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Mar 7, 2013 09:35 PM

why im aggravated at the kosher restaurant world

so, my 96 y.o. grandmother, who used to live two miles away from me, took a fall over the summer and since then has been staying over the bridge initially by my aunt, and now- at a rehab center- i try to head out every week on thursday nights to spend some time with her, this week, bc of the snow insanity they were predicting, i went out after work on wednesday

part of my routine has been to stop on my way home for quick take out for dinner- i used the kosher gps (check it out if u havent yet, its been a huge help for a shul for quick shabbos supplies when my research wasnt good) and found two places over the summer that are open late enough that ive been stopping by on the way home

anyway- last night- i stopped at one of them on my way home- i shared fried chicken (theirs is insane) and a Beef Fry Lettuce and Tomato last week- and hoped to do the same this week- i arrived and was told they were out of beef fry- which is understandable, it was late on a thursday night- and their stuff tends to be super fresh

so the owner said that the steak sandwich was popular, so i ordered that, asked a few questions, and then brought it home

initially my dinner buddy bit in to it, cringed, and then decided to make frozen hot dogs instead, that should have been enough of a warning, instead, i bit in to it, this was the worst sandwich ive ever had- the meat was totally unseasoned- no salt or pepper- it was really overcooked and the texture was weird- it was in bread that didnt work for a steak sandwich, and they either forgot the sauce, or it just was flavorless when matched with the pile of unseasoned beef

so there are a lot of things i like about this place- the fried chicken, the beef fry sandwich, most moist grilled chicken ive ever had- so i figured rather than post about it, id send a quick email, or an inbox fb msg (not on a public wall) and i was hoping for a response of- oh shoot- we must have left off the sauce- im so sorry, or some level of explanation, instead- i got a kind of odd- i thought hostile response "sorry you didnt like it... well see you when we see you"- what the hell

so today- was aggravated abt it, and telling a friend the story- and he said "it's a kosher restaurant, you can't look at your experience there with the level of seasoning or with the customer service and compare them- you have to temper your expectations"

suffice it to say that was not the answer i was looking for

im not saying that there are no restaurants with great seasoning and good service, - i eagerly await the opening of hakadosh bbq- the restaurant :-), citron and rose- i dont think i need to elaborate- anyone who has been there- the food is incredible and the wait staff is sincerely interested, both in your current experience and in what they can do in the future to make it better, l'bella on main street- the sit down, not the pizza- perfectly seasoned dairy italian AND wait staff that make you feel like they actually mean it when they say 'happy to' after you make a request, even a place like chickies in nnj if youre looking for a fast shnitzel sanwich- great sauce/breading matchups, and even more receptive and responsive service

but those experiences are in the minority

am i alone in feeling like we tend to put up with issues from out restaurants that would kill a restaurant in the real world, bc we feel like we dont have much of a choice??

please tell me im being crazy and overreacting- bc im not ready to give up that chicken :-)

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    1. Supply and demand my friend. If the supply is not there you will pay alot for a little and say, "thank you sir, may I have another" (think Kevin Bacon in the movie Animal House).

      I remember when I had to drive my daughter from NYC to Buffalo my GPS showed me three routes, one of them went via the Catskills, I was all excited to be able find a route that availed to me a kosher stop over at a pizza store in Monticello. Whether I liked the pizza or its price was immaterial since I was happy to have an option other than a bag of chips from a rest stop along the way.

      Had I not been kosher I don't have to tell you the hundreds of options that I would have had which would have allowed the supply and demand equation to do its job, but when the choice is one, you simply take it and be thankful.

      Oh how I loved it when I was in Israel - soooo many kosher options all over the place!

      2 Replies
      1. re: MartyB

        heh- i dont think i mentioned anything about having a problem with the price- which i did not- price would have been reasonable, if the sandwich was edible

        1. re: MartyB

          I've been reading all the comments above and sometimes find myself nodding in agreement. I grew up in a traditional home, but we did eat out. Now-a-days, we are more strict in our kashrus and have held to kosher establishments when eating out.

          As an overall comment on the kosher establishments, I think MartyB put it real well. We have some certified kosher establishments where we live and we have eaten at them and our thoughts have been they are at best just ok. Nothing to write home about. On the average, the food was ok, the service sometimes lacking. And for the record, we tip well, use cash or credit card, and always have tried to be good customers. The best place was an Indian vegetarian restaurant (the point being, not Jewish owned, not Jewish run, nor specifically Jewish clientel). The food was quite good and the service was good.

          The worst experience I won't mention to avoid embarressing anyone who might be on this list, but it did seem to confirm what other have said.

          There seems to be an attitude that they can charge whatever they want for poor quality and they believe kosher keeping Jews are so desperate for their product that we willingly pay it. That they have a captive audience.

          The bottom line? We are good cooks! We can make our own Chinese food, our own Mexican food, our own Italian food, our own pizza, etc.

        2. Where was the bad steak sandwich from?

          I find that I have more problems with beef than chicken in kosher restaurants.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DeisCane

            gotham in nnj

            INSANE fried chicken- but that sandwich- ech

            that being said, i thought i was going to wake up to a dozen posts and texts that i was overreacting- glad i didnt

          2. SL.......after reading your post and the subsequent comments, it is clear that ithe problem is not food at this establishment, but the service.

            Yes, that should be a consideration, afterall restaurants and prepared food establishments are all catagorized under the "hospitality" industry. That being said, the service should be part of the experience, as you noted ....."happy to".....

