Retro Brooklyn : Vegetarian Ahead of Its Time

| April 24, 2013

vegetable cutlet

Brooklyn, as well as the Lower East Side of Manhattan was known for having Jewish dairy restaurants.  Many of us remember Ratner’s and Rappaport’s. This genre grew out of the Jewish dietary laws that require the separation of milk and meat, and were known for serving Eastern European favorites like cheese blintzes, falafel and innovations such as; vegetarian lasagna, as well as other pasta dishes served with “meatless” sauce.

As a young girl, my favorite outing with my mother was going to the Famous Cafeteria in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn and sharing delicious dairy meals.  The Famous Cafeteria had a specialty of Vegetable Cutlets with a rich, satisfying mushroom gravy. This was the predecessor of the popular veggie burger.

Fortunately, I was able to find a replica of this delicious recipe and so it became a tradition at our holiday dinners for many years. I still make it regularly since it is both tasty and healthy and my family loves the mushroom gravy.

Here is my version of the Famous Cafeteria’s Vegetable Cutlet:




  • 1 lb. of grated carrotsvegetable cutlet prep
  • ½ lb. grated parsnip
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 small grated onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 10 ounces of frozen peas
  • ½ lb. blanched string beans, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of matzo meal
  • ½ cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup vegetable broth


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F  Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Form into eight hamburger -style patties. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly browned and heated through.




  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium minced onion
  • 1 lb. diced white mushrooms
  • 1 lb. diced baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of arrowroot dissolved in ¼ cup of cold water


Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat . Add the onions and caramelize until a golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until they are soft.

Add the broth, salt and pepper and mix well. Continue cooking until half of the liquid dissolves for about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the dissolved arrowroot thoroughly.

Continue to heat at very low temperature until the remaining liquid thickens for about three minutes.

Serve over the cutlets.  Enjoy!


Charlotte “Tish” Goldblatt