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The Kosher Restaurant Dilemma


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My kosher father is visiting DC this week from Arizona. I am looking for a kosher restaurant for a Wed night dinner. It needs to be in the District though. The only place I could find is the new kosher deli, Eli's. Has anyone been? Any other recs?

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The only place I could even think to mention (outside of a deli) would have been Red Heifer, but according to last week's City Paper, it has closed.

I can confirm that the Red Heifer has closed as I live right across the street from it. Perhaps it was the outrageously priced steaks (even for Kosher ones) that led to its demise.

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The whole DC area lacks kosher restaurants. Eli's is the only full scale kosher restaurant in DC. One other place to get prepared kosher food is at the DC JCC at 16th & Q.

Outside DC, here are a few options:

Siena's on Rockville Pike near White Flint Mall (it is run by the folks that own Eli's)

Max's in Silver Spring

There are a number of kosher supermarkets in Rockville and Silver Spring and kosher meats are available in a lot of regular grocery stores depending on the neighborhood.

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There's an old Woody Allen joke that goes something like this, and I'm paraphrasing here:

Two people are dining together at a Catskill's hotel. One looks at the other and says, "The food is really lousy here." The other responds, "And such small portions."

Philosophically, I don't know whether that joke has anything to do with my post today, but let's just say the kosher restaurants piss me off - because 99.99% of them suck. Now, I'm not talking about places like Katz's or the 2nd Avenue Deli, both here in New York City. Katz's doesn't even pretend to be kosher (because it's not) and 2nd Avenue is sorta kosher, because...oh, let's just say because they're allowed.

No, I'm talking about the REAL kosher restaurants, like the one down here in our lower east side neighborhood called Noah's Ark, and others scattered about this city and others. Real kosher (glatt kosher, if you will) usually means they're not open on from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday nor on any Jewish holidays, dairy and meat are never served in the same restaurant and, from about.com:

Answer: The technical definition of glatt kosher is meat from animals with smooth or defect-free lungs, but today the term glatt kosher is often used informally to imply that a product was processed under a stricter standard of kashrut.

Which isn't 100% correct, according to glatt.com - and oy, you get the picture. It's kinda like the kids you knew in high school or the girl you once dated who were "kosher," but not really - only at home, let's say. And then your friend ate a bacon cheeseburger out, on Passover, just to really break the rules. Or you took that "kosher" girl out on a date, and she was slurping down oysters with chorizo, and you knew she wasn't really kosher - and you breathed a sigh of relief.

But back to Washington, DC, where Significant Eater and I had a, shall we say, less than memorable quick bite at a REAL kosher place called Eli's, downtown on 20th Street. Playing it safe, I ordered a pastrami sandwich on marble rye, chicken soup with a matzoh ball, and SE had a chef's salad, which is basically greens, maybe a tomato, a bit of cuke, a hard-boiled egg (I particularly like the green ring around the yolk - a true hallmark of kosher cooking) and all the lousy meats you'd want, for some reason rolled up into a cylinder, like maybe you were gonna smoke it or pretend you're eating a California roll...apologies for the lousy cell-phone pix...

chef%27s+salad.jpg

If you want to know how to screw up pastrami, Eli's might be a good place to start. Putting aside the actual sourcing of the pastrami, there is a NEED to slice pastrami correctly for the sandwich to be edible. Hint - that's against the grain as opposed to with it. But it wouldn't have mattered if Eli Zabar himself sliced this pastrami - it was lousy. And, they toasted my marble rye - a big no-no. The kicker was the potato salad - seen in the upper left hand corner below.

pastrami+sand.jpg

Those little dots on top of the potato salad? It took SE and me a while to figure out what they were. We decided that they were fake bacon bits, and they added just the right touch. They might be something different - who really knows?

Now, this problem of lousy REAL kosher food in restaurants is by no means restricted to Eli or Noah's Ark - trust me. I mean, have you ever walked out of a kosher restaurant and said to yourself, "man, I just can't wait to get back there?" No, you haven't - or you're lying. It's sad, because I can take a kosher chicken, or a kosher brisket, or a hundred different vegetables, grains, eggs or whatever and make a pretty darn good kosher meal. I just haven't found the kosher restaurant kitchen that can do any of the same.

