From the award-winning author of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer and The Jew of New York: a unique history of a beloved New York culinary institution that emerged in the late 19th century and had all but disappeared by the end of the 20th.
For The Dairy Restaurant, Ben Katchor retells the history of where we choose to eat—a history that starts with the first man allowed to enter a walled garden and encouraged by the garden's owner to enjoy it’s fruits. In this brilliant, sui generis book, Ben Katchor illuminates the unique historical confluence of events and ideas that led to the proliferation of the dairy restaurant in New York City. In words and his inimitable drawings, he begins with Adam, entering Eden and eating the fruits therein. He examines ancient protocols for offerings to the gods and the kosher milk-meat taboo. He describes the first vegetarian practice, the development of inns offering food to travelers, the invention of the restaurant, the rise of various food fads, and the intersection between culinary practice and radical politics. Here, too, is an encyclopedic directory of dairy restaurants that once thrived in New York City and its environs, evoked by Katchor's illustrations of classified advertisements, matchbooks, menus, and phone directory listings. And he ends on an elegiac note as he recollects his own experiences in many of these unique restaurants just before they disappeared—as have almost all the dairy restaurants in the New York metropolitan area.
“Delectable. . . . Obsessive, melancholy, and hungry-making. . . . This dense cultural and culinary history is reason enough to come to The Dairy Restaurant. But Katchor, who made his name in the 1990s with his weekly comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, and has won a MacArthur fellowship, has a sharp mind and a sly sense of humor. His words and his charcoal-palette drawings have a combinatory intelligence. . . . There is a moving memoirish aspect to The Dairy Restaurant. A perambulator, Katchor has always been expert at capturing the texture and sociology of vanishing aspects of city life.” —The New York Times
“Ben Katchor has captured the spirit of old Jewish New York in his graphic novels such as Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer and The Jew of New York. The Dairy Restaurant isn’t a typical graphic novel, though there is art. Instead it’s a fascinating hybrid format, part history/philosophy/rumination, part graphic imagery. . . . As in all of Katchor’s books, The Dairy Restaurant lovingly chronicles and restores a vanishing cultural fixture for us. This time, though, he’s added a thick lawyer of scholarship and though-provoking musings. He has served up a very satisfying dish here.” —New York Journal of Books
“Both narrowly targeted and searchingly broad . . . Rewarding . . . This graphic history shows again Katchor’s gimlet eye for curious connections and obsessive attention to detail.” —Publishers Weekly
"Ben Katchor sees into the life of everything he touches. The Dairy Restaurant is surely his capolavoro, an endless fund of news, digressions, wit, lore. He is a professor of the wayward fact, the lost particular, the hidden detail. Nothing fails to interest him. I want to sit next to nobody but him on my next international flight.” —Alexander Theroux, author of Darconville's Cat
“Colorful anecdotes, trivia, and food lore. . . . An informative, nostalgic evocation of a special urban dining experience.” —Kirkus Reviews