The Kosher Food Marathon

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!

16 Responses to “The Kosher Food Marathon”

  1. Ohiogirl Says:

    Dude! (or dudette…)

    What were you thinking? In Pico Robertson Nagila Pizza is THE pizza place. Haven’t had better pizza, let alone kosher pizza, for miles from there.

    And they make their own cream cheese… : )

  2. Food GPS Says:

    11 stops?! You’re a madman. I’ve enjoyed Got Kosher? and Beverlywood Bakery before, and my first experience at Schnitzly was pretty good, for the full sized schnitzel. Bibi’s Warmstone Bakery is also pretty good along that stretch of Pico.

  3. tannaz Says:

    i love this! beverlywood bakery is such a gem. and got kosher looks amazing — like the new guard of kosher food in pico-robertson (one could hope..). agree with foodgps up there about bibi’s — all their little baked pockets are delicious, and they have shakshuka! shana tova, fm! =)

  4. foodmarathon Says:

    Josh, Tannaz: The 5k follow up to this marathon will include Bibi’s and Takosher. You in?

  5. Michael / South Bay Foodies Says:

    You guys must have hollow legs! 😀

  6. Diana Says:

    I’ve actually heard that Nagila has amazing falafel too! That’s kosher, right? 😉

  7. josh Says:

    you should try shilohs steak house they make blue cheese burgeres , bacon , wrap scallops ….cocnimita pibil tacos…its amazing what they r doing

  8. the minty Says:

    Ah yes, I like Brats Brothers as well but since it’s in the Valley, I haven’t gone since my hot dogs/ sausage crawl in the Valley.

  9. NomsNotBombs Says:

    Oy. Sounds like I can cross a lot of places off my to-try list since you did the work for me. I have, though, been curious about Nagila–especially since it makes Justin burst into song every time he sees it.

    Side note: Can we do a deli crawl one day?? Lipitor for all!

  10. My Shimoda Says:

    Does kosher also mean that everything is blessed by a rabbi? How strict is that rule?

    p.s. Shiksa translated in Hebrew means, “abomination”, “impure,” or “object of loathing”. really nice…

  11. danny Says:

    Couple of points if you ever did this again. Delice – get their butter croissants and/or bagguette with butter and jam, their other stuff sucks. Schwartz – the cinnamon crumb danish is their best but their egg/cheese/croissant sandwich is good as well. Skip Shalom Pizza and go to Haifa next door, they have the best shish kebab in LA (kosher). At PKD get the Hot Pastrami on club w/russian dressing and the Rene’s Special – awesome! At Got Kosher you got their best sandwiches, no question. At Jeff’s try the sweet italian and french dip sandwich w/extra horseradish sauce on the side. Charlie’s and Beverlywood bakery are not kosher rather “kosher style” so I don’t know about those places. You should try a shwarma laffa from Nagila and go over the hill to fish grill where everything is fresh and amazing.

  12. Alena Says:

    When did you review Got Kosher? Was it the 7th?

  13. Shapiro Says:

    Thanks for the review.

    But I must say, it’s a shame that you think kosher has to do with not having a refrigerator.

    Your description of kosher isn’t far off, but your analysis seems to indicate that you are a reform Jew, or as some of my reform friends put it, gentile.

    Your work is appreciated, but next time, try not to make stuff up.

  14. Food GPS - Shawarma Palace: Shaved, Griddled and Golden, Oh My Says:

    […] of Kosher restaurants. It can be hard to know where to turn to find the best food. Some people attempt to hit every restaurant on the route, but if you don’t have the constitution of an ox, a good place to start would be at Shawarma […]

  15. All the Food Marathons | Says:

    […] The Kosher Food Marathon […]

  16. Favorite Posts From September 6 - 12, 2010 - Food GPS Says:

    […] September 7, Food Marathon founder Neil embarks on a The Kosher Food Marathon, visiting 11 establishments along Pico Boulevard in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: