Dallas-area kosher restaurants respond to dine-in ban
At Kosher Palate, Miriam and Chaim Goldfeder discuss Passover items with Dallas Kosher Kashrus Adminstrator Rabbi Sholey Klein. Kosher Palate has restaurant menu items available for takeout

Owners pivot to takeout and Shabbat orders

By Deb Silverthorn

Topping the menus of Dallas Kosher certified restaurants and caterers is a true desire to continue serving their clients, to fill homes with hearty meals, to fill spirits with great tastes and to continue for years to come.

The business owners and their staffs are working overtime to provide for their customers, their families’ navigating the crisis and the survival of their businesses. 

In these weeks leading to Pesach, the busiest of all weeks for most of them, their hours are constricted, their service provisions contained and their reserves stretched far.

With Monday’s announcement ordering restaurants to temporarily end dine-in service, everyone’s stress heightened and belts tightened. Also closed temporarily are gyms, movie theatres, bars and lounges.

“Despite everything, many of our clients are still coming in, they are ordering online and driving up and we’re here with great food and smiles,” said The Market’s Jordona Kohn, whose dining chairs are now empty. “We have followed the sanitation requirements, and upped them ourselves since before it was ‘cool’ and mandated.  The only thing we’re doing different is how we can get everything we make to the public.”

Most companies are taking orders online, or accepting calls and payments by phone, and many are offering delivery by their staff members or agencies like DoorDash or Grubhub.

“We are in uncharted territory as most of us have never experienced such a thing,” said Joey Ohayon, of Fino!  “Which means people worry, panic, and withdraw from their daily routine, like going out to eat or even ordering for takeout, which in turn disrupts a lot of other pieces for a whole lot of people.”

Midtown Pizza, which just celebrated its grand reopening last month, ceased dining-in Monday night, and is relying on to-go, pickup and delivery orders as well. 

Both Fino! and Midtown Pizza are already taking orders for pizzas available immediately after the end of Passover.

“We’re trying to keep our employees working, suppliers delivering, the economy going — and whatever that means, and it’s changing daily, that’s what we’re doing,” said Simcha Kosher’s Lowell Michelson working out of Congregation Shaare Tefilla’s kitchen after a fire destroyed his commercial kitchen in May 2019.  Michelson explained that the Dallas Jewish community has weathered a June windstorm and the October tornado. The Houston Jewish community got through Hurricane Harvey. And now, like the world, facing down COVID-19 and the necessities to stay safe and healthy at all costs. “We’re all making lemonade – lemon-aid.”

With the cancellations of simchas, corporate events, meetings and the general public’s overall fear, of both clinical and financial uncertainties, the establishments are in danger of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Some events are being postponed, but until when is unanswerable.

“We have to abide by the laws, so we’ve changed it up.  Offering a more concise menu, focusing on what we can deliver to be delicious once it gets home the same as if you were sitting here and dining with us,” said Meat Point’s Yehuda Alali, for whom takeout is only a small part of his business.  The restaurant has and does cater, for requests small and large and will now rely on that even more.

“There is nothing else we can do, but to do.”

For Dallas Kosher, supervising their organizations, in these unfamiliar waters is beyond fulltime and filled with line items.

“There are concerns throughout the community, and its kitchens, as daily — hourly — the situation changes about who is available and what to do as this crisis touches those who prepare for us,” said DK Executive Director Meira Naor. “We are working with everyone, as best we can while keeping the authority that we have to be able to provide, to do our best to keep things running smoothly.”

With AkibaYavneh Academy moving to online learning, its in-house caterer, A Taste of the World, has stopped providing daily lunches, and seen its schedule of events disappear.  Ramping up Shabbat meals for the next three weeks, with the same hand-off capability as others, is how the ownership is pushing forth.

“We need to provide for our families and for the families of our employees and it’s scary,” said co-owner Ruthy Henkin. “Our priority is to them, and our clients and whatever challenges are upon us and we are working to meet.  We want to serve, literally, and for now that is by offering meals for Shabbat.”

A Taste of the World, Kosher Palate, Meat Point and Simcha Kosher have posted Shabbat meals to order, leading up to Passover and will pickup again after the holiday.

For most recent conditions, specials and Passover offerings, vendors are posting updates to Facebook, their websites, notifying DK and through emails to their customer base.  While the situation has never been tackled before, neither have the resources. 

At Aderet, where sit-down service accounts for the majority of the restaurant’s business, accommodations are being made to meet the need and follow the restrictions.  Saying “safety first, and that no one has experience in this,” owner Liron Telman echoes the voices throughout her industry.

Because they sell groceries in addition to their dine-in restaurant business, Kosher Palate and Milk and Honey still have a busy schedule of clientele.  With many families changing Passover plans — some people now making Seders who never have, travel plans canceled — products are on the shelves and available for pickup or regular shopping.

“As a Mom and Pop shop, this is a very big problem and we must carry on,” said Milk and Honey’s Amy Cohen, noting their deli is still open for to-go or pickup. “We’re all affected, we will be OK, but it is a scary time.”

Kosher Palate, which had already closed its dining room to make space for their Passover goods, has posted how to shopping lists and needs for those readying for the holiday for the first time. 

Kosher Palate, Simcha Kosher and Taste of the World will offer Passover meals to go, or for pickup and the two DK-supervised Tom Thumb stores will still have their deli-counter available.

“People won’t go hungry, and we’re doing all we can to make sure that everyone has what they need,” said Kosher Palate’s Chaim Goldfeder, adding that requests from customers in other cities have been denied because the store is focusing on local customers. 

Benny’s Bagels’ Isaac Banai is relying on his faith and focusing on his daily routines and taking care of one another.  The Benny’s Bagels full menu is available for pickup or to-go orders.

“G-d is running everything,” said Kohn, a sentiment offered in one way or another by all those affected. “It’ll be what it is, and that doesn’t mean ‘easy’ or ‘well,’ but we have to have faith, we have to move forward and we have to take care of each other.”

Taking care of each other is the ingredient that — in this time — is in the best of taste.

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