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Jun 6, 2012 09:58 AM

The Kitchen Table in Mountain View Closed June 3 -

This is sad news - I always counted he Kitchen Table as one of the top 5 kosher restaurants in the US -I will miss it.

Here is an article that covers the closing but also has a good discussion on the trials and tribulations of running a kosher restaurant. -

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  1. That is sad. I'm still quite puzzled that nothing can stay open outside of LA or Oakland with numbers of kosher customers growing both in SoCal and the Palo Alto/SF area. I'm hoping that a pop-up fine dining tour will find its way to CA, stopping in San Diego, Irvine, LA, Palo Alto, SF and Oakland. I think it would do well at any of those locations on a monthly basis. To open a successful permanent restaurant in CA, I think it needs to be super clean, spacious, moderately priced for weekday family dining, healthy and fresh (Israeli grill or French bistro fare), and have the ability to do Shabbat and event catering as well to make up for the time it is closed on Shabbat and holidays. Maybe if I keep wishing it will come true!

    30 Replies
    1. re: mamaleh

      My husband, the meat eater, loved this place. I'm vegan, so I never went. I know the numbers of Jewish customers is growing, but all are not necessarily keeping kosher when eating out. The number of strictly observant people with money to eat out is pretty small here in the Bay Area and driving to Mountain View from the Bay area for a dinner or lunch was not something taken lightly.
      The expense of kosher meat vs. non kosher is increases the price that must be charged so much that it is difficult attract non-kosher customers.
      I think a vegetarian or vegan kosher restaurant would do better. We had an excellent vegetarian kosher restaurant here in Berkeley that was beginning to do well when it closed, in part, because of contemplated construction in the area that never took place. Many of its customers were there for the excellent vegetarian food in a pleasant environment at prices that didn't break the bank.

      Right now, of course, all restaurants in the area have had tough times. When times are tough, eating out is about the first thing people give up. Oakland's vegetarian falafel restaurant, Amba is still going strong. Low prices and the ability to attract all kinds of people with decent vegetarian food helps bring in not just kosher customers, but the larger clientele necessary to keep the doors open.

      1. re: lburrell

        The attached was quite interesting indicating they closed not because they were kosher and had the expense of buying kosher but more of an issue of lack of onsite menagement -

        1. re: weinstein5

          Actually reading through the article the lack of an owner being on site seems like a fig leaf of an excuse. Sounds to me like what has happened before: investors become impatient to make a profit and since they are not personally interested in the business, just in the profits, they decide to close. So it seems to me, it was the same old story. Not enough of the investors wanted to wait for a return. Same thing happened with Raphael's in Berkeley. Kosher or not, restaurants are not a good way to get a quick return on investment.

          1. re: lburrell

            Another factor is the traffic. (Don't laugh!)

            If I have to drive 45 min to an hour on a weeknight to get to a restaurant it's faster to cook. I can go to the supermarket and buy the best steaks and cook them in the same time (and price!) it would take me to round everyone up and drive to a restaurant and then find a place to park. Remember we don't have public transportation outside of SF. The Bay Area and LA have horrendous traffic, and Irvine and San Diego are not far behind.

            I am particularly disappointed because we are going to SF in a few weeks. We'll end up at that Israeli place in Chinatown but not happily.

            1. re: SoCal Mother

              If you are willing to go Kosher Vegetarian Chinese, you might try Shangrila in the Sunset District. Highly recommended by a number of our friends who have gone there regularly for years. We live in the East Bay. if you are willing to cross the bridge to Oakland there's a reasonably decent kosher meat restaurant in Oakland
     (Don't be confused by the other restaurant with the same name in Berkeley. It's not kosher. Or Amba, the vegetarian felafel and pizza place in the Piedmont District of Oakland. Best French Fries I've ever eaten out and decent salads, felafel and pizza.

              1. re: lburrell

                Well we didn't want to rent a car. I am sitting here with Google Maps trying to figure out how to get to Oakland. Amba seems to be do-able by bus, but is it really worth the trip?

                I understand that Keneseth Israel has Shabbat meals so I have called and left a message.

                Seems like food is not a reason to come to the Bay Area. There has to be a supermarket someplace that sells bagels and cream cheese. (We might have a kitchenette in our hotel.)

                DH will be in San Jose before I get there and will have access to a car.

                1. re: SoCal Mother

                  There is a very nice Israeli style restaurant - Jerusalem Bar and Grill in Campbell/San Jose area if you have a car

                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                    The great thing about San Francisco is the excellent public transportation. You can use Google Map to plan a trip on public transportation to anywhere in the Bay Area. It's harder to get to Amba by public transport than some other places, since it is not located near a BART station. So my advice would be ShangriLa in the Sunset.

                    Best Place for a Shabbat meal, would be one of the Chabads in San Francisco. (There are several, even though San Francisco covers a small area, the topography creates sections of community.)

                    There are many places you can buy kosher items. Molly Stones in San Francisco has the most variety, but is pricey. It's reachable by public transport from anywhere in San Francisco. Palo Alto between San Jose and San Francisco, also has a Molly Stone's where your husband could stock up.

