This summer wasn’t kind to New York restaurant lovers.
In June, Wylie Dufresne announced that he’d be closing the doors of his pioneering modernist restaurant WD50. Soon after, Danny Meyer said that Union Square Café would be leaving its original location when its lease expired at the end of the year.
Finally, some good news. At a moment when real estate always seems to trump tradition, Junior’s Cheesecake owner Alan Rosen has broken from the pack. Yesterday he announced that after much deliberation and a visit to his therapist, he would be turning his back on a $45 million offer to sell the building that houses the Flatbush flagship, which opened in 1950, because it did not include a crucial provision for the restaurant to reopen within the same footprint after construction.
“I’m not just running a restaurant,” Rosen explains. “I’m running something that has such a heritage and such a tradition for so many people here in Brooklyn, that it just can’t be replaced.”
Michael Harlan Turkell
As a kid growing up on New York’s Upper East Side, I had appetizing envy. My West Side friends had Zabar’s, Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, and Barney Greengrass.
Downtown, of course, there was Russ & Daughters.
Sure, there were a few Jewish delis like P.J. Bernstein’s, and eventually fancier shops like Sable’s, but we didn’t have the kind of legendary appetizing establishments that other, luckier, neighborhoods had.
Finally, the Upper East Side has arrived. (And alas, I’ve long since moved to another appetizing wasteland, West Harlem.)
Russ & Daughters, which has occupied the same space on East Houston Street for 100 years, yesterday announced a partnership with the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, where it will open a 75-seat, sit-down kosher café and take-out retail counter in the Museum’s lower level.
It’s a great shidduch,” said Niki Russ Federman, 4th Generation owner of Russ & Daughters.
“We’re delighted to bring a unique and authentic piece of New York City’s cultural and culinary heritage and history from the Lower East Side to the Upper East Side,” added Josh Russ Tupper, 4th Generation owner of Russ & Daughters.
No doubt Upper East Siders are equally delighted. The café and shop are scheduled to open in early 2015.
It’s a sad day for kosher pastry and cake lovers: after nearly a century of operations, the Entenmann’s factory on Long Island is shutting its doors.
“I’m going to miss going to work,” Joseph Fiorento, 76, of Bay Shore, told Newsday. Fiorentino started working at the factory in 1954 and was laid off in August when the factory closed. In 2004, to recognize 40 years of service, the Entenmann’s family gave him an engraved watch with his name to celebrate.
William Entenmann opened his first bakery in 1898 on Rogers Ave. in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His son moved the family operations to a bakery on Main Street in Bay shore in 1924.
Entenmann’s revolutionized the way baked goods were packed. In 1959, William Entenmann’s grandsons and his daughter developed a transparent box to display their goods — the idea was that people would be more likely to buy the product if they could inspect the quality themselves.
In 1961, the Entenmann’s opened their factory on the Bay Shore’s Fifth Ave, which employed 1,500 workers at its height in the 1990s. The company’s baked goods were certified kosher in the 1980s.
“Entenmann’s hired generations of local families,” Susanne Ankner, 56, said to Newsday. “Most people would say they were all grateful to have that job because it was a good-paying job and people were well provided for.”
On August 13, the Bay Shore factory stopped production.
“The bakery was closed because it can no longer effectively compete in the market,” said David Marguiles, spokesman for Bimbo Bakeries USA, which bought Entenmann’s in 2009. Rising taxes, fuel prices, and electricity costs in Long Island forced the closure.
But don’t fret too much — your local grocery stores will most likely still stock Entenmann’s kosher goodies, most likely from the 75 other manufacturing facilities nationwide.
Now that he’s lost his place in politics, Anthony Weiner has taken up… cooking?
The disgraced former Democratic Congressman from New York City is lending his support to Rockaway Restoration Kitchen, a new non-profit restaurant and job training center, according to the Rockaway Times.
The new eatery will serve up healthy nosh and offer food service training for disadvantaged residents of Rockaway, a neighborhood in New York City devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Down on his luck politically, Weiner is now trying to give a leg up to struggling New Yorkers. The non-profit plans to train up to 150 unemployed residents each year who struggle to keep jobs because of jail time, health problems, or drug abuse, according to its website.
Though Weiner is not publicly associated with the restaurant, he has apparently been working behind the scenes to find the eatery a space to call home.
The non-profit restaurant is also seeking an executive director, though Weiner does not appear to have taken that job.
Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after it became known that he was sending sexually-explicit photos and messages to younger women online. He later attempted a political comeback in the 2013 New York City mayoral race, but was forced to eat crow after further explicit messages came to light.
