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Oct 23, 2007 10:47 AM

why aren't there more kosher restaurants in washington heights?

I find it perplexing that an area so densely populated with orthodox Jews does not have more kosher restaurants. There's really only one--the deli on Amsterdam and there's a very good kosher selection at the Key Food on Broadway and 186th, but entrepreneurs, why aren't you seizing this opportunity?

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  1. My hunch:

    1) Most kosher keepers there are young/students/somewhat transient (not in the negative way, but in the just out of college way:-)
    2) The kosher kommunity has grown recently but before say 1996 was not sizable.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DeisCane

      I see your point DeisCane, but actually, there's a large kosher community there that is not transient. Young families with babies, grandmothers, grandfathers that have lived on bennet for generations. There are also the students of course because of YU but there's definitely another community that's been there for a while and seems pretty stable to me.

    2. There has been a large kosher community up there for years. Many bagel store type reastuarants have come and go, but there was never enough traffic.

      4 Replies
      1. re: superburns

        I guess my question is if there is such a large kosher community and places have come and gone, why hasn't there been enough traffic to sustain the businesses? It would seem like a perfect match. Kosher people, kosher food. I'm just trying to understand this phenomenon. If you, Superburns, or anyone else has any insight into this please do post!

        1. re: Foodluvva

          I will take a stab at this, from a midwest perspective. St. Louis has developed a decent-sized kosher community, but no restaurant, even dairy, has been able to survive. The 2 butcher/delis have tables for eating sandwiches, and one of them has a modest buffet Sunday brunch.
          Young kosher keeping families don't have the money to spend on eating out & babysitters. They tend gather at friends' homes on Shabbat, and have semi-pot-lucks. Families with older kids have too many kids to be able to afford to eat out on top of day school tuition. Grandparents might go to a restaurant, but nothing particularly exotic or interesting has ever been available.
          Just my sense of things. Now a kosher Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai: that might bring in the baby-boomers....who are paying college tuition!
          Feeling broke, p.j.

          1. re: p.j.

            I think another problem is that there's not much of a lunchtime work crowd for kosher restaurants.

            1. re: DeisCane

              thats true. every time the school year starts another deli opens up and then closes. because jewish ppl who live in the heights don't work there.
              however, keyfood has a large kosher meats section, including kosher bison!!, at least the one on broadway, dont know about another one.

      2. As a recent Heights transplant, I have been wondering the same thing. If this were any emerging neighborhood in Jewish Brooklyn, you bet there would already be two supermarkets and a pizza place. Recently, a Dougies opened up at 501 West 184th Street (between Audubon and Amsterdam), but I am not sure how it is doing. This is a burgeoning area, and I have met singles and families who have been here for an extended period of time. With the rise in rents in other parts of the City, you can expect more people to move to this area. The NY Sun recently had an article about how people are buying in Hudson Heights because of the affordable prices. Gourmet Magazine, I believe, had a write up last month or so about the various trendy (Dominican) restaurants in the area.

        Most of the kosher places are on the YU side and so those who live on the “Bennett” side don’t frequent them. I imagine that someone contemplating opening a place up would want to coopt the fact that there are many yuppies and freelancers who frequent the various cafes in the area during the day (or even students) to hang out, escape their small apartments or conduct their work/meetings. Opening up a place that would attract them during the day would help balance the smaller lunchtime kosher crowd. Another idea is opening a small meat takeout/delivery place (ala Gan Asia) that does catering and I imagine if marketed well, would do pretty well.

        I'm sure that there is a "YU factor" in explaining why more businesses have not opened up or survived, but I'm not familiar enough with the issue.

        4 Replies
        1. re: tamars

          Shouldn't there be late night pizza places and other take out places for the college scene? Every other college campus (non-kosher-specifically) has that kind of neighborhood food service. Why should YU be different?

          1. re: tamars

            I couldn't agree more, tamars. I've lived up there for a year now and have found this predicament to be not only puzzling, but frustrating. If I had the money, I would open something myself--and probably make a killing.

            1. re: Foodluvva

              The rents have been going up and have pushed out small business owners. Gruenebaum's on 181 was a bakery, but also had pizza, etc. in the back with seating-- one of reasons for its closing was due to increasing rent.

              Restaurants are one thing, but if a community was unable to sustain a kosher butcher (aside from what's available in Key Food), then I'm not really sure how it's expected to develop new entrepreneurial spirit. Among the Breuer's community, they may only eat of a Breuer's certification on their home turf and may shy away from others-- other than that the "new, young community" itself is somewhat transient.