                    For Shabbat meals,home hospitality is available in Berkeley, which is easy to reach by BART from San Francisco. There are decent motels near Congregation Beth israel which would be the place to call about hosts for Shabbat meals in Berkeley. Because there are so few kosher places to eat out or buy precooked, people in the Bay Area are generous and resourceful, especially here in Berkeley. We also have better weather than San Francisco. especially this time of year when San Francisco tends to be a bit chilly.

                    1. re: SoCal Mother

                      I have "made" Shabbat and weekday meals many times in S.F. with what I can find at the downtown Whole Foods (there's one on Nob Hill and one beyond the convention center.
                      I prefer good bread and cottage cheese from Whole Foods to the Israeli grill in Chinatown. It's a truly third rate grill. I wish it was better.

                      Kitchen Table was worth the trip out to the South Bay. Bagels and Mollie Stone's are not, unless you have some other reason to be in Palo Alto. And seeing the Stanform campus and museums would constitute such a reason for a tourist.

                      But, SoCal, what you need is a zipcard. You pick up a car near you hotel, zip out to one of the little kosher places in Sunset, or to the grocery out there that stocks some kosher stuff for the community, and return the car.

                      The light rail also takes you to within a block of the Chinese veggie place in Sunset that the va'ad ha Ir supervises.

                    2. re: lburrell

                      Does Shangrila have a hechsher? When we were members of BI, a long time ago, people ate there all the time, but it wasn't certified by anyone. Lotus Garden was, on the other hand. Personally, I ate at Lotis Garden until someone called the OU on me (OU didn't think it was terrible, because it was under hashgach by someone orthodox( but I never ate at Shangrila). Holy Land was under Rabbi Zack (as Rabbi Traub's representative frim ORC), so I ate there.

                      1. re: ganeden

                        I believe Shangrila is under Rabbi Traub K-orc

                        1. re: IsItkosher

                          Yes, ORC. By the way, the guys at the Jerusalem Bar and Grill are serious about Grill. My husband went with one of the Vaad Rabbis when they were getting ready to open to check it out. They flew in a Rabbi just to instruct the cooks on how to cook a mixed grill Israeli style (includes liver, which is a whole big deal). So serious meat eaters anywhere near or willing to drive for the experience may want to give them a try. For those who will eat out vegan without supervision, San Francisco has one world class vegan restaurant, Millennium, (totally vegan); and one world class vegetarian restaurant, Greens.

                    3. re: SoCal Mother

                      <i>Remember we don't have public transportation outside of SF.</i>

                      Actually you do. Caltrain from 4th St & Townsend to Mountain View takes about 75 minutes (15-30 min more than driving), and costs $6.75. It lets you off practically next door to where the Kitchen Table used to be.

                      1. re: zsero

                        You can also take Caltrain to Izzy's Brroklyn Bagels in Palo Alto. It is a short walk from California ave Caltrain station.

                        1. re: zsero

                          <i>Remember we don't have public transportation outside of SF.</i>

                          Ah, Zsero, I was explaining my guess at a reason why restaurants outside of LA seem to fail. The town where I live has very little public transportation and the Jewish community is spread out. Shame about Kitchen Table (which is what this thread was about anyway...)

                          I second your question about the bagels, though I have heard they are quite good, it would take more than a bagel to get me to travel all the way to Palo Alto. We will be staying downtown near KI and I see that there is a Trader Joe's there, so we will be fine.

                          1. re: SoCal Mother

                            I agree it wouldn't be worth the trip just for the bagels, but the Mollie Stones in Palo Alto will have a lot more to offer than the Trader Joe's in S.F. and it's a pleasant ride.
                            Also, I would caution against relying on Kenesset Israel for a meal. It is a very small group of men who probably just make a pot of cholent. Unless you actually get a response for them so you know what to expect, I'd plan to make Shabbat for yourselves at your hotel. Unless, of course, you want to spend Shabbat in Berkeley. In which case you could be matched with any number of hosts near Beth Israel.

                            1. re: SoCal Mother

                              I just double checked KI, please go to this link and read all the reviews, especially the last one:

                              1. re: lburrell

                                Uh oh...Well I did get a reply about a choice of hotel, but I didn't receive a reply about meals...Maybe I should try Berkeley...


                                1. re: SoCal Mother

                                  That would be great. If you call Congregation Beth Israel they can match you with a family who hosts for meals. [The name of that family might be familiar :) ] Another option would be one of the Chabads in San Francisco. The closest to downtown would be Chabad of North Beach. It would be a bit of a walk, but a much better neighborhood than KI, and mostly flat. It's the hills that kill when walking in SF.
                                  Here's a link: My husband says that Sabra will deliver Shabbat meals. The North Beach Chabad Rabbi is second generation SF Chabad from a family that has always done a lot of hospitality. So you might contact him via the website and see what he can do.

                                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                                    CBI has a list of motels within the eruv on its website as well as other information. Office will make connections for meals for you. Who knows, maybe we'll meet. By the way, there's a new shabbat meal connection available online: that may help people in future who are traveling.