The restauranteur streak seems to run in the family — Weiner’s brother owns two restaurants in New York City – though this seems to be Weiner’s first attempt in the food service industry.
But others have tried to yoke his name to food before. An Illinois hot dog company announcedin August 2013 that it would begin selling a new brand of hot dogs called “Carlos Danger Weiners,” named after the alias Weiner used in his online escapades.
No word yet on whether Weiner’s new restaurant will be serving frankfurters.
Dan Peretz // Haaretz
(Haaretz) — Danny Phillips’ knafeh place was supposed to satisfy practically every sector in this postmodern world of multiple identities and conflicts. There’s a menu based almost entirely on knafeh – one of the best loved of local foods – put together after extensive research, that gives pride of place to an ancient recipe. He uses local ingredients, including kadaif noodles made by a small local producer from the Nazareth area and cheeses from small boutique dairies. Prices are reasonable (“Knafeh is a food that makes people happy, so everyone should be able to afford to buy it,” declares the optimistic entrepreneur). And there are special items for vegans or customers with special health needs.
But there are those for whom the knafeh place Phillips opened in Jaffa’s Noga neighborhood exemplifies the bourgeois Jewish influx that is pushing some Arab residents out of the mixed city. And there is his audacity: Only an Englishman (Phillips was born in London in 1971) could come up with such completely unorthodox, savory versions of knafeh. Two dishes – knafeh with shakshouka (a nest of kadaif filled with Circassian cheese, tomatoes and egg yolks) and knafeh with spinach (a bed of noodles holds a mixture of feta cheese and spinach seasoned with sumac, lemon zest and cashew nuts) – aroused the ire of Hanin Majadala, a teacher of Arabic and an activist who lives in Jaffa.
The status she posted on her Facebook page on June 27 refers to both the Jewish-Arab and the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi conflicts, to the terrible crimes, in her view, being committed against the traditional dessert: “A post about how incredibly shameless Ashkenazim are. Knafeh. An Arab dessert. Not Mediterranean, not Mediterranean basin… Arab, asli, baladi, rasmi… the audacity and chutzpah have gone up yet another notch. Brace yourselves for Ashkenazi knafeh in Jaffa. The nerve, to open places selling Arab food and Arab desserts but with a Western twist. On the menu: Shakshuka on a bed of knafeh – so disgusting. No Arab would open a restaurant serving Ashkenazi food with an Arab twist, because we have self-respect first of all and respect for others, which you all are lacking. Nor are we lacking for good food, so we have no need to go out and adopt and steal the foods of others. And your food doesn’t taste good anyway.”
The status got 376 likes, 150 comments and 46 shares, and – whether for its bluntness or for how it underscored some painful issues – aroused a lot of stormy online discussion. The arguments that she and others raised related to socioeconomic matters, but also – as with the fierce debate over hummus and other Middle Eastern foods that are becoming part of Israeli cuisine – to issues of belonging and appropriation.
Smoked fish platter at People’s Eatery // Photo by Adrian Ravinsky
Now, you can add Jewish-Chinese to the mix. Just-opened Peoples Eatery is drawing on the divergent food culture of Spadina Avenue — once the heart of Jewish Toronto, now a main artery through Chinatown — for its menu, according to partner Adrian Ravinsky.
“The past is the Jewish part of it. We’re resurrecting what Spadina once was with deli and appetizer cultures represented on the menu,” he said. “The present is the Chinese and East Asian food. The future is where anything goes, culturally, and the menu does that too.”
Think oversized platters of Peking Duck or smoked fish, small plates of potato knish, whitefish salad, and “General Tso-Fu” soy, with watermelon salad, dosa, and sabich thrown in for good measure. “It’s definitely an oddball selection,” Ravinsky said. “But it’s never fusion. Those elements never make it onto the same plate. They’re placed alongside one another.”
Photo: New York Neon Blog
Earlier this month, renovators uncovered the sign for an old Jewish Delicatessen behind a closing bodega at 2705 Broadway, according to New York Neon.
Classic Art Deco lettering in blue porcelain letters contrasts with a white background. Its blue neon lights are long gone, but the nostalgia remains.
Although the name in the left corners of the sign is obscured, a search through old telephone directories revealed that B. Hudes and Sons owned the deli back in the 1930s and ‘40s, making the sign around 75 years old.
In 1942, one of the “sons,” Max Hudes, moved on to operate the famous Carnegie Deli. He was the second owner, reported Eating In Translation, and wanted to try his hand at a sit-down delicatessen, instead of his old takeout-only at 2705 Broadway.
