Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Helene D. Grossman (Part 2)

1. What was your impression of running Dubrow's, for Irwin and for George? Did it seem to bring them joy? Did it seem stressful? Which store(s) did they run and for how long?

"Irwin stepped up to the plate to run Seventh Avenue, and our family’s interests in Eastern Parkway and Florida, after George’s death. He had worked there prior to that but was not at all set on committing to the restaurant business as a career, despite having majored in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at Cornell. I believe his reluctance was due to a number of factors typical of Jewish sons in the 1950’s, including wanting to apply newer management models and other knowledge that they has acquired in college to their family business with their dads not being convinced this was needed and in Irwin’s case, issues relating to the fact that George was somewhat of a legend in the field.

Nonetheless he ran Seventh Avenue, and together with Irving Kaplan acquired Toby’s Cafeterias (3, I think) in Miami in the 1960's, which Irving ran. [Note: Toby’s were in non-Jewish neighborhoods and served Southern style food, with favorites being chicken dumplings and black eye peas.]

In the mid 1960s Irwin opened Dubrow’s Takeout Shop (exact name?), on Third Avenue and 74th Street in Manhattan, which Leonard [Irwin's brother] ran. It offered many packaged, prepared foods for which Dubrows was known but it was just a bit ahead of its time. That area and all around NYC is now filled with that type of prepared food take out shops. Irwin subsequently opened, ran and expanded Alfie's restaurant at that location. Irwin came to enjoy the business more as time went on but differently than George. It was not his whole life to nearly the same extent as it was George’s. Irwin ran the Seventh Avenue cafeteria and Alfies until his death in 1970.

Irving Kaplan and Paul Tobin purchased the Seventh Avenue cafeteria in 1971(?), with Paul running the day to day operation, and Irving’s oversight and active involvement in all management decisions and regular on-site participation about every 6-8 weeks. The property was purchased by the bank adjacent to the cafeteria, which planned to expand/build a garage, and the cafeteria closed. The expansion/garage never went forward and today, an OTB parlor is on this site!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interview with Helene D. Grossman (Part 1)

I caught up with my cousin Helene a couple weeks ago, and she graciously took the time to answer some questions about Dubrow's for me, in a somewhat formal written interview. I'll be posting her responses over a series of posts.

Just for reference: Helene is the daughter of George Dubrow, sister of Irwin Dubrow, and granddaughter of Benjamin Dubrow, all of whom managed Dubrow's at different times.

1. What was your impression of running Dubrow's, for Irwin and for George? Did it seem to bring them joy? Did it seem stressful? Which store(s) did they run and for how long?

"For George, Dubrow’s was his life. He loved every aspect of running the “stores”. George had an incredible joie de vivre, was very much a people person and enjoyed interacting with his employees at all levels as well as with his customers. He shared their happinesses, trials and tribulations and lent his ear and advice and often, financial support. I still have a ring that a customer gave him in appreciation of his kindnesses. His measure of quality control was a random tablespoon of prepared foods, especially his favorites, before they left the kitchen…he was a bit rotund and we all thought this was his best excuse not to stick to a diet! He was not a morning person, and usually went to work at around noon, staying until midnight, the exception being most Friday nights, when he came home for dinner, under duress from my mother, usually returning to work after that. George’s personal and business philosophy was that you are only as good as tomorrow, not yesterday. I suspect that fed his drive for success. There certainly were stressful situations at times, particularly dealing with the unions….I think there were 6 or 7. "

She goes on to provide some more detail about George's history at Dubrow's, which I found very helpful:

"George opened and initially ran all of the cafeterias which included Dubrows Eastern Parkway (Utica Avenue), Dubrows Kings Highway ( 16th St), Dubrow's Lincoln Road (Miami Beach), Dubrow's Seventh Avenue (Manhattan) and Dubson's Restaurant (on Utica Avenue around the corner from Dubrows Eastern Parkway Cafeteria). "

Much more to come - about Irwin, about Max Tobin, and more! Stay tuned.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Reader feedback (Danny, GK)

Lately, I've been hearing from a lot of people about the various Dubrow's foods they miss. It's all about the food, which makes sense, since first and foremost, Dubrow's was a restaurant. But if there's one thing we've learned in the past three and a half years I've been keeping this blog, it's that it's so much more.

Danny Karron writes:
"Our (my brother Abe and I) dad Edward Karron was (best?) friends with Irwin Dubrow. My brother and I were ruminating if we could id Irwin from a bunch of wedding pictures Abe had scanned. I found you from the Dubrows Cafeteria wiki entry which pointed to your web site. I'm getting hungry just thinking about the place. I think I still remember the stuffed cabbage or the Blintzes. I'm getting indigestion thinking of them at the same time."