              Re: YU side- how many times has the location where Revaya (184 and Amsterdam) changed hands?

            2. re: tamars

              I just walked down 184th street, and didn't see a Dougies. I did see a new dairy restaurant on the corner of 184th and Amsterdam, in the old Revaya space, called Dougie Doug's - is that what you're referring to? I was really in the mood for meat (it was why I'd shlepped over the the YU side to begin with), so I didn't try anything, but it looked very pleasant, with both tables and a lounge area with couches; a sign advertises they've got WiFi. The menu looks to be soups, sandwiches, salads, and pasta, with many coffees and blended drinks/smoothies.

            3. I am originally from England where there are fewer Jews than NY or even South Fl and yet the kosher restaurants/butchers/bakeries are thriving. Even if only a small proportion of Jews in London keep kosher why would these kosher restaurants manage to do well? i would say because British Jews support the kosher establishments better than American Jews do.

              In my opinion there is your answer. For any kosher establishment to do well all Jews need to frequent those stores regularly.

              11 Replies
              1. re: smartie

                There are some restaurants in the heights, on the YU side there is Dougies Doug which seems clean, a big plus in the Heights, but their prices for dairy are insane, lake como pizza is usually a good bet, compared to Grandma's pizza where ordering one slice could take you all day with the people they have working there, the best is Golan Grill which is the only meat place in the heights and stays in business because they are open basically all night and YU students are infamous for their 2 am shwarma cravings and the fact that they are actually really good

                1. re: smartie


                  I think you're ignoring the neighborhood factor when it comes to NYC.

                  1. re: DeisCane

                    Plus, I don't think many well-heeled tourists will make their way up to the Heights, even for some decent's just not a tourist destination.

                  2. re: smartie

                    smartie, I don't think Kosher establishment in England are getting business from not kosher keeping Jews giving them support, rather Kosher is seen as a ethnic or cultural eatery that everyone in England would like to try (as well as their fast growing minority of Halal consumers). England is really not known for it's cuisine, so foreign food formats like Chinese, Indian, French, Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese, and Kosher, attract lot's of business, simply because British people don't want to eat "British" food. I mean, come on... in NYC the UN of food, there are no/few "fish & chips" places, British restaurants, or UK gourmet shops. Even your wine & cheese shop culture is a French import. Not only is British food bad, but Irish and Scottish food is even worse!

                    as for why WH lacks kosher restaurants, It's too fragmented to support them in one place. you have Kosher consumers at the Col.Pres Hospital, Brauyers, YU (with it's own excellent cafeteria), each with different needs, and each separated by one or two dozen blocks of low income housing, so there is little foot traffic able to link them.

                    1. re: Joe Berger

                      can't agree with you Joe about British food these days. Maybe in the past but no longer. Fish and chips has never been considered gourmet, it is fast food.

                      Also do not agree with you about why non kosher Jews frequent the kosher establishments. Not just the restaurants but the kosher butchers bakers and supermarkets too. Jews in the UK do make an effort to support other Jewish businesses, the kosher bakers in England are packed out on Fridays with everyone buying challahs whether they keep kosher or not. Going for a salt beef sandwich or a schwarma? Non kosher Jews go to kosher restaurants. I lived there 48 years so am perhaps more aware of the demographics.

                      Anyway, interesting discussion, I am not trying to fight you.

                      1. re: smartie

                        How many "regular" supermarkets sell challah in the UK? Is it as common as in the US?

                        1. re: DeisCane

                          all the supermarkets sell challah on Fridays in the Jewish areas.

                        2. re: smartie

                          I'm grateful for the rebuttal especially from a long time UK resident.

                          My bias comes from waitering at a Kosher restaurant years ago and
                          the knowledge that without non religious and non Jewish customers,
                          such places in NYC would go under.

                        3. re: Joe Berger

                          Fish and Chips was introduced to the UK by Jews, in the late 19th century. It's as Jewish as the bagel (i.e. a food that was introduced to the USA by Jews but spread throughout the country).

                          1. re: zsero

                            There is a new place that opened on Broadway and 189th called Knish Box. I ate there a couple of times; the knishes are really delicious, just make sure they're piping hot when you eat them, as they taste best that way. The owner is a funny guy. Very dry sense of humor but fun to chat with. Let's hope this one lasts.