“The neighborhood is changing so much, so quickly… to have the history unveiled like this is very exciting,” preservationist and photographer Everett Scott said to pix11.
After Hudes Delicatessen closed, it merged with the space next door and reopened as the Olympia Superette, which lasted for several years. Most recently, the Grocery & Flower occupied the space. That business recently folded — once the Grocery & Flower’s signage was torn down, Hudes Delicatessen was revealed.
The future of the sign remains a mystery. Does it deserve to be scrapped or preserved?
Good news for New York Jews and tourists hankering for kosher street meat!
The Dog House, which set up shop on Governors Island last weekend, Grill on Wheels, Schnitzi, Taim Mobile Truck, Quick Stop, and the larger mobile kosher world in providing kosher fare for the hungry masses.
The Dog House is the second food truck affiliated with Great Performances, a NYC-based catering company.
Great Performances’ CEO and co-founder Liz Neumark, said, “The Dog House is the perfect next step in expanding our participation in the New York mobile food scene.”
The Dog House also offers two more hot dogs in addition to the kosher dog: the Sausage Dog, made with lamb merguez sausage topped with green garlic yogurt, pickled red cabbage and vegetable relish, and the Vegan Dog, which comes with kale pesto, pickled shallots and spiced sunflower seeds.
The New York Dog (the only kosher hotdog) is served with spiced tomato jam and thunder pickle relish, made at Great Performances’ organic farm in the Hudson Valley.
This year, and for the first time, Governors Island will offer food services seven days a week. The Dog House will be open on the weekend from 11-7 p.m.
(Reuters) — The New York City delicatessen Katz’s has won a legal battle to force a Florida restaurant to change its name, according to court documents made public on Monday.
Katz’s Delicatessen, founded in 1888, sued Katz’s Deli of Deerfield Beach in June, claiming that the Florida restaurant had blatantly infringed on its trademark rights and tried to profit illegally from its name and reputation.
Both establishments sell Jewish and Kosher-style deli food.
Katz’s Delicatessen of Deerfield agreed to change its name in the settlement, which was signed in Manhattan federal court last week.
The Deerfield Beach restaurant owner, Charles Re, said he agreed to the change because keeping the name was not worth the legal troubles.
“It wasn’t something that we needed to have to sustain ourselves,” Re said.
Re, who is originally from the New York City borough of the Bronx, said he would change the name of his restaurant to Zak’s Deli.
Katz’s Delicatessen in Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been seen in a several movies including and in television shows such as “Law & Order” and shows on Food Network and Travel Channel.
Its best-known screen appearance may be in the 1989 romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally,” with the character played by Meg Ryan faking an orgasm during a meal with Billy Crystal’s character.
President Obama visited Canter’s Deli today, an old favorite of Jews in Los Angeles. Over the course of the meal, he sat with a teacher, a wounded veteran, and two women entering the job market, according to Mark Knoller, CBS’s White House correspondent.
Pres Obama discussing basketball and free-throw abilities with customers at Canter's restaurant in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/EQVITBHuuO— Stephen Crowley (@Stcrow) July 24, 2014
Canter’s opened in 1931, and has always been a family-owned business dedicated to providing classic Jewish deli foods for the L.A. area.
Let’s hope the President had the good sense to order the matzo ball soup. Goodness knows he’ll probably need some comfort food to go with everyone’s kvetching.
Workmen’s Circle poster advertising the Taste of Jewish Culture street fair // Facebook
New York’s got so many hip new delis that it may be as easy to find gefilte fish and borscht as it was in 1892, when The Workmen’s Circle held its first meeting on the Lower East Side.
So it’s no small irony that the social-justice organization is hosting the city’s first street fair aimed at showcasing smart new iterations of traditional Jewish cuisine.
The Workmen’s Circle Taste of Jewish Culture, set for July 27 on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, is actually the organization’s sixth outdoor festival, but the first focused on food.
“The fair has always featured klezmer and social-justice-themed music,” executive director Ann Toback told the Forward by e-mail from a tour bus in Poland, where she’s researching Ashkenazi culture. “But we’ve also been experimenting with it as a chance to connect with larger audiences.”
Sharing Jewish food “is about as authentic a Jewish experience as you can get,” she said. “And selling Jewish-inspired foods via a street experience is quintessentially Jewish. It’s a perfect place to share our cultural heritage with a wide swath of New Yorkers.”