GK commented on an old post:
"My favorite was the cheese blintzes with sour cream. I have never had better. My sister would always get the cottage cheese and sour cream with vegetables. I also loved making lemon soda with the seltzer water dispenser and free lemons from the fish counter."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dubrow's Photo

This is another photo taken by the always amazing Marcia Bricker Halperin. It's on display in what looks like a fantastic exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

Update: In the past three or four days, I have spoken to Helene and Leonard Dubrow, children of George Dubrow and siblings of Irwin Dubrow. I have also heard from my cousin Geoffrey Green, on the "other" side of the family...all of whom wanted to let me know that this exhibit and in particular, this photo, was featured in the New York Times this week. I am delighted that it is getting such good coverage and attention - and I am thrilled that of all the photos Marcia took for the exhibit, the Dubrow's photo was selected for the article. What wonderful attention it has brought to the memory of our beloved Dubrow's.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More reader feedback (Sue)

Received another email a couple days ago:

"My father who is 84 was born and raised in Brooklyn. He often reminisces fondly about Dubrow's and the shrimp salad he ate there with his friends. Evidently your great grandfather's restaurant plays a large part in the happy memories of many people, something which I am sure you are proud. I was wondering if you had access to the recipe for shrimp salad served there. I would like to make it for Father's Day for my Dad. He thinks it had mayo, vinegar, cream in the dressing. Thanks so much!!"

Anyone recall the Dubrow's shrimp salad recipe?

I would love to track down or hear from some of the cooks at Dubrow's, and put together a collection of recipes for popular dishes. Over the years, there have been a number of requests for recipes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More reader feedback (MacKenzie)

More feedback from a reader! I love hearing from people.

MacKenzie Allen writes:

"Hi, there...I found my way to your website while looking for old photos of Dubrow's. I was telling my wife and friends about it. I grew up in Brooklyn (1940s--50s) and lived at Avenue "O" and East 16th St...a few blocks up from Dubrow's. When we were kids at Cunningham Jr. H.S. we used to go there on lunch hour. A real treat was to "take out" an order of french fries in a brown paper bag. We'd put ketchup in the bag and shake it around to distribute it. Messy, but delicious. It was always a treat to go to Dubrow's...great memories of a far better time."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Questions from readers

Jeff writes with recollections and a question about the Miami Beach Dubrow's Cafeteria. I know very little about this, but I thought I'd see if anyone else did. I'm pretty sure I remember going to Dubrow's on Lincoln Road, but honestly, I was so young (I was 12 in 1985 when the last Dubrow's Cafeteria closed for good) I could be mixing up Manhattan and Miami, since I went to both places at different times in my childhood.

Jeff writes:
"I found your blog site while trying to research the Dubrow's located on Lincoln Road in the 1950's through sometime in 1963 (?).

I'd moved to Miami Beach as a youngter when my family relocated from Brooklyn around October of 1963, and at that time the Dubrow's on Lincoln Road was closed and had a "Bankrupt" sign hanging on the inside of the doors. A couple of years later, the location reopened as "New Dubrow's, Inc."

Did your family reopen it, or was it run independent of them?

Also, a dear, departed friend of mine was in the sign business down here since 1948. He did work for the Lincoln Road Cafeteria - the original name of where Dubrow's ws located. Did the family purchase that location, or originally run it as the Lincoln Road Cafeteria?

Also, Marcia has a question about the picture of Kennedy in front of Dubrow's:
"I believe this photo of Kennedy was taken on the 16th Street side in front of Craig's Bake Shops which was across the street from Dubrows. Maybe they had the rally on the side street or brought Kennedy into Dubrow's through the kitchen entrance which was there. Can Ms. Cohen confirm this? My mom says she remembers my Dad went to see Kennedy there that night. "

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kennedy with Max Tobin

Sanda Bragman Cohen, the woman who mailed me the photos of Kennedy at the King's Highway Dubrow's, had this to say about the photos:

"They were taken by a photographer hired by Max Tobin who owned Dubrow's on Kings Highway. He is the man standing behind President Kennedy. His wife was Minnie Dubrow Tobin who was Sylvia Kaplan's sister. Minnie Tobin died in 1957. My mother, Mary Bragman, is the only woman in the picture. She married Max Tobin in 1968 when my father had been dead for four years. My father is the man that can only be partially seen standing behind Max Tobin. The photography studio was named Renard and it was located in Brooklyn. As far as I know the pictures were not copyrighted by anyone. They belonged to Max Tobin, because he paid for them. They were given to me by my mother just before she died. Until then they were in her home. The pictures were taken in October, 1960 when Kennedy was campaigning. Many politicians made a stop at Dubrows because it was the most popular place in that neighborhood (Flatbush), but I do not have any other pictures. The two men sitting next to Kennedy were Brooklyn politicians, and I used to know their names, but I have forgotten. Standing behind my mother, kind of in the shadows, is Carmine DeSapio (he is the man with the sunglasses) who was a powerful politician at the time. I remember that Kennedy wanted a steak and salad for dinner, which was provided for him. It was not the usual Dubrows food. I also remember that my mother was answering the special phones that had been connected for Kennedy and in that picture she is handing him a message from Robert Kennedy. My parents wanted me to have my picture taken with Kennedy, but I was fifteen and had a pimple, so I refused. Needless to stay I lived to regret that decision. However, I did wear a campaign button that said, "If I were 21 I would vote for Kennedy." I would have too!"

