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Apr 23, 2014 08:52 AM

Great American Health Bar/57th Street

I happened to walk by during chol hamoed and saw two things:

(1) The restaurant was open and (2) a sign in the window said it was not KLP certified.

I believe the restaurant is Jewish-owned by the same people who own Cafe Classico upstairs (which was closed for Pesach).

I'm curious what that means as far as year-round reliability of Great American's hashgacha.

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      1. re: KosherKing

        Pretty much answered your own question.

    1. I don't think they have the same owners. A lot of people will eat at Classico but not at Great American Health Bar.

      Why would the same owners have vastly different certifications, one that is much less accepted than the other?

      25 Replies
      1. re: tamarw

        I have spoken with the Israeli-sounding fellow behind the register and he told me the same people own Classico.

        Some people are willing to accept a different hashgacha when it comes to dairy. The Israeli fellow said they use only cholov yisrael, etc. You might be surprised to hear that I have seen Yiddish-speaking sheitel ladies and chassidim there -- not that that should be treated as a reliable indicator of the establishment's kashrus.

        Over the past few months, I have bought soups and salads there. But, having seen that they were open over Pesach I may rethink eating there again.

        The 57th St. corridor has virtually no choices other than this place and Classico, which I find overly expensive for what they serve. Soom Soom is over a few blocks southeast but offers middling quality for too many $.

        1. re: KosherKing

          Since they're open all week, they'd need one of the certifications that allows that (for great American)

          1. re: cheesecake17

            No such thing if owned and operated by a Jew during Pesach.

            1. re: KosherKing

              I was under the impression they're not owned by Jews
              Could be wrong

          2. re: KosherKing

            Oh, I agree. I personally eat there. However, I've had many an argument with my more machmir friends who refuse to eat there because of false claims (e.g. mehadrin on the window when it's not), so I don't understand why they can't aim for consistency to be accommodating to the stricter types.

            1. re: tamarw

              Being more accommodating to "the stricter types" would likely mean closing on shabbat, more costly labor (checking for bugs in veggies, for ex.), perhaps pricier ingredients, and no doubt not being able to use many ingredients now being used. That's quite a change, and not one every restaurant has interest in doing.

              1. re: queenscook

                Exactly. Restaurants use Tablet-K and other "more lenient" hechserim that are not widely accepted because the costs associated with going "mehadrin" clearly outweigh the benefits. If they'd make more money going with the OU, they'd do it a heartbeat.

                Especially for a dairy restaurant - I'd be stunned if GAHB didn't use Tablet-K cheese, which is usually cheaper than other kosher certified cheeses.

                1. re: CWY

                  But see, that's an interesting comment. They explicitly display "mehadrin" on the window of the storefront (you can even see it on Google Maps Street View) but yet aren't actually mehadrin.

                  You can only wonder what else they're not being honest about.

                  That's typically the crux of my argument with these "I won't eat there" types.

                  ...which is probably why they'd only get Tablet K.

                  And yes, queenscook, I understand. However, assuming they have the *same* ownership, what's the hassle? My point is, it doesn't seem to me that they are owned by the same entity. It doesn't add up.

                  Realize I'm only calling into attention the consistency with the same-ownership-different-hechshers issue. Maybe they are owned by one and the same, but it's a bit of a stretch to have such a vastly different approach to kashrus/hechshers if it had the same ownership. It just seems odd.

                  1. re: tamarw

                    Upstairs / Classico does an enormous business in sandwiches and sandwiches platters sent to offices at lunch time. I met someone there not long ago for an early (11 am) lunch and was absolutely astounded by the volume of food moving out the door; the waiter told us it was a normal day.

                    I imagine that it's worth the money for a place that makes it's core living sending out platters of chicken sandwiches to have a mehadrin hechscher, but not so much for the downstairs/Health Bar since they pitch to a vegan/veggie crowd and, for them, the kosher angle may be a minor part of the business.

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      My husband's office has ordered platters and individual lunches from there many times. They say the food is fresh and presented well, and what you order is what you get

                    2. re: tamarw

                      Here's another possible dishonesty: if they sold their chometz before pesach (and they'd have to, in order to reopen as kosher after pesach), and yet they were open and serving chometz during pesach, it creates a presumption that they were stealing from the person who had bought all that chometz. Now it's possible that they had an arrangement with him, allowing them to dip into his supplies for a cut of the profits made thereby, but really, what are the odds? (The sale is legal and binding regardless of what they do, so I'm not suggesting that the chometz wasn't really sold and is now forbidden, but it speaks to their honesty or lack thereof.)

                      1. re: zsero

                        Could be that they sold the restaurant during Pesach?

                        1. re: DeisCane

                          And operated it as the new owner's employees? He'd expect to keep that week's profits, then, wouldn't he? In any case it would take a special arrangement, and what are the odds that they really bothered making one, without the hechsher requiring it?

                          1. re: zsero

                            Some restaurants routinely make such arrangements with non-Jews. Milk Street Cafe Boston does; and don't say you wouldn't accept such an arrangement. You eat in Israel, don't you? The entire stock of the Israeli food production and processing industry is sold for a week every year to a man who lives in Abu Goush.

