Boro Park Stories: Memories of Crown’s Deli and Catering
By Yehudit Garmaise
When Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, who passed away last week, was asked the somewhat over-asked question, “If you could have dinner with any three people alive or not, who would they be?” instead of giving the usual picks from Torah or history, Rav Feinstein, zt”l, simply said, “Three poor people, who need to eat.”
Tzipporah, who grew up in Flatbush, and who now lives with her family in Bensonhurst, told a story about her favorite Boro Park restaurant, which happened to facilitate Rav Feinstein’s idea of doing chesed every day while it was open from 1960 until approximately 10 years ago.
“For many years in Boro Park, there was a great deli called Crown’s restaurant that was owned by Aaron Rubashkin, a”h, and his wife Rivka, although, originally, it was co-owned with the Lieberman family,” remembered Tzipporah.
Boro Parkers probably remember the iconic royal blueback sign in the shape of crown with neon that did not work above its address at 4909 13th Ave., which now houses a gelato shop.
Although Tzipporah said the food was great, the prices were quite reasonable, and the atmosphere was warm, what really made Crown’s stand out was Mrs. Rubashkin, and how she warmly fed everyone who came into eat: whether they could pay the bill or not.
“Mrs. Rubashkin was a wonderful person,” Tzipporah said. “She stood there with her tichel. She was a warm Yiddishe Mama.
“The food was delicious. She made this cabbage strudel that she was known for, potato knishes, kasha knishes, and the apple strudel was excellent.”
But what made Crown’s truly unique was that Mrs. Rubashkin was an unbelievable baalas chesed, Tzipporah said.
“All the poor people in the neighborhood: the beggars, the homeless people could come in, at any time, and sit down in the front, not the back, and they ordered what they wanted,” Tzipporah remembered. “Whatever the people wanted, Mrs. Rubashkin served it to them with warmth. She had instructed all of her workers and waiters to do the same.”
After riding her bicycle down Ocean Parkway as a teenager, and stopping into Crown’s to grab a cold drink of water, which was always available in unlimited supply from the water dispensers at the deli, Tzipporah remembered that as she was refilling her glass, a woman, who looked poor, came to the counter and asked for a chicken for a Shabbos.
“’ The worker said, ‘Of course,’ and she got the chicken, and she wrapped it up,” Tzipporah said. “No money changed hands. Everybody knew: Crown’s restaurant, Mrs. Rubashkin, this was the place: she never said no. It was amazing.”
Although Tzipporah’s family did not often eat in restaurants, every once in a while, for a fun treat on a late Sunday afternoon, she remembered getting to go to Crown’s for a hot dog and fries.
Crown’s figured prominently in another tradition that Tzipporah warmly remembered, which was her family’s yearly trip to Crown’s on the night of Bedikat Chametz, that night when few Jewish women can deal with cooking at home.
But while getting supper without disturbing the kosher for Pesach kitchen on that night was a plus, Tzipporah said that the real reason she brought her own children to Crown’s that night was to get a bracha from Mrs. Rubashkin.
“We’d go over with the kids to her, and just ask for a bracha,” Tzipporah said. “She was so beautiful and heartwarming. She was such a real person. The Rubashkins were wealthy and had many businesses, but Mrs. Rubaskhin, wore a simple tichel, and she dressed simply and so modestly, and there were just no airs about her.
“It was just an inspiration to know her. Crown’s was not just iconic because of the good food, but because of the people who owned it who made it so special.”
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