Revisit Schmulka Bernstein’s on Essex Street with this Classic 1970s Primer [VIDEO]

Posted on: December 21st, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Photo: Kino Library

For such an iconic restaurant, it’s quite a shame that there isn’t much publicly accessible imagery of Bernstein-on-Essex (aka Schmulka Bernstein’s). Don’t fret. Here’s one better.

Stock footage company Kino Library recently uploaded a short clip (0:38) shot in the 1970s, which describes the curious cuisine of Kosher Chinese food (and the phenomenon of eating it on Christmas), practically invented by Bernstein’s. It’s great to see the bustling establishment in its heyday.

The real Schmulka Bernstein actually ran a Kosher butcher shop on Rivington Street. It was his eldest son, Sol, who founded Bernstein on Essex in 1959 when he moved his Rivington Street delicatessen to 133 Essex. One of Schmulka’s granddaughters previously wrote the following in a Bowery Boogie guest piece:

Uncle Sol, in his turn, was the originator of kosher Chinese food.  For years, Bernstein-on-Essex was the only restaurant of its kind anywhere. It attracted observant Jews from all over the globe. Like our grandfather Schmulka, our oldest uncle became a man of note, an innovator, in the small circle of Jewish observance and then, later, in the somewhat wider circle of those who look with longing toward the Lower East Side as the Plymouth Rock of American Jewish life. Despite the ups and downs of Lower East Side economics, the restaurant continued to prosper until my uncle died in 1992.

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