Joseph Klein (c.1869-1943) and Hannah Dora Haupt (c.1873-1953) immigrated separately to Pittsburgh from Hungary between 1882 and 1890 and married in August 1892. They had seven children, Sidney, Frances, Virginia, Edward, Ruth, Samuel and Lillian.
Joseph worked as a fireman for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and later as a wholesale liquor dealer. In the years following their marriage, Hannah supplemented her husband’s income by selling candy, pretzels, cider and other small items on street corners in downtown Pittsburgh.
In 1900, Joseph and Hannah Klein opened Klein’s Kosher Café, a restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Uptown that served home-cooked Hungarian meals. The Klein family lived above the Fifth Avenue location and operated the restaurant as a family business. The children ran the restaurant as their parents aged.
Over the next four decades, the restaurant moved downtown, added seafood to the menu and stopped being a kosher establishment. In 1935, Klein’s Restaurant and Sea Food House moved to its final location on 330 Fourth Avenue. The air-conditioned space was designed by a New York interior decorator and billed in the American Jewish Outlook as “easily the most beautiful dining room between New York and Chicago.” The updated façade included an 18-foot green sign bearing a large red neon lobster with an animated claw that opened and closed. The renovated restaurant stayed open until 1 a.m. and advertised itself as “New! Modern! Different!”
Sidney Klein (c.1895-1963) worked at Klein’s his entire life and was a co-owner by the time he died and left his interest in the company to his son, John Klein, according to newspaper accounts at the time.
Frances Klein (1895-1971) married Joseph Gold.
Virginia Klein (1897-1980) joined the business fulltime in 1917 after graduating from Fifth Avenue High School. In 1927, she married a Johnstown dentist named Isaac P. Holzman. In addition to working at the restaurant, Virginia Klein-Holzman was a painter and regularly exhibited her art in the restaurant. In 1963, she commissioned architect Harry H. Lefkowitz to design a marble, glass and granite façade for the building. Isaac and Virginia Klein-Holzman had one daughter, Elaine. Elaine Holzman married Jules Levy, brother of Ruth Westerman and nephew of Samuel and Libby Rosenberg.
Edward Klein (1900-1910), born in West Virginia, died in his youth.
Ruth Klein (c1903-1994) attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, and married Max Fischman in 1925. Ruth Klein Fischman began helping out with large and small tasks at the restaurant in the late 1930s and transitioned into working full-time after her husband died in 1957. She handled the register, accounts receivable and billing until 1984, when she retired. In the days before credit cards, she also managed a “charge plate,” which the restaurant used for internal credit accounts for its customers. Ruth and Max Fischman had two daughters, Jeanne and Marian.
Samuel Klein (1902-1994) worked at Klein’s his entire life, where he was a manager before and after a two-year tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force. About 1979, he retired and moved to Florida.
Lillian Klein (1906-1967) graduated from the Margaret Morrison Carnegie College at Carnegie Tech and later married a New York-born attorney named Milton Pollack. They soon moved to New York, where Lillian Klein Pollack became a librarian and later raised two children, Stephanie and Daniel. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Milton Pollack as a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
By the 1950s, Klein’s was a mainstay of downtown dining and a regular stop for celebrities passing through town. Klein-Holzman’s autograph book includes signatures from George Jessel, Pat O’Brien, Roger Maris and many others. Among the fondly remembered items on the Klein’s menu were its garlic puffs. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the recipe it had tracked down from members of the family.
Klein’s Restaurant and Sea Food House closed in 1992 and family members sold the Fourth Avenue building to Integra Bank, which demolished it to create a parking lot.