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

JFK campaigning at Dubrow's

Several other readers have talked about their recollections of JFK campaigning at the King's Highway Dubrow's. Reader Sanda Cohen has submitted a couple fabulous photos which commemorates this event. This is the first of those photos.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More reader feedback (Darryl)

I've been getting a bunch of emails from readers, which is just fabulous. I can follow the stats as to where people are when they're reading, but I have to hear from you to know WHO you are, and what Dubrow's means to you.

Darryl writes:
"My friend Marty and I would spend many a Friday night at Dubrow's on
Kings Highway. My particular favorite was the vegetable cream cheese
on a bagel. The counterman would dunk the bagel into a tray full of
chopped vegetables that would then stick to the cream cheese. One
night we met an elderly woman named Libby Siegel who had the peculiar
ability to spell any word backwards. We tried to trick her with extra
long words but she never missed.

When I was younger I did go the the Dubrow's on Eastern Parkway and
Utica. Unless I am mistaken, I drove by that corner about ten years
ago and saw a Dubrow's sign still hanging on the Utica Avenue side of
the restaurant. It was an art deco style possibly made of glass . It
was surrounded by all the billboards of the newer stores and was
barely viewable. I wonder if it is possibly still there.

If there are any artifacts around from the restaurant I would
certainly love to be able to get one. I did have one of those white
sailor type hats the countermen wore. The picture of the tray brought
back some memories.

Thank you. My life in Brooklyn during the fifties was a special time
for me and Dubrows was a nice part of it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

More reader feedback (Marty)

Received another email recently, this one from Marty:

Hi Eve,

I was taking a little trip down memory lane and decided
to google Dubrow's. Your great grandfather had a
great cafeteria. I frequented the Dubrow's on Kings
Highway in Brooklyn for many years with my friends.
We would meet late at night for something to eat after
we took home our girlfriends. Sometimes we would just
go there late on a Friday night if we had nothing else
to do. We were in our twenties, while most of the
people there were senior citizens. The seniors loved
it there. It was a place for them to go if they just
wanted to talk to someone. We would hang out and talk
for an hour or two before heading home. Dubrows had
the best rice pudding! I moved out of Brooklyn many
years ago, but still have fond memories of Dubrow's

After I got married, I found out that my wife's late
uncle was a counter man at Dubrow's for many years.

Thanks for the website. It brought back nice


Thank you, Marty, for reading and for sharing your memories! I love hearing from people.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A request from a reader (Joe)

I received an email from a reader. Joe asks about another cafeteria very close to Dubrow's:

Yes, it was called the "Famous Cafeteria" and it was very similar to Dubrows, but it was located in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn on 86th St. and now I see that it was located directly across from Dubrows...Maybe you can post a request in your blog?

Here's a quote from another Brooklyn Blog....

"And diagonally across the intersection from Dubrow's was the Famous, a dairy restaurant where delicious dishes like perrogies and sour cream were served. What would today's nutritionists say about that. Better yet, what would they say about "gribbinus" (transliteration), a delicacy made from fried chicken fat. "

Anyone have any more information about Famous Cafeteria to help Joe out?

Amoeba-like architecture

Found this in another New York Times article:

"It is no accident that it took more than a generation for Art Deco architecture to be appreciated, and similarly, this is why such 50's extravaganzas as the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach seem far less disturbing now than when they were new. It is not perverse taste, it is that they have become a part of the landscape we expect to see, and thus derive a curious kind of comfort from. So, too, with such an oddity as the interior of Dubrow's Cafeteria on Seventh Avenue in the garment district, which has those swirling, amoebalike shapes characteristic of 50's interiors. I walked past it the other day and was shocked to realize how that room, long an object of derision, is beginning to take on a certain appeal."

(Paul Goldberger, New York Times, July 30, 1981)

It's interesting to go back and see how differently things were perceived at different times. I don't think people would think the architecture at the Dubrow's in Manhattan is particularly unusual today. But clearly back then, at least this guy thought it was odd. And of course this is what he's saying - but now, over twenty years later, I think this just proves his point even more.