            For me it is not always the price, if the establishment is freindly, the food good, I make an effort to recommend and visit that place, because if no one patronizes the business, it will be out of business.

            I think you owe it to yourself , to stop by ,and speak with the owner or manager, and politely tell them that their place has real positives , and some negatives. Maybe your experience was an isolated problem, or perhaps indicative of a greater matter. If they are real menches they will listen to you. One can be objective , when trying to resolve a matter like this.

            5 Replies
            1. re: PHREDDY

              I posted something similar a while back (not my Pardes post, btw). Recently, I've been wondering if the low quality of service at Kosher restaurants has evolved over the years due to a change in the provider profile rather than the customer profile. The restaurant business has become an almost impossible field in which to succeed. So who enters it in the 2000's? Either someone with a passion for food and maybe without an eye for service or someone who is just not that successful in other areas and doesn't really even get the risks or the challenges he/she must face in order to make it work? I know with some places (the recently departed Ariels in Engelwood comes to mind) the food was excellent but there was no eye for service from the first day it opened and all through till the end. With the majority of other kosher places, the owners don't seem to be real old-school restaurant people. Often, they are immigrants with different cultural norms for dealing with customers (was that pc enough?) which is okay in the countries from which they came, but is not good enough for the average American kosher consumer. Or they are just people who think they can take a stab at it with no history in a service profession of any kind (think every single establishment in Monsey). I think, having been a kosher consumer for over 25 adult years, that the changes are due to the change in owner quality rather than customer quality. And, btw Moishe, I don't ignore the reality that sometimes a kosher consumer of any product (not just the food establishments) can be a bit more outspoken and/or demanding than someone from a different background, but, at the end of the day, service in the 2000's stinks and all of us who were patrons in years prior know that to be the case. There has been a decline.

              1. re: cappucino

                heh- a friend of mine who doesnt keep kosher and frequents both commented that he thinks a big part of the problem is shows like hells kitchen- he feels that people in kosher restaurants think that non-kosher people are experiences things like his insanity in non-kosher restaurants, so why do they have to bother with solicitous behavior

                for me, when im out of town, i will eat vegetarian, and when i was younger, i wasnt kosher, so ive experienced the gamut, fancy and not, and know that in the well reputed restaurants, the places people go back to (fancy and not) service is a major part of teh equation in the non-kosher world, as they should be in the kosher world

                i think weve become less demanding of the service- that many find it 'artistic' when we have to deal with a chefs attitude- bc we think were supposed to, but unless dealing with that chefs attitude means something like him choosing to not serve something bc of bad quality, just like i cant bring a bad mood in to my class- i shouldnt even be aware of a bad mood in the dining room

                are we more demanding? i dont know- for me, i think were so super psyched when the food quality goes up even a modicum, that to say were demanding bc were kosher- that being said, im referring to my community, my friends, not what you were so pc-ly referring to above- where i feel youre spot on

                1. re: shoelace

                  That's a nice thought, but this type of attitude pre-dates Hell's Kitchen by decades. My own thought is that so many Kosher restaurants are opened by people who don't have a history in the hospitality or food service industry. They also tend to cater to a less discerning crowd (not less demanding, but less "worldly" in terms of dining expectations). I grew up in a house where "steak" was not specified as a cut (okay, maybe skirt steak was distingushed) and "well done" was the standard, although it was never referred to in that way. You "cooked" a "steak" until it was done.

                  The concept of finer dining for most observant Jews is still defined by Kosher caterers and restaurants, so expectations are still tempered somewhat. But the existence of unsophisticated diners on both sides of the equation, as restaurant owners and customers, creates an environment where people who do care about their food are in the monority. The people who frequent this forum or similar (are there similar Kosher forums) are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of 1% of Kosher diners.

                  Just my opinion.

                  1. re: ferret

                    theres something to what youre saying, ferret, that being said, the kosher eating dining out community is becoming more and more demanding

                    and dont we have the right to demand a better quality- or at the very least- decent customer service?

              2. re: PHREDDY

                The food is an issue, but yes, the service is the main issue

                I don't find that price is a major issue, not bc things arent expensive, but bc when I say to myself, wow that expensive, i then calculate in the time it would have taken me to make that specific dish, and what that time is worth, and the majority of the time, i end up deciding the price is fair

                ive frequented the place multiple times, and have always had praise, sometimes with ti accompanied by a complaint or a comment, when i deal with the chef- i always feel like he hears me, the owners have always been nice (until this time) and at times have been responsive, at times not, which is why before posting abt the experience, i sent a private msg giving them an opportunity to say the right thing

              3. I have seen similar behavior - while in NJ on business called an establishment to see if they truly closed at 8 PM arrived at 7 PM and was told the kitchen is closed - they did serve us but it was mediocre at best - on the plus I am strarting to see kosher retsuarants opening that realize they will be more successful if they not only provide good food but good service - examples of that here in CHicago are Soul Surfer Pizza and Milt;s BBQ for the Perplexed just to name two --

                2 Replies
                1. re: weinstein5

                  arg- your post got me all aggravated again- had a similar experience with a closing my second time going to this place- called in advance bc i couldnt remember if they closed at 10 or 11 and was running late, and was told they were opened till 11
                  when i arrived at 1020, the doors were locked- so i went elsewhere

                  then i mentioned it on my next visit and the owner basically made me feel like i was either making it up or imagining it, he said that he is the one to close the restaurant every day and that its never closed before 11, um- excuse me

                  1. re: shoelace

                    They did serve us - what made me feel worse was I with a colleague who did not keep kosher -