A Bite in the Apple: How Jewish Fare is Faring | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Bite in the Apple: How Jewish Fare is Faring

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How your favorite kosher and Jewish restaurants around the city are coping

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Jewish restaurants around the city are buckling under impossible conditions. They’re all suffering — newly opened places of fine dining together with delis that have been around since the turn of the last century. Each restaurant is looking for creative solutions to stay afloat. Some are finding relief thanks to communal support.

Wall Street Grill – kosher, luxe, and serving Wall Street – is temporarily shuttered after only one year in business. “Right now, nobody is coming back to work on Wall Street,” said Steven Traube, a partner in the restaurant. “Once customers are again allowed to sit in restaurants, we plan to re-open. We might limit in the beginning to become a mini catering hall, serving all of the people who have had weddings or bat and bar mitzvahs in the last few months. Perhaps small private family events of 50 or 60 people. We will focus on that at first. For now, we are closed. We had to let go all 66 of our employees.”

Abigael's on Broadway (courtesy)

Two of the better-known New York kosher eateries have closed their doors for good.  The Brooklyn location of Wolf & Lamb Steakhouse closed temporarily at first but recently announced that they are shuttering for good. The same goes for Abigael’s on BroadwayAlthough Jeff Nathan, the executive chef and co-owner, closed the brick and mortar restaurant, he and his team will continue to provide kosher meals to Madison Square Garden, hotels, restaurants, and catering halls in collaboration with Park East Kosher Butcher on the Upper East Side.

Barnea Bistro (Instagram)

In midtown Manhattan, Barnea Bistro, which recently doubled in size by expanding to space next door, is closed but, as of this week, has a take-out menu. According to owner and founder Josh Kessler, you can order a 21st century “TV dinner” made up of a main course (rack of lamb, anyone?) and two side dishes. They offer delivery to the five boroughs, Nassau County, northern New Jersey, and Westchester.

Jay and Lloyd’s Old Time Brooklyn Deli on Avenue U has recently re-opened. Owner Jay Stern streamlined the deli’s menu. “We are doing strictly pick-up and delivery. Of course, no dining room. I do have a dining room but right now it’s attracting cobwebs,” said Stern. Stern reduced the restaurant’s hours and may soon cut a day off their schedule. On one hand, he’s trying to keep his workers on but often the workers don’t want to come in for fear of their own safety during the commute to work.

Liebman's Kosher Deli (Facebook)

Nina and Yuval Dekel, the owners of Liebman’s Kosher Deli in Riverdale, have been busy with nationwide shipping of their food via Goldbelly, an on-line marketplace for regional and artisanal foods. Thanks to Goldbelly, Liebman’s pastrami, corned beef and other traditional deli offerings have made their way to California, Arizona, and Texas. By signing on with Goldbelly, and making their operation more nationwide than just local, the owners have managed to keep all of their employees on board. “Our employees are our family,” said Dekel. “They don’t just come and go. We have been loyal to them just as they have been loyal to us.”

Two months ago, restaurateur and cookbook author Einat Admony had seven Middle Eastern restaurants in her New York food empire – BalaboostaKish Kash, and five locations of Taim, her vegetarian eateries that serve falafel with all the fixings. Today, Balaboosta and Kish Kash are temporarily closed, and only two of Taim’s doors in New York remain open. Those two outlets are surviving in large part thanks to support from the Jewish Food Society (JFS) and The Paul E. Singer Foundation in partnership with Feed the Frontlines NYC.  

The program buys food from area restaurants and delivers that food to healthcare workers. The meals they purchase help keep the restaurants afloat. They then deliver the meals to the hospital workers. It saves the doctors, nurses, and other health personnel time and just as importantly those gifts of food convey the message that the community cares. 

According to Admony, Taim provides between 200-300 meals a day – dishes like falafel, sabich (an Iraqi sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs), and cauliflower shwarma. Other restaurants involved in this effort include Russ & DaughtersKatz’s DeliLamalo, and Modern Bread& Bagel/Arba

In Rego Park, Queens, the Israelov family, owners of the Bukharan restaurant Ganey Orly, began donating food to healthcare heroes early on. “Originally, we didn’t expect anyone to pay for the food we donated,” said Eytan Israelov, son of the owner and founder. “We did it out of the goodness of our hearts. I’m a nursing student. We have nurses, doctors, and pharmacists in the family. The first 250 meals were donated by us. We then started a fundraiser, and in a bit more than a month we have donated more than 1,200 meals to 35 hospitals in the New York area.” Healthcare workers received dishes like plov, a Bukharian dish made with rice, meat and carrots, or dumplings stuffed with meat and accompanied by salads. And you don’t have to be Jewish – or keep kosher – to be the recipient of the Israelov family’s largess. The Ganey Orly family delivers to healthcare workers of all backgrounds. And for those of us who are not hospital workers but are just hungry, the extensive Bukharan menu of kebabs, salads, and rice dishes is available for pick-up or delivery.

Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant and Caterers, with five remaining locations in Florida, Queens, and on Long Island, is also sending food to front line workers via United Way and through private donations. They recently noticed that night shift workers were being ignored, so they have focused on sending meal boxes – filled with sandwiches, cole slaw, pickles, and chicken noodle soup – to the night staff at local hospitals. For their regular customers, the five delis are offering delivery and curbside pick—up of their full menu, but business has dropped more than 50% since their dining room is closed. “We are, in large part, keeping our restaurants open for our customers and our staff,” said owner Ronnie Dragoon.

Other non-profit organizations which may be more modestly funded are also trying to do their share. Talia’s Steakhouse on the Upper West Side is open for take-out, and the owner, Effie Nagar, is working with Fountain of Kindness and Yiddishe Mama to provide meals to hospital workers. Last weekend, Nagar personally delivered kosher Mexican-themed meals to workers at New York Presbyterian hospital per the request of Fountain of Kindness.  

The management of Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side is looking back to their roots in determining which road to take in this uncharted territory. The deli’s website asks you to donate funds that will go towards providing meals for frontline workers. In World War II, Katz’s encouraged New Yorkers to “Send a salami to your boy in the army.” Today, that slogan has remained a “part of our deli culture, and in today’s medical crisis it is our privilege to again support those most in need.”

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