Being somewhat of a foodie of the kosher variety, I find the online review service Yelp indispensable when choosing where to eat. To be fair to restaurants, Jews can be somewhat discerning (read: picky and somewhat cranky); thus no restaurant I’ve ever read the reviews of totally came off smelling like roses. The best reviews on these kosher restaurants, though, are not from Jews, but from non-Jews who accidentally stumble upon kosher restaurants and all of their quirks. To keep kosher means to abide by certain rules of the Jewish faith. For the purpose of this post, it’s only necessary to lay out those which apply in restaurants:
Milk and meat are separate: In reality, this means in a kosher restaurant they only serve meat or dairy, never both. If you order a cheeseburger in a kosher restaurant, one of the items is a “fake” — either the burger is made of vegetables or the cheese is made of soy.
No pork or shellfish: If you’re looking for a shrimp scampi or bacon, you’ve come to the wrong place if you’ve chosen to eat in a kosher restaurant.
There are a lot of Jews: You would think this goes without saying, but in a kosher restaurant, you will find yourself among a lot of religious Jews. Observant Jews are only able to eat in kosher restaurants, which are not nearly as numerous as non-kosher; thus, when choosing a place to eat, Orthodox Jews tend to come in groups as there are few options to choose from.
1. House of Dog in Boca Raton, Florida
It’s somewhat incredible that someone can live among so many Orthodox Jews in Boca Raton and be completely ignorant of what Orthodox Judaism is, and what it entails, but this woman has managed the impossible. I recently visited House of Dog and the menu now has small notes on it to indicate that the bacon isn’t really bacon and that the cheese isn’t really cheese. I shared this review with my husband and we laughed, wondering if the menu was altered because of people like this woman. Outside of what appears to be some latent anti-Semitism on her part, I was also confused when I first saw the House of Dog menu, wondering if it was actually kosher because cheese and bacon were listed without any clarification.
2. Bravo Pizza in New York City
One of my favorite pasttimes when I worked in New York was to wait for my to-go order at Bravo while standing near the counter while people ordered their food. In just the ten to fifteen minutes while I waited for my order to be ready, I would hear at least two or three different parties order chicken or pepperoni on top of their pizzas, something Bravo and other kosher dairy restaurants don’t provide. Their outrage was palpable and quite amusing. I’m surprised there’s not more complaints on Yelp about it, but this is a good one.
3. Ta-eem Grill in Los Angeles
When a restaurant is kosher, it also follows the Jewish calendar. Jews can’t spend money on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays, thus, restaurants close on these days. Before going to a kosher restaurant, check out this handy (and hilarious) website.
4. Pitopia in New York City
As a general rule of thumb, you can only smack-talk a group of people if you’re a member of that people. For example, I can say that Jews are notoriously picky, but dear sir from Washington, D.C., when you do, it comes off as anti-Semitic. Oh, those Jews, they’ll eat anything, as long as there’s little prayer cards at every table.
5. Shalom Bombay in New York City
This was one of the most popular restaurants in Midtown East before it closed and moved to Teaneck, New Jersey. One can complain about a great deal, but it was always generally busy during work hours, as evidenced by many other reviewers complaining about not being able to get a table (even going so far as to blame it on the fact that they were black). Why did this reviewer think that the restaurant wasn’t busy at the time they visited? Must be the Jewish owner…
6. Basil in Brooklyn, NY
Leave it to a liberal to think that the fact that a kosher restaurant in Brooklyn is full of Jews somehow represents strained race relations in the neighborhood. “There’s too many white people” is never a complaint I’ve seen on a Yelp review before or since this one. Perhaps this reviewer could improve her own knowledge of the Jewish people, and their calendar, before trying to frequent another kosher restaurant.
7. Glatt Gourmet in Lakewood, NJ
This is, by far, the most openly anti-Semitic review I’ve read on Yelp. So much so, in fact, I tried to contact the website to have it taken down. My husband’s family lives in Lakewood, which is the most populous ultra-Orthodox enclave in the United States, and I came across this review while searching for a place to grab lunch several months ago. What might be more disturbing than the tone of this review is all of the positive feedback on it.
8. Mendy’s Kosher Deli in New York City
This is one of the more amusing reviews I’ve read of a kosher restaurant on Yelp made by a non-Jew, and also highlights another misconception about kosher food in general. No, it’s not so expensive because a rabbi is “blessing” the food (they are not). Why are kosher restaurants so expensive? Well, for starters, there is often a bearded man there, called a mashgiach. He is not always a rabbi, though he often is. His job is not to bless the food, but to ensure that the restaurant and its patrons are abiding by Jewish law. No food can come into the establishment without making sure that it is certified kosher (thus, you can’t bring leftovers into one restaurant from another, even if the other restaurant was kosher). The mashgiach is also there to check for bugs among the vegetables (which would render your salad not kosher), a task that patrons both Jewish and non-Jewish surely appreciate.
This mashgiach has to be paid a salary, on top of the kitchen and waitstaff, adding to the cost of the food. Restaurants are also closed for Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, making their bottom line that much more tight, necessitating a rise in prices to cover this expense. Kosher food in general, especially meat and cheese, is more expensive because their manufacture requires supervision, which comes with the cost of salaries for the mashgiach at the butcher and factories. Kosher law only allows certain parts of an animal to be consumed and only from strictly healthy animals, which means out of a dozen cows at a butcher, less meat comes out than in a non-kosher butcher. So enjoy that $14 kosher sandwich sir, and be content knowing there are no bugs in your lettuce and your meat didn’t come from a diseased cow’s behind.