To corral the right mix of vendors, Toback tapped Noah Arenstein, the peripatetic lawyer-cum-foodie whose most recent venture, pop-up eatery Scharf & Zoyer, offered over-the-top novelties like kugel sandwiches.
The mojito is a classic Cuban drink. But who says it can’t be a Jewish one, too?
In honor of National Mojito Day on July 11, we have concocted (and named!) 6 Jewish mojitos that will spice up a summer party. Or a synagogue kiddush.
Start by finding the five classic ingredients of a mojito: rum, lime juice, sugar, mint, and sparkling water.
That’s when the real fun begins:
Throw in a tablespoon of beet puree to create a beautiful pink mojito that marches to the beet of its own drum. Add a dash of ginger for an extra refreshing kick.
My love affair with halva began in the cafeteria of an IDF base, surrounded by pounds upon pounds of halva bars and a bunch of my best Birthright friends. We sat for an entire afternoon, unwrapping the bars, “quality controlling,” and making enough halva bread pudding to serve a literal army.
Logic would have it that after all of that quality controlling, I’d have gotten sick of it, but it really just made me want more in a way that I now hoard it and try to sneak it into everything. Muffins, pie, even my birthday cake this year was filled with it. Such sweet, nutty, fudgey goodness is only made better by the fact that it brings back wonderful memories of my trip to Israel.
This summer, my favorite way to enjoy halva is in popsicle form. Chopped up pieces of halva scattered throughout tahini and honey yogurt, and then frozen and embellished with chocolate? I could eat a whole batch.
ChocoChicken’s chocolate fried chicken and duckfat fries. // Twitter/KristieHang
Looking for a new way to eat all-American food on Independence Day? Try any of Adam Fleischman’s restaurants.
Who is he, you ask? Why, the founder of the famous Umami Burger, of course!
In 2009, Umami Burger was a single burger joint on La Brea Avenue, in Los Angeles. Since then, the chain has exploded to more than 20 locations in New York, Florida and California. After his first year in business, he had four restaurants that garnered him about 1 million dollars a month.
When Umami Burger opened in New York City, the line curved around the block.
Known for its gourmet burgers like the Truffle Burger, with house-made truffle cheese and glaze, the Hatch Burger, with four types of green chilies and house cheese, and the Umami Burger, with Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms and house ketchup, Umami Burger has revolutionized burgers. “When I created the Umami burger, I wanted a forward-looking burger,” Fleischman said in an interview. “I wanted a burger that was global and that had all sorts of modern influences.”
Photo by David Silverman
(Haaretz)— Israel has made great strides in the numbers of patisseries and boulangeries that have opened here, and many of the top pastry chefs have honed their craft abroad, but is there such a thing as a real Israeli dessert? We asked chefs from 12 leading restaurants to describe their most Israeli desserts. Taste and decide for yourself.
The dessert: olive oil sable, blood orange crème, ginger crème, tapioca tuile, buttermilk foam, rose petals and hibiscus dust, olive oil and white chocolate ice cream.
Pastry chef Hila Perry: “The olive oil is Israeli, as is the citrus – the blood orange – that surrounds it. And the buttermilk always reminds me of that childhood treat, Daniela whipped pudding, in its best form.”
2) Herbert Samuel in Herzliya (kosher):
The dessert: Mount Bracha tahini. Tahini sorbet, espresso granite, sesame tuile.
Pastry chef Shlomi Palensya: “We wanted something Israeli that would fit the rules of kashrut and also appeal to tourists. We started with a tahini sorbet then we thought ‘What would make it more interesting?’ So we made a sesame tuile and added coffee granite, and it immediately became one of our signature dishes.”
Photo by David Silverman
3) Kitchen Market:
The dessert: Israeli cheesecake with black olives, strawberries and yogurt sorbet
Pastry chef Yossi Sheetrit: “This cheesecake is something you can find in any Israeli household, except that we’ve added a little twist. The flavors are very Israeli: cheese, olives and olive oil.”
Photo by David Silverman
Courtesy of Hersh’s
It must be a first for Baltimore: An Asian-Jewish culinary mashup, courtesy of an Italian joint and a hip local coffee shop.
Siblings Stephanie and Josh Hershkovitz, who own Hersh’s pizzeria in downtown Baltimore, are teaming with Phil Han, the Korean-American owner of sleek new cafe Dooby’s, on a June 19 Jew-sian Mashup pairing Han’s Korean barbecue with Hersh’s potato latkes. “It’s what happens when two Jews and a Japanese-influenced Korean walk into a bar,” enthuses Hersh’s web site.
