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More on Those Ratner’s Buttons, From the ‘Flea Market King’ - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


More on Those Ratner’s Buttons, From the ‘Flea Market King’


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Ratners breakfastAmalie R. Rothschild Breakfast at Ratner’s

We’ve now heard more about those Ratner’s buttons being sold on Craigslist. The vendor, who mysteriously didn’t want to give a name and referred to himself only as the Flea Market King (he also sells the buttons at the flea market at Avenue A and 11th Street on weekends), said that he acquired 40 of the buttons a year and a half ago while he was cleaning out the estate of an electrician who did work at the restaurant – though it’s uncertain whether it was the Ratner’s on Delancey Street or the one on Second Avenue.

Selling for $20 each, the buttons have dwindled to about a dozen: 10 of them went to a Long Island restaurateur who was planning a Ratner’s theme party and turned them into cufflinks.

The Flea Market King, who grew up on the Lower East Side, said he doesn’t hear many stories about Ratner’s from his customers. In fact, he’s usually the one sharing memories. He was a customer at the Delancey Street location (he also worked as a bag boy at the Lion Supermarket near the Second Avenue location) and still lives in the neighborhood, as do the now-elderly children of some of the Ratner’s bakers.

“The Ratner’s waiters were in my opinion some of the dirtiest, most disgusting things around,” he recalled. “It was like they were doing you a favor when they’d throw the rolls down on your table. Whatever they had eaten that day would be stuck to their uniforms.”

According to the King, the waiters didn’t think twice about wiping the tables with dirty rags. “If they had letter grades back then, they would’ve probably gotten a C,” he said. “All the bakeries in the area were disgusting – you’d see mice running around in them. That’s the way the Lower East Side was.”

Still, the blintzes and potato pierogies weren’t bad. “The food was good,” he said, comparing it to Odessa and the bygone Kiev. “Some people hate that type of food, but I think it’s great.”