                                    1. re: lburrell

                                      Hi again! We decided in the end to stay in Berkeley and we have Shabbat meal invitations from some folks we know from years ago. It would be nice to meet you if we can figure out some way to meet without giving out too much personal info online. (Not this Shabbat, next one.)

                                      Um.. I need to say something food

                                      Where in the area do they make really good strong (like Peet's) coffee???

                                      1. re: SoCal Mother

                                        Berkeley is awash in good strong coffee, including Peet's stores near the Berkeley JCC. Many synagogues provide real, strong coffee at kiddush. Congregation Beth israel has strong coffee at kiddush when my husband makes it. You could call the Congretation Beth Israel office and ask for his telephone number. He also has information on food for upcoming celebrations and kiddushim. For example, this week a French themed catered kiddush in honor of Bastille Day and a Bar Mitzvah next week.

                                    2. re: SoCal Mother

                                      If Rav Ezran is still at Magen David Sepharadim, he is a wonderful cook. I would call him about Shabbat arrangements in the community. I also like the location for Shabbat. Close enough to wander through Pacific Heights/Filmore on Shabbat afternoon. B&Bs in the area or try the Laurel Inn - flat for walking, a straight shot on the bus to downtown.

                                      1. re: mamaleh

                                        Thanks Mamaleh, we have an invitation for Shabbat. Our hosts tell me that there is a simcha next Shabbat to which we are all invited.

                                        Glad to hear about the Peets but I really just threw that in so I could ask Lburrell how we can meet without the moderators deciding that I am too far OT.

                                        1. re: SoCal Mother

                                          Fish to be served at the Bar Mitzvah. Coffee Maker extraordinaire Avraham Burrell will probably be there. So for up to date information on Berkeley's coffee sources, ask someone to point him out.

                                          1. re: lburrell

                                            Thank you for the information about the coffee. Maybe the coffee maker's wife will be in shul as well...

                                            1. re: SoCal Mother

                                              Not likely, large crowds are not her thing. But he knows where she lives! Also the best foodie experience in Berkeley remains Berkeley Bowl. There are now two of them with an incredible selection of local, imported, and exotic fruits and vegetables as well as ingredients. If you want to make a dish with authentic ingredients from almost any part of the world, you'll likely find them at one or both of the locations. Many kosher products, including kosher turkey pastrami. You might want to bring your own knife. Fresh whole fish with scales still on also. And more kosher vegan cheeses are being added all the time. They sell bread products from two local kosher bakeries: SemiFreddi's and Metropolis. If you have a free Friday night, you might ask the coffee maven what country's food is being served at Chez Burrell.

                                              1. re: lburrell

                                                We are only there Fri-Mon and we will be having Fri dinner at Casa Rosen.

                                                The shopping part won't do us much good, I haven't found a hotel with a fridge, but thank you for your help.

                                                1. re: SoCal Mother

                                                  Special Bastille Day lunch at 1:30 July 14 at Chez Burrell. Berkeley Bowl is worth a trip even if all you do is look at all the lovely fruits and vegetables. You can actually see what the tumeric root looks like, view a Buddha's hand and even the famous, or infamous "Durian" otherwise known as the "corpse fruit." A lot of the fruit not only doesn't need, but shouldn't have refrigeration. Cherries are especially good and a bargain this year.

                    4. Too bad --- seeing the discussion of "why they failed", my (selfish) take is they were very clannish and didn't promote the restaurant or make everyone welcome. The few times I poked my head in, I got this vibe of "this is a private space, shove off" --- like "are you open?" "who is asking?". Yes, I'm not jewish, yes, I don't keep kosher, but I'm a big fan of all food including whatever kosher tradition they were serving (which I never really figured out). If the place doesn't reach out to me, it's going to have trouble reaching out to enough market share to support it --- I eat everything and eat out most nights somewhere between MV and RWC.

                      Which is sort of what others have posted here, but different.

                      Instead of complaining about transit, the point should be a "kosher restaurant" should reach out to everyone. Not everyone who eats at Langer's keeps kosher, either.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Sounds like a cultural difference to me. People from Israel or New York often give and expect a different vibe. Sometimes they are actually very uncomfortable around "California nice." I've known a number of people who tried "transplanting" themselves from Israel or New York to California or vice versa and couldn't deal with the difference in attitude, especially in commercial establishments. This doesn't mean you are wrong. However, sometimes the cultural difference isn't all that obvious and can alienate. Too bad when that happens.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          If you're talking about Langer's in LA...nobody who eats at Langer's keeps kosher.

                          Is there another Langer's I should know about? I'm a California native, but I don't know a huge amount about the SF kosher options.

                          1. re: MusicNutMeggie

                            I suspect that the "Langers" reference was to the Shabbat and holiday hospitality provided over many years by Rabbi Langer and his wife in San Francisco. Definitely kosher, but not a restaurant. Basically, in the Bay Area we have few options outside of private homes where kosher hospitality is offered.

                            1. re: lburrell

                              Ah, I see. Thanks so much for the clarification-- the Google search was turning up nothing! Haha

                        2. Sorry to disagree with some. KitchenTable was an excellent restaurant until
                          as too often happens, when the chef who makes it a success leaves
                          they promote from within (usually to save money). The results are predictable.