Kosher food is often confusing to people. The rules behind kashrut were written in the bible thousands of years ago. Despite owning refrigerators, many Jews still follow these rules today.
…because Candyland isn’t kosher.
Briefly the rules are:
- Foods fall into three categories- Meat, Dairy and Parve (neutral, neither meat nor dairy).
- You can’t mix meat and dairy.
- You can’t even mix the plates/silverware that were touched by meat/dairy.
- Animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves are kosher (cow, sheep, goat). Animals that don’t are not kosher (pig, rabbit, camel). Animals also must be killed by a specifically licensed butcher who kills them in a specifically humane way. For meat to be glatt kosher, in addition to the two above conditions, the meat must also come from an animal with adhesion-free or smooth lungs.
- Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher (salmon, trout, herring, snapper). Fish that don’t have fins/scales aren’t kosher (shrimp, crab, lobsters, oysters, squid).
There’s more but that’s the gist. Ultimately, there are many reasons why keeping kosher sucks. Many people couldn’t imagine a bacon cheeseburger-less existence. Realistically though, you still can make amazing food and keep kosher.
The Minty is a master of food marathons. She organized this 11-stop beast of a marathon for us, and we set off for the Jewish Pico/Robertson neighborhood.
First stop, Delice Bakery
One of many typical kosher bakeries in the area, Delice is slightly newer and fancier. The crowd included Israelis, Orthodox Jews and people from the neighborhood.
The pastry case was packed with decadent cookies, cakes, pies and other sweets.
This was the first spot of many where service was bad. There’s no warmth and a slight feeling of disarray was pervasive through the process.
We had a bureka and tart, both of which were average at best.
We would find that over and over, kosher restaurants use crappy ingredients. They use Vlasik pickles, Costco sized vats of sauces and corporate fruit. It all looks nice but lacks the flavor that makes it special.
Second stop, Schwartz Bakery
Their pastry case is more old school in terms of content. More sprinkles and chocolate, less macadamia nuts and fig tarts. They also have a salad/sandwich bar and kosher take-out sushi. Service here continued on the bad side. We told the server about the marathon and she didn’t care at all. We asked for one of the pastries but were told we had to buy more than one of that particular type. We went with a boring, dry, basic chocolate danish. Next.
Third stop, Shalom Pizza
This place was empty, and we still were barely acknowledged upon entering.
The crust was fine but the cheese was bad. It tasted like cheap pizza but it was $2.25 a slice. It wouldn’t be the first time that we thought, “I don’t know how this place stays in business.”
A lot of kosher places have a combo of Italian, Mexican and Chinese food which each nationality would cringe upon tasting.
Fourth stop, Pico Kosher Deli
The service here was more lively, however there weren’t any Jewish people actually working behind the counter. I have no problem with that, as anyone can make a corned beef sandwich. It’s just funny to order chopped liver and sweet and sour cabbage soup from a shiksa.
The corned beef was solid- not as good as Brent’s.
The soups were good, the chopped liver was good. Overall, it was good but not great.
The hip Jewish grandparents liked it.
Fifth stop, Got Kosher?
Finally some friendly service. The girls behind the counter were passionate and it came across in the food. The restaurant has a horrible name, given that they serve gourmet Tunisian and Morrocan food and do great bar-b-que.
They were one of the few restaurants of the marathon that actually made their own sauces, using fresh ingredients.
The menu was varied and we chose two sandwiches:
Memphis-style pulled beef brisket with coleslaw. This is a sandwich that no one would guess was kosher. It could stand up to other BBQ places in LA.
The Moroccan Marguez Sausage sandwich was only the beginning of the day’s sausage eating. It was one of the best dishes of the day.
Sixth stop, Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory
This place is the Kosher Peach Pit. It was packed with loud teenagers chomping on sausages. unable to sit still for more than three minutes. I chose the chorizo, which doesn’t match up to its non-kosher counterpart.
The Boerewors was a unique South African sausage, that was ok. Like The Minty said, it doesn’t compare to Wurstkuche or even Brats Brothers.
The veal bratwurst was the best Jeff had to offer. I’ll never argue with a brat…
Seventh stop, Glatt Kosher Subway
We didn’t actually eat here, because it’s the same old Subway ingredients- they just eliminate the non-kosher stuff (pork, cheese) and have shawarma.
Eight stop, Charlie’s Kosher Deli
This place is old school.
The decor is clean vintage.
The food wasn’t spectacular (an old potato knish and mushroom-less barley soup).
The brisket was their specialty, and from the sampling may be worth going back for.
I don’t eat gefilte fish from anyone besides my grandma, so I didn’t try Charlie’s.
Ninth stop, Beverlywood Bakery
This was the best bakery for the day.
From bagels to black and white cookies, cakes to pies and everything in between, Beverlywood is the go-to spot for your Kosher baked needs.
Tenth stop, Labels Deli replaced by Schnitzly
We were planning on going to Labels, but switched it for a modern fast food-ish Kosher spot called Schnitzly.
Schnitzel is basically milanese- boneless pounded meat (usually veal or chicken), coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Schnitzly is like Chipotle or Subway. First you choose from nine different breadcrumb coating combos you’d like your chicken breast to be fried in. There’s crushed garlic, chili peppers, dijon mustard, curry and even falafel seasoning. Then they make a sandwich based on your choice of toppings. As we were on the tenth stop we opted for Schnitzily Nuggets, which were dry.
Eleventh stop, Nagila Kosher Pizza & Salads
Last but not least was one of the best kosher pizza places in LA. Nagila is my grandparents’ restaurant of choice when we need something easy. If they don’t complain about it, that’s good news for everyone… Nagila has a milk side and a meat side, so it’s like two restaurants in one.
We kept it casual for the marathon, but it’s worth mentioning some of the fancier restaurants on Pico.
For kosher fine dining the options are The Milky Way (Steven Spielberg’s mom’s place), Pat’s and Milk n’ Honey.
Compared to non-kosher restaurants they don’t compete. As far as kosher goes, they’re better than you’d expect.
We also didn’t have time for Takosher, the kosher taco truck. The Gorbals also would have been a good ending for the marathon, in its totally unkosher assault on kosher food.
Speaking of assaults. We witnessed our first food marathon police standoff.
That family was watching as police shut down Pico at Robertson where a standoff was taking place. We couldn’t be bothered to find out the details as we were eating.
This was one of the first marathons where a majority of the restaurants were mediocre. It was well worth it, however to find the gem in Got Kosher? Now if they’d only change their name…
Happy Rosh Hashanah!