A Quick Lunch at Ben’s Kosher Deli.

Kosher is a set of Jewish dietary rules from slaughter to table. Animals must be killed swiftly and humanely with a knife blessed by a Rabbi. Milk and meat can never be mixed, so you’ll never find dairy products at a Kosher Deli – sorry no cheeseburgers or milk for your coffee – really! There are Jewish dairy restaurants with blintzes and such if you want dairy – and they don’t have meat of any kind.

Kosher Deli, Jewish Deli, What’s the difference?

Both have corned beef and pastrami. In fact if you’re not versed on the subject, they look pretty much the same when you walk in, except for the sign on the outside. Hebrew is read from right to left and there are no vowels. The right most character, כָּ , sounds like a “K”, the one that looks like a “W”, ש ,is called ‘shin’ and sounds like a “S” and the leftmost character, ר , that looks like a backwards ‘R’ is an “R” – Kosher. Sometimes you will two Koshers side by side, this is Glatt Kosher, or really really kosher!* This is a misuse of the word, but it is, in fact how it’s used. If you are not observant with respect to Jewish dietary rules, this does not affect you. Some observant jews only eat kosher or glatt kosher. For the rest of us the jewish/kosher deli is a cultural experience, not a dietary imperitive. My eye sees the hebrew and my mind just translates it.

כָּשֵׁר Kosher

כָּשֵׁר כָּשֵׁר Glatt Kosher

A word of warning

Some kosher restaurants have “non-dairy creamers”, and non-dairy deserts. These are called “pareve’ and are technically kosher. Pareve cheesecakes and rice pudding are goregeous. A word to the wise, don’t get them, they’re fake. I once went to a kosher deli with a non-jewish friend of mine. He saw the fake rice pudding in the ‘noshes’ counter going in and wanted it for the whole meal. I warned him, ‘It’s pareve, don’t get it’. He asked: “Whats pareve”, i just told him to get it. he took the first spoonful and when his mouth fell into a frown from the high expectations i said “That’s pareve!” You’ve been warned.

They all do this, empty to full, it’s kind of a custom.

First the soup.

“Ben’s Kreplach Soup with noodles”
Photo by Dan Scolnick

It’s NEVER on the menu, but you can always get soup and 1/2 sandwich at a reduced price.

And that’s a quick lunch at Ben’s. Sarge’s, or Katz’s, both jewish deli’s, on the other side of town would be a similar experience – you could order the same thing, but it would not be kosher. If you NEED kosher, you would know it.

If you want desert, find a nice italian bakery or ice cream shop.

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