“We started talking to Phil when he ate at our restaurant one night, and the idea was born,” said Stephanie Hershkovitz, a former lawyer who switched gears to food after decamping to her hometown from Brooklyn. “Phil’s place serves coffee, but with Asian influences. My brother and I are Jewish. And it just sounded like fun to put his Korean barbecue on our latkes,” which Hersh’s usually serves over Hanukkah.
Highlights of the evening’s menu will include pork-belly-stuffed Asian buns with house-made kimchi; corned beef sliders using Dooby’s brioche buns and Hersh’s meat, served with Japanese hot mustard; and noodle kugel topped with kimchi and spicy bean salad.
All of it will get washed down with brews from Union Craft Brewing, a Baltimore brand whose creators are Josh’s old Hebrew-school friends. Stephanie said she expects to sell all 40 seats for the event. “We have a fair amount of regular customers on the guest list, and I’d say most of them are not Jewish,” she said.
Thursday May 15 is National Hummus Day. If you’ve been paying attention to Jewish food trends, you might also be aware that 2014 has been declared “The Year of the Hummus.”
That’s a lot of chickpeas.
To celebrate, Sabra (the official dips sponsor to the NFL!) has written a (not-so) handy guide to teach hummus philistines about Israel’s national dip. Here are just some of the things we learned from “Hummus for Dummies”:
1. How to pronounce “hummus”
Do you end in Oos, in Iss, in Uss? According to “Hummus for Dummies,” hummus is a “fun word,” yet difficult to pronounce. Pretty straightforward so far. Then it gets weird:
Some people will tell you that it starts with a “choo” sound made toward the back of your throat (less “choo-choo train” — more “achtung baby”).
If in doubt, you can always just call it “yummus.”
2. Hummus can be fruity
We are told that hummus is a “rich, smooth, creamy dip” made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, spices, oils, vegetables — and fruits? Mango in your hummus, really?
If that’s not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, the guide also offers recipes for hummus-based desserts like “Chocolate Hummus Truffles,” and “Chocolate, Coconut and Caramel Hummus Pastries.”
3. “Chickpeas are sometimes confused with nuts.”
Are they? Why? A section called “Browsing through interesting hummus facts” explains that because you can roast and season chickpeas, innocent bystanders could taste the crunchy — and yes, granted — slightly nutty legume and get confused. So once again, just in case you missed that class: Chickpeas are not nuts.
4. Hummus “loves you back.”
Any fan of the veggie-tray can tell you that it’s the dip that packs on the pounds. But now, you can enjoy those fresh carrot and celery sticks the way God intended you to — ”hummus can be the fresh flavorful answer to the prayers at the center of your vegetable tray.” Glad we cleared that one up.
Just kidding Sabra. We love hummus too.
While the story of Passover may be the reason for having the seder, the real stars of the event are the food and drinks served throughout the evening. Carefully planned, perfected all day for all to enjoy while listening to the hours long story of Moses and the exodus.Like most kids growing up, the reading of the “4 sons” was a significant part of the evening. But what if those sons were a bit older (lets say over the age of 21) and could order a drink alongside their question. What would these guys imbibe based upon their personalities?
The Wise Son: Aperitif Cocktail
The wise son knows that the key to enjoying the seder and making it to the end is by pacing. With one glass of wine already consumed and three more to go, there is no way he will survive the night unless it sticks with something a bit more low proof. And it never hurts to start the evening with an aperitif style drink. This refreshing and slightly citrusy sipper is the perfect way to ease into the nighttime festivities.
• 1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
• .5 oz fresh lemon juice
• 1 oz Bartenura Etrog Liqueur
• 3 oz Bartenura Moscato d’asti
• Combine ingredients into a glass, stir lightly and garnish with the oils of a lemon peel.
The Wicked Son: Tequila Shot
The wicked son is always up to no good and is not one to stick to the conventional methods of drinking. Known for making the night a bit more crazy and perhaps putting some people over the edge, the Wicked son opts to drink a shot of straight tequila (no chaser) to awaken his inner mischievous self.
• 1 oz 99 Agave Blanco
The Simple Son: Tom Collins
Sometimes the best cocktails are the least fussy, and this classic from the father of cocktails, Jerry Thomas, will fit the bill for the Simple son. Herbaceous notes from the gin, the bright citrus from the lemon a sweetness of the syrup combine together beautifully in this cocktail. And this guy knows that limes are too overpriced to use this year for the seder, so sticking with lemon juice will alleviate the burden of the holiday tab.• 2 oz Distillery 209 Gin
The One who does not know how to ask: Vodka Soda
It worked in college….you can barely taste it….and it’s safe.