And I'm open to suggestions for great kosher DC, or anywhere else for that matter.

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I mean, have you ever walked out of a kosher restaurant and said to yourself, "man, I just can't wait to get back there?" No, you haven't - or you're lying.

I have, but not in DC. Montreal has some pretty awesome kosher food. Morty's Steakhouse comes to mind among others. But Montreal is sadly far away.

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I mean, have you ever walked out of a kosher restaurant and said to yourself, "man, I just can't wait to get back there?"

No, I haven't. Part of the reason has to do with value. Kosher restaurants always seem far more expensive than they should be for the quality of the cooking. Perhaps they pay more for kosher ingredients or they need to make up for being closed on shabbat. Whatever the case, I rarely yearn to go back. Not only is the food mediocre (at best--I had an awful Christmas eve meal at Eli's last year), but it's also overpriced.

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Or you took that "kosher" girl out on a date, and she was slurping down oysters [two] with chorizo [one], and you knew she wasn't really kosher

Yeah, it was after we went to the food court at White Flint Mall ... can't remember the name of the place ... Cash Root, I think.

"Soda may contain a flavor enhancer called castorium which is extracted from beavers."

-- Rabbi Yaakov Yuban

"gehenna--while certainly a terribly unpleasant place--is not hell. The majority of rabbinic thought maintains that people are not tortured in hell forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be 12 months."

-- Phew!

Nefeshly,

Dr. Pincock.

P.S. Falafel at Max's is GREAT!

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Upping the ante on tasteless religious jokes.... If anyone is offended by juvenile jokes about religion, you should skip this post and I apologize in advance.

The rabbi was lamenting that he couldn't eat pork to a Catholic priest. The priest said "since you've never had pork, how is it that this upsets you so."

The Rabbi said, "well... I am a man of the flesh and I have failed in my duty to not eat pork"

The Priest said "I understand your pain. As a priest I need to abstain from sex."

Rabbi: "And you've never had sex in your life?"

Priest: "Well, I too am a man of the flesh with many failings..."

Rabbi, with a smile: "Better than bacon, right?"

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Speaking of Annie Hall---a chef's salad in a Kosher restaurant? Why didn't she just order the pastrami on whole wheat with mayo? What a shiksa! It's important to know what to order and what not to order in a kosher place, Max. Speaking of which, have you tried Max's, as a previous poster mentioned? I also think you overstate-there are several really good kosher spots in Miami, as well as, of course, New York. Fine and Shapiro on the upper west side comes to mind.

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Speaking of Annie Hall---a chef's salad in a Kosher restaurant? Why didn't she just order the pastrami on whole wheat with mayo? What a shiksa! It's important to know what to order and what not to order in a kosher place, Max. Speaking of which, have you tried Max's, as a previous poster mentioned? I also think you overstate-there are several really good kosher spots in Miami, as well as, of course, New York. Fine and Shapiro on the upper west side comes to mind.

And you can't wait to get back to Fine & Shapiro? "Really good" kosher and "really good" restaurant are mutually exclusive, imo.

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Sadly, at our age: anywhere from maybe to too true! :rolleyes:

Okay, Dean. You've got the Italian thing going. It's doing well. Now it's time to step up and do right by your roots. DC's got a niche (and an itch) that only an American Yid fine dining restaurateur can do right by. It's time to open a really good deli restaurant. Forget Kosher--there are only eleven people who are that observant and also go out to eat. It's been tried, and it has failed. But really good corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver? New York bagels and Russ and Daughters-quality lox? They'll be lining up down the block to get in.

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Okay, Dean. You've got the Italian thing going. It's doing well. Now it's time to step up and do right by your roots. DC's got a niche (and an itch) that only an American Yid fine dining restaurateur can do right by. It's time to open a really good deli restaurant. Forget Kosher--there are only eleven people who are that observant and also go out to eat. It's been tried, and it has failed. But really good corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver? New York bagels and Russ and Daughters-quality lox? They'll be lining up down the block to get in.

