On vacation in Acapulco 40 years ago, Kalman Kave recognized a customer from his Long Beach diner and stopped the man in his tracks.
"He knew every single customer by what they ate," said Kave's daughter, Carol Chamoff of Wantagh. "He said, 'Two eggs over easy, whole wheat toast, and Sanka,' or whatever the man's usual order was."
That was Kave, owner of Long Beach's beloved Beach Burger restaurant in the 1960s and '70s. Family members remembered Kave as a firm but warm proprietor who treated customers like friends.
Kave purchased Beach Burger in the mid-1960s when a driver strike affected a beverage distribution business he operated in Brooklyn. He ran the restaurant until the early '70s, helming the business when it was a frequent stop for members of the New York Rangers and a favorite hangout of an eager young comedian named Billy Crystal, family members said.
Beach Burger -- now called Diner By The Sea -- was also a favorite late-night spot for revelers leaving Lido Beach's nearby clubs, said Kave's wife of 66 years, Florence. "People would come in at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. in their tuxedos and evening gowns when we were ready to close," said Florence Kave, who worked at the restaurant. "They would say, 'We can't go to sleep without having your bagels and cream cheese and lox.' "
During the war, he became pen pals with Florence Herstein, who lived in Bensonhurst. The couple met when Kave returned home, and married the following year.
Beach Burger's patrons remember the restaurant because of Kave's friendly but no-nonsense manner as much as for the food, said Florence Kave, of Farmingdale.
"He touched people's hearts, he really did," she said.
Besides his widow and daughter, survivors are sons Howard Kave of upstate Cornwall and Eric Kave of Huntington, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.