the omnipresent American dairy lunchrooms. Here was a decor devoid of Old World associations and organized on the scientific principles of sanitation and food handling. Finally, between June and August of 1906, the 𝘍𝘰𝘳𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘴 serialized a Yiddish-language translation by Abraham Cahan of Upton Sinclair's 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘑𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦---an exposé of the brutal and unsanitary conditions in the slaughter- and meat-packing houses of Chicago. Sinclair noted that his celebrity came about "not because the public cared anything about the workers [depicted in the book], but simply because the public did not want to eat tubercular beef."
According to Marcus Eli Ravage it was the Romanians "who, out of a complex desire to serve his stomach and his faith, brought forth an institution which has now become universal in America---the dairy lunch-room---which, owing to the exigencies of religion, was originally just what it is called, a place where nothing but the most palatable dishes built out of milk and milk products were to be had, and where no morsel that had been in the vicinity of meat could be obtained for love or money." ["My Plunge into the Slums," in 𝘏𝘢𝘳𝘱𝘦𝘳'𝘴, April 1917]
-- Ben Katchor / The Dairy Restaurant

Photo of busy Nassau Street looking south from Fulton Street in the financial district. March 3, 1926.

- bill 8-25-2020 8:42 pm [link] [14 comments]