B&H Vegetarian Restaurant (New York City)

*Picture from vegguide.org.

Here’s another New York Magazine’s best soups winner. NyMag is a great taste arbiter; believe what they say. I did a summer program at NYU, and B&H is conveniently right around the corner from St. Mark’s Place. There was an interesting combination of arty students and Eastern Europeans sitting at the counter in this small, dinerlike, low-key, kosher vegetarian Russian Jewish eatery.

B&H has VERY fast service. They first presented us with home fries: potatoes, cheese, green peppers, and spices. About two minutes later I got my recommended borscht from one of the eight pots of fresh soup they keep behind the counter. The borscht was a delightful shade of pink, and the cabbage was tart while not being too sweet or having that marinated taste. They put white pepper in it for flavor.

About three minutes after that my dad and I got our sandwiches. Mine was goat cheese on sweet, fat challah bread with vegetables. They stuffed the goat cheese into it very generously: I’ve been to other restaurants and seen them measure out ingredients, serving your cheese in meticulous little balls or slices and pressing them against the bread like war rations. Dad got a ton of lox in his lox-and-cream-cheese bagel sandwich. They served bright green, very fresh pickles with no noticeable vinegar residue on the side of the plate.

It’s easy to be mesmerized by trendy foreign-fusion restaurants that arrange your sparse entrees with the same discipline as a Bergdorf’s window designer. This serves the not-terribly-enlightening purpose of making their culture’s food about yours. That makes it easy to forget that there are places where people serve you their food the way they would eat it; filled to the max with the good stuff and as fresh as what they’d make for themselves. The public appreciates authenticity too: no stool remained empty for over a minute.

Rating: 8.5
Recommended Dish: Borscht
Atmosphere: Very Casual
Price Range: $7-$15 per person
Clientele: Everyone. It has lots of student appeal too, being cheap, ethnic, and right around the corner.

127 Second Avenue (between 7th and 8th Street)
New York, NY 10003

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