• 2 oz Vodka (we recommend Distillery 209 vodka or L’chaim Vodka)
• Soda water
• Combine in a highball glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.
Turns out, James Deen has hobbies. And those hobbies include food.
The Jewish porn star is now the face of a culinary web series, aptly named “James Deen Loves Food.” Produced by Woodrocket.com (a porn/comedy site that is definitey NSFW), past episodes have shown Deen coming up with the world’ most expensive burrito, ordering the entire menu at his local Burger King, and testing which brand makes the superior Ketchup. Oh, and he also sampled various serial killers’ last meals.
“I am a Jew! Of course I love food,” he told Heeb magazine in a recent Q&A. “I am pretty sure if you don’t, they stop inviting you to the meetings and drop your credit score.”
So, with Passover coming up, it’s fitting that Deen’s latest culinary venture has a Jewish theme: Ramen Matzo Ball soup.
According to the chef, the final product was “pretty good. It was definitely more on the ramen side. But the extra sodium added some flavor that normal Jewish cuisine lacks.”
Keep calm: Ben’s Kosher Deli is not going treyf.
The owners of the iconic eatery on W. 38th Street in Manhattan’s Garment District were overwhelmed with panicked calls this week after Crain’s New York Business reported Ben’s is “pondering the unthinkable” and might “break with tradition to reduce costs” as it expands beyond the New York metro area.
“It’s a headache,” a person who answered the phone at Ben’s Manhattan business office told the Forward. ”People are calling to see if we’re giving up our kosher certification, which we have no intention of doing.”
With a mix of bemusement and frustration, Ben’s founder Ronnie Dragoon told the Forward that Crain’s reporter Lisa Fickenscher had actually asked him what he would do if kosher fabricators and processors went out of business.
“My response was that if they are no kosher fabricators or processors, I’d have no alternative but to look elsewhere,” Dragoon said. “But she took the intention away from the answer.”
Confusing readers more, the Crain’s piece noted that a chef who’d come in to audition for a spot at Dragoon’s new Westchester location — slated to open in August — had presented a tasting menu that included a bacon-and-cheese dish.
“The chef had made up a menu for us, so there was a list of ten ingredients, including bacon and cheddar. But he never made that dish,” Dragoon said. “The way it was written, it sounded like he brought the food in, prepared it, and had us taste it. Even if he wanted something non-kosher, he couldn’t purchase it for our kitchen. All of our purchasing is done through the business office. We have ingredient and food-item lockdown.”
The chef, Scott Rabedeau, got hired anyway. He’ll be designing a menu for the 5,200-square-foot Scarsdale Ben’s that includes “dishes from yesteryear, Ashkenazi standards, and Mediterranean dishes - past, present, and future.” Rabedeau’s an alumnus of Maggiano’s, the New Jersey Italian chainlet “started by a Jew,” Dragoon laughed.
Scarsdale will become the first of three planned locations to open by 2015, including Washington, DC, and Boston. Ben’s, Crain’s reported, is on “solid footing” after a challenging few years that saw locations close in 2006; the chain now generates more than $25 million annually.
“One location in a city works very well,” Dragoon said. “It’s appreciated, you have a wider audience, and you’re a niche business with little competition for that dollar. That’s why my location in Boca Raton is very successful. On Long Island, I have three units that cannibalize each other. One each in DC or Boston will do well.”
Dragoon even told the Forward he thinks a kosher restaurant could thrive in a neighborhood like the Lower East Side, where a mini-controversy erupted over the storefront that once housed Noah’s Ark Deli, the area’s last full-service kosher restaurant. Neighbors started a petition urging the building’s co-op to seek another kosher tenant; dissidents said kosher’s time was over downtown.
“That neighborhood may not have the local population to support it, but it’s a very mobile population in Manhattan,” he said. “It’s possible people would flock to it if it’s the right kind of operation.”
Kosher eateries everywhere are facing tough times, though, Dragoon said. “Occupancy costs like rent and taxes have outstripped demand for kosher restaurants,” he explained. “Because so many fabricators are closing, food prices go up, too. The high costs across the board make it tough.”
Ben’s, however, is here to stay, Dragoon said. He also had a message for Forward readers, and anyone else listening: “Ben’s is staying kosher for as long as there are kosher fabricators or processors.”
Photo credit: Facebook/Ben’s Kosher Deli