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Feb 12, 2007 06:10 AM

Jewish "Dairy Restaurant?"

Can someone please explain the concept behind a Jewish "dairy restaurant"?

Did a quick Internet search, but couldn't find a really satisfying answer.

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  1. Not sure what you mean exactly, but Jews (who are kosher) are not supposed to serve milk and meat together. Hence the dairy service/restaurant/meal. A Jewish dairy restaurant wouldn't serve any meat products so that it's kosher. For some reason, according to Jewish law, fish (with scales, etc, no shellfish) can be served with dairy, so you will find tuna, salmon, pickled herring, mackeral, etc. in a dairy restaurant.

    6 Replies
    1. re: pescatarian

      Pescatarian, knowing you're a Torontonian, there are a few Jewish restaurants around the Lawrence/Bathurst area that specifically bill themselves as "dairy restaurants" - and I noticed the same turn of phrase in NY last weekend. I'm sure it does have something to do with Jewish dietary laws, but wondered a little more about this particular convention?

      1. re: Rabbit

        I think the term, whether in NY or TO, has the same historical significance. There are just more Jews in NY so, probably more dairy restaurants. Twenty/thirty years ago, you might have found more dairy restaurants in TO.
        I really don't think there is any other reason for this particular convention than the dietary restrictions that originated the need for them. I don't think most people frequent them today necessarily for the dietary reasons, but that's where the need for such a restaurant came from.

        1. re: pescatarian

          The original Yiddish is "milchika" or "milchadika" for dairy and "fleishika" or "fleishadika" for meat. Fish can be served with dairy but (for the traditional, at least) not with meat.

          The direct translation of "milchadika" is "dairy", so it became "dairy restaurant".

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            oh, das uber, you always know everything- the modern pronunciation of those yiddish words is "milchig" and "fleischig". And fish can always be eaten at the same meal with meat.

            1. re: fara

              I don't remember the why, but although you can eat fish at the same meal as meat, you cannot have them on the same plate or, for that matter, even use the same utensils.

              1. re: fara

                milchig and fleischig are also the terms in German (although Yiddish is derived from earlier German, not all terms are identical). Two of the Jewish people I am closest to are German-speaking - neither keeps kosher but are well versed on those issues. Of course one also sees the Hebrew terms - chalav is dairy; basar, meat. If I recall, the Hebrew terms are used in France, where there are roughly equivalent numbers of Ashkenazis and Sephardim.

      2. You'll also find many traditional Eastern European dishes such as blintzes, matzah brei, hearty vegetable soups such as lentil and bean, and things served with gobs and gobs of sour cream.
        The late Ratner's on the Lower East Side was a classic example.

        Fish may be served with either dairy or meat because it is parve, ie neither meat nor dairy. The parve caategory includes such things as eggs, vegetable, grains, etc. There is a tradition (not a law), though, of not serving fish and meat on the same table at the same time. So you would clear the gefilte fish appetizer off the table completely before serving the roast chicken.

        Try Googling "Ratner's" and see if an old menu pops up. That should help clarify the definition for you.

        1. To elaborate on pescatarian explanation, in a kosher Jewish home, because of the prohibition against mixing meat and milk it's very common to serve "dairy" meals, which exclude all meat or meat-derived ingredients (like broth, for instance). So there is a whole culture that has grown around dairy cooking - foods that are very heavy with eggs; cheese; picked or smoked fish; noodles; vegetables. A dairy meal might, for example, feature cheese blintzes (crepes rolled around a cottage cheese filling, then pan-fried), noodle or potato kugel (casseroles baked with various ingredients - sweet or savoury), gefilte fish (like a fish meat loaf, only poached) or other fish dishes - either cold platters or otherwise prepared.

          For a kosher restaurant to serve both meat and dairy dishes would be very complicated since it requires an entirely separate set of cooking facilities, plates and cutlery - and the separation of the two elements must be strictly observed. Most kosher restaurants are, therefore, either dairy or meat. If they serve meat, any "dairy" type ingredients will actually be non-dairy facsimilies. A kosher dairy restaurant will simply omit the meat ingredients altogether. Oddly - as mentioned above - fish can be served with either meat or dairy as it's considered a sort of neutral food. And, of course, shellfish is out of the question entirely.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            Exactly, thanks Nyleve.

            Also, to add there are certain times where dairy meals are traditional - i.e. breaking the fast on Yom Kippur - otherwise known in my family as the carb fest :)

            1. re: Nyleve

              There is a famous - and very popular - kosher restaurant in Buenos Aires (sure it has been discussed on either the kosher or South American board here) that is both meat and dairy - but it is actually a "dual" restaurant - two dining rooms, two sidewalk terraces (fenced in, with fence between them) and of course two kitchens.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. I remember being taken to a Dairy restaurant on the Lower East Side (most likely Ratner's) when I was very young. And it was as described by Rockycat, the term Dairy Restaurant at least in those days not only indicated that the restaurant limited its food to only Dairy products, but described a style that included the mostly traditional Eastern European dishes.

                More recently I had lunch at an Italian Kosher Restaurant in New York whose menu limited itself to only dairy or parve dishes. While this restaurant was kosher dairy it was not a Dairy Restaurant.

                2 Replies
                1. re: chazzer

                  The dairy products and Eastern European dishes go hand in hand given that the majority of Jews in NY and TO would have been of Eastern European heritage.

                  1. re: chazzer

                    Do you mean that if the cuisine is not Ashkenazi in origin, it is not a "Dairy Restaurant"?

                    I have seen a very similar expression used in Paris for a North African (Sephardic) restaurant. Obviously such establishments must also exist in Israel - such as the very popular pizzerias there. I have certainly seen kosher pizzerias in France that state "lait" or "laitier".