You guys go ahead and dream about your pastrami; in about 20 minutes, I'm going to be staring down this. Envy me.

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But really good corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver? New York bagels and Russ and Daughters-quality lox? They'll be lining up down the block to get in.

My committee chair, a New-York-Jew-transplanted-to-NOLa cardiologist, made me take him out and try to find decent corned beef in this town. (He also thought our delis weren't dingy enough....HA.) I could only shake my head and sigh.

I'd be in like Flynn if I could produce the echt thing next time. Dean? :rolleyes:

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Upping the ante on tasteless religious jokes.... If anyone is offended by juvenile jokes about religion, you should skip this post and I apologize in advance.

The rabbi was lamenting that he couldn't eat pork to a Catholic priest. The priest said "since you've never had pork, how is it that this upsets you so."

The Rabbi said, "well... I am a man of the flesh and I have failed in my duty to not eat pork"

The Priest said "I understand your pain. As a priest I need to abstain from sex."

Rabbi: "And you've never had sex in your life?"

Priest: "Well, I too am a man of the flesh with many failings..."

Rabbi, with a smile: "Better than bacon, right?"

The number of times I've had to listen to a woman fake complete ecstasy after tasting great bacon ... boggles the mind.
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And you can't wait to get back to Fine & Shapiro? "Really good" kosher and "really good" restaurant are mutually exclusive, imo.

Actually I have a deep yearning to return to Fine & Shapiro-and do so every time I am in NYC with my mom. It is a really good restaurant. Perhaps you should try it someday, if you should ever deign to travel out of the shtetl, Max.

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Actually I have a deep yearning to return to Fine & Shapiro-and do so every time I am in NYC with my mom. It is a really good restaurant. Perhaps you should try it someday, if you should ever deign to travel out of the shtetl, Max.

I would like to take you up on that offer; though I've been to F & S a number of times, I think you might get treated especially well when with your mom.

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Right...that totally doesn't count in the kosher restaurant dilemma.

Someone tried opening a kosher fine dining steak house in DC a few years ago--it became obvious pretty quickly that there weren't enough strict Orthodox customers to keep it afloat, and the reviews weren't good enough and the prices were too high to bring in the volume of non-observant diners needed for it to survive in the competitive restaurant scene. There are clearly observant Jews who yearn to be able to patronize a good restaurant that follows their dietary restrictions away from home, but there aren't enough of them in this area. There were a couple of middling quality in the Pico/Robertson neighborhood in Los Angeles when I lived not too far from there--one of them, Milk and Honey, was a "dairy" restaurant (it served fish, which is parve and can be eaten either with dairy or meat) that was owned by Steven Spielberg's mother. It's probably gone now, and I haven't lived in L.A. recently enough to know what, if anything has taken its place. That neighborhood has a very dense population of religious Jews, and there are several glatt kosher grocery stores and many businesses that cater to them.

Otherwise, I'm afraid the frum will have two choices--eat at home or at the homes of equally frum friends, or do what most do, which is to be very strict at home, and selective about what they eat when they go out. You makes yer choices and lives with the consequences, instead of pissing and moaning because the world will not bend to yer whims. Same goes for vegans.

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In a former life, I frequently dined with Israeli embassy officials. By far their favorite haunt was Blackie's steak house, which I believe is now defunct. I doubt it was kosher, but my cultural observation at the time was that very few Israelis were observant. I would be surprised if 10% of them were.

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In a former life, I frequently dined with Israeli embassy officials. By far their favorite haunt was Blackie's steak house, which I believe is now defunct. I doubt it was kosher, but my cultural observation at the time was that very few Israelis were observant. I would be surprised if 10% of them were.

I tend to agree with your observation. In my experience, the older generation of Israelis living in Israel feels that keeping kosher is important, while the younger generation is more relaxed about it. Regarding those Israelis living abroad, most of the Israeli government officials and business people I've known here and in Europe don't keep kosher (although I met a few in Belgium who do).

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