Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality, " shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.
Jose Meirelles began Le Marais (its name connoting the well-known Jewish enclave in Paris) in 1995 after being urged by a friend to consider opening up a kosher steakhouse. "There weren't any at the time" Jose told us in his thick Portuguese accent, "especially in Midtown - my friend thought that this would bring some new excitement to the kosher world. "Jose and his butcher, Dominique Courbe, seem like an odd couple to have a kosher restaurant as neither is Jewish. Preparing to open an upscale kosher eatery that did not serve pork or seafood, and prepared particular cuts of meat became "an interesting challenge" to Jose after his first brasserie's success, Les Halles, on Park avenue. And, while Dominique Courbe learned his trade from his father, Meirelles never set out to be a chef/owner. Beginning his career as a banker in Portugal, Meirelles realized his passion for cooking after taking a yearlong sabbatical in America and being forced to work at odd jobs in between traveling. Soon thereafter, he enrolled at the French Culinary Institute, here in Manhattan, where he further honed his craft before opening Les Halles in the 1990s. A butcher shop fills the front of Le Marais, welcoming new customers with its glass case of aged kosher cuts. Expanding its role in kosher dining, Le Marais offers a meat selection separate from the restaurant itself. This focus on the quality of the meat continues into the kitchen, where Meirelles prepares dishes with simplicity. Jose recommends the steak-frites as representative of the restaurant's culture - skillfully prepared without unnecessary complication. As his slogan reads: "A rare steak house well done. "
Abe Lebewohl always knew what work meant. His first experience was in Eastern Europe doing hard labor during WWII, and then after being miraculously reunited with his family in a displaced persons camp in Italy, he moved to New York with his mother, father and little brother. He then got a job working the soda fountain in a Coney Island deli, while also volunteering to do as much as possible to learn other aspects of the food industry. He graduated to other delis, absorbing the nuances of Jewish cuisine and eventually scraping together enough money to open his own. The grand day happened in 1954, on the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue, and, thus, The 2nd Avenue Deli began. It was tiny to begin with, serving only ten people at a time, but eventually grew to become one of New York’s most popular kosher delis, in the heart of what was then considered to be the old Yiddish theater district (the Yiddish Walk of Fame honors luminaries from this fascinating era). At this point, “it wasn’t Abe’s business, it was really his life, ” according to his nephew Jeremy. This is where the rags-to-riches story halts. Tragically, in 1996, Abe was murdered while carrying his day's deposit to the bank. Jack, his younger brother by seventeen years, took over the business he had grown up in and kept it running for ten more years before disputes with the landlords caused him to shut it down in 2005. Two years later, Jack’s sons, Josh and Jeremy, decided to continue the family tradition and reopened in their present location on 33rd Street.
Prior to opening his restaurants, Pradeep Shinde worked for Leona Helmsley in the Waldorf Astoria. His initial venture into the restaurant business, Madras Mahal, opened in 1987 and was the “first vegetarian/kosher restaurant on the block, ” according to Pradeep. Soon after came Chennai Garden and then Tiffin Wallah, which were eventually combined into Chennai Garden by Tiffin Wallah on 28th Street. All of these places have served well-reviewed and distinct cuisines from many regions of India. My husband and I had the serendipitous pleasure of stopping by Pippali, Pradeep’s most recent endeavor as of 2013, one Saturday evening towards the end of September, only to find a “friends and family” opening event. Pradeep kindly invited us inside where we were warmly greeted by everyone and offered a seat at the bar. For the next hour, we sampled outstanding Indian food as hors d’oeuvres were passed around. When I commented to Pradeep on how amazing two of the vegetarian creations were - and how they were reminiscent of the spectacular food we had eaten at Tamarind, which had been on 22nd, and at Junoon on 24th - he told me that his chef had worked in both of these restaurants. I cannot say enough good things about all that we tasted. After the puffed poories stuffed with potatoes and topped with yogurt and chutney, grilled chicken marinated in green chili