- This article is about the kosher restaurant in New York City. For the former British jewellery company, see Gerald Ratner.
|Food type||Jewish kosher dairy (milchig) restaurant|
|Street address||138 Delancey Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan|
|City||New York City|
Ratner's was a famous Jewish kosher dairy (milchig) restaurant on the Lower East Side of New York City. Since it did not serve meat in deference to the kosher rule about not mixing milk and meat products, it was often regarded as a complement to Katz's Deli.
Ratner's was founded in 1905 by Jacob Harmatz and his brother-in-law Alex Ratner, who supposedly flipped a coin to decide whose name would be on the sign. Ratner sold his share in the restaurant to Harmatz in 1918, and it remained in the Harmatz family from then on. Jacob's son, Harold Harmatz, took over the business in the mid-1950s, dying a year after the restaurant ceased operation in 2002.
Brunch was the main meal at the dairy restaurant, and up to 1,200 people were served daily at the peak of its popularity. Noted menu items included cheese blintzes, potato pancakes (latkes), hot onion rolls, and split-pea soup. Other key items were gefilte fish, poached salmon-in-aspic, kasha varnishkes, vegetable borsht and many recipes survive in print.
The original location was on Pitt Street in Manhattan, but the restaurant moved in 1918 to its better-known location at 138 Delancey Street, where it would remain until its closing. There was also a location on Second Avenue, operated by other members of the family. Until 1975, it was open 24 hours a day and therefore part of the late-night city scene popular with Jewish performers, actors, musicians, and gangsters. Entertainers Bill Graham, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Marty Allen, Eydie Gormé, Walter Matthau, Elia Kazan, Max Gordon[disambiguation needed], Groucho Marx, and Alan King were all regular customers, while gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky frequented the Delancey location.
Prior to the closing of the Delancey Street location, a back room at Ratner's was opened as a bar called "Lansky's Lounge," named after the then-deceased gangster who, according to Robert Harmatz, told the owners he was there so often that he deserved to have his own room. The lounge has since closed as well[when?], though another bar continues to exist in the space.
The Ratner's located at 111 Second Avenue, run by Abraham Harmatz, actually surpassed the Delancey Street restaurant in popularity for many years, especially during the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Lower East Side gradually became known as "The East Village" -- a hip and creative Mecca. In fact Sam Jaffe[disambiguation needed], the longtime night manager of The Second Avenue Ratner's, worked with Fillmore East impresario, Bill Graham, in stocking the Fillmore's mezzanine food concession with Ratner's baked goods.
A number of products are manufactured using the Ratner's name by King Kold, which owns the brand, including blintzes, crepes, potato pancakes, veggie pancakes, pirogies, matzo balls, and soups, which are distributed wholesale to supermarkets.
In 1975, Jacob's daughter, Judith Gethers, and her niece, Elizabeth Lefft, published The World Famous Ratner's Meatless Cookbook. Ms. Gethers authored seven cookbooks and assisted other chefs with their publications.
In popular culture
An exterior scene of Ratner's is shown in the movie The French Connection, where Angie and Sal Boca have a sunrise breakfast. Ratner's was also featured at the end of the "Christmas Waltz" episode of Mad Men, first broadcast on May 20, 2012. The exterior of the 2nd Ave. Ratner's is briefly visible in an episode of the "Naked City" TV show entitled "The Face Of The Enemy". The episode was shot in 1961.
- Kosher History, accessed December 5, 2006
- "Ratner's Closes, For the Last Time," LowerManhattan.Info. Dated December 16, 2004; retrieved August 25, 2006.
- The Back Room
- King Kold Frozen Foods, accessed December 5, 2006