                            1. re: AdinaA

                              The bakery in Brookline used to do it, too. Kupel's? And that was from a more universal hashgacha than tablet-K.

                              1. re: DeisCane

                                And did they have a special arrangement with the buyer? I find it hard to believe they did. Far more likely that the operators were simply thieves.

                              2. re: AdinaA

                                And it's closed during Pesach! No kosher business in Israel sells or handles chametz during Pesach, no matter who owns it.

                                We all sell our chometz, *and we put it away* until we buy it back. We don't steal the owner's goods during Pesach. The most we might do is take something from the pantry *after* Pesach, before it has been bought, which is like eating something in the check-out line at the supermarket; it's ethically OK so long as you intend to pay for it.

                                But operating a restaurant during Pesach, while the chometz stock (or the whole restaurant) belongs to someone else, without making a special arrangement with that person, is stealing. It means the people doing it are criminals. And really, what are the odds that they did make such an arrangement, without the hechsher insisting on it? Especially since the owner would surely expect to keep any profit made by *his restaurant* that week?

                                1. re: zsero

                                  Milk Street sells the restaurant for the week, which remains open. I admit that I do not know the details of the contract. But I do think that it is unfair to presume that the Great American Health Bar is violating a norm, here. I think that it would be more appropriate to assume that the supervising rav has made a valid legal sale. Even if some of us choose not to eat there.

                                  Actually, I don't know much about the Health Bar, but I do wish that Cafe Classico had better food in-house. The sandwiches they send out are OK, even pretty good, simple, on pretty good bread, but it is a convenient location for me and I'd be there more often if the plated food wasn't so greasy-spoonish.

                                  1. re: AdinaA

                                    For I think the third time, I don't doubt that they sell their chametz, because I'm sure their hechsher requires them to do so. I doubt they take the sale seriously, but that doesn't matter; if you sign a binding contract, thinking that it's merely symbolic or ritual, that misconception is your own problem, and you may get a nasty shock if the other side enforces it. So the chametz was sold, and was bought back after Pesach, and is therefore kosher.

                                    But the hechsher would have no reason to care whether they steal from the buyer, or cheat him. That would't affect the kashrut of the food. So since the owners don't seem to be personally committed to the whole Pesach thing, and I doubt they take the sale seriously, I also doubt that they've made an arrangement with the buyer to keep the place open, and I especially doubt that they pass on to him or her whatever profits the restaurant made that week. I might be mistaken, but really, what are the odds?

                                    Milk Street is a bit different, because the owner is observant, so I have a bit more confidence that he does make some sort of formal arrangement with the buyer authorising him to operate the place, e.g. for a salary, with any net profit going to the buyer, or something like that.

                            2. re: DeisCane

                              On selling chometz, there's a wonderful story about Rabbi Riskin. The year he became Rav of Lincoln Square he had the man who bought the congregant's chometz from him show up unheralded at the home of a congregant on chol hamoed and take possession of the contents of the chometz cupboards which - this being Manhattan - involved a good deal of very expensive Scotch. But it made the Rav's point: the sale is real.

                              1. re: AdinaA

                                Of course the sale is real. I don't know why people doubt it and need such demonstrations.

                                PS: Did the person who took his scotch bring it back after Pesach? Or did he end up paying for it?

                                1. re: zsero

                                  People doubt it because no non-Jew ever comes to take the chametz that they theoretically bought. I've rarely met a person who sells their chametz who truly believes they won't see it again seven/eight days later. That demonstration was meant to show people that they should believe that chametz was truly not theirs.

                                  1. re: queenscook

                                    I know someone who bought one of those mega-expensive casks of Scotch that a distillery in Scotland will age for you, and forgot to list the Scotland location in his chametz sale contract, thereby forfeiting the Scotch.

                                    I also know people who have forgotten to list Scotch in the weekend house, and lost it.

                                    I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems. But real sales contracts.

                                  2. re: zsero

                                    It was before my time, but I don't think so. The family just had to be good sports about it.

                                    1. re: AdinaA

                                      Well, he had to either pay for it or bring it back. It's a sale, not a gift! The contract says he has to pay full market price for the whole lot, to be determined after Pesach. The contract to sell it back says he will receive market price plus a fixed profit. The two market prices cancel each other out, leaving only his profit. But if the stock he sells back is smaller than what he bought, then obviously the price he gets back is going to be smaller, and he will end up paying instead of being paid.

                2. One year the person who bought the chametz belonging to some friends of mine showed up at their door unannounced, asked to see the chametz, and took some of it away. I believe they were reimbursed for the value after Pesach. Even though it's a real sale, most people don't really expect someone to come to their house and take anything.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hbg1

                    No, of course they don't. The buyer has no personal use for all the chametz, he buys it in the hope of reselling it at a profit. Which he does, after Pesach. If he were to find a better-paying customer during Pesach, he would surely sell it to that person instead, and that person would then have to come with a truck to all the houses to haul his purchase away. But that's not likely to happen.

                    If he takes something for his own use, and doesn't sell it back after Pesach, then of course the resale price he gets will be minus that item's worth, so he will end up paying instead of being paid.