Long before the East Village was NYU undergrad territory, there was B&H. The staple Ukrainian diner, mustard-vinyl awning and all, has been serving challah, blintzes, and mediocre coffee since 1938 -- and it shows no signs of slowing down. Often home to a slew of solo countertop diners, or a lively crowd of post-bar revelers, gathered over pierogies at one of the narrow spot’s six available tables, the place has become an institution of the neighborhood. The wait staff is uncannily capable of remembering faces (and orders), so it’s likely that after your first plate of potato pancakes, you’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
Stationed on St. Marks place, just blocks from the 2nd Ave F/M station, the unassuming diner is typically busy, but unlike most breakfast locales in the area, there will not be a 7-hour estimated wait time for your table -- even on a Sunday. In fact, rather than bother with a table at all, we suggest you take a seat at the old-school formica counter. From your cracked pleather stool, which has likely been sitting in its exact spot since the ‘40s, you’ll get the best possible view of the chef while he ladles steaming matzo ball soup into bowls.
Most diners will have something on the menu that runs for less than $5, but unless you’re looking for a hard-boiled egg or a hefty plate of French fries, few things will satisfy your midday hunger like a steaming bowl of B&H’s homemade matzo ball soup, served with a stack of warm, house-baked challah. The soup is entirely vegetarian, prepared with vegetable broth, mixed carrots, onions, and herbs, and of course, enormous doughy balls of matzah and egg -- though the staff likes to call it “chicken without the chicken.” The soup, which is inarguably one of the best, cheap, cold-weather lunch options in the area, is well worth the $5 price tag -- though once you begin to talk to Mike (the place’s usual counter officiate), odds are you’ll feel compelled to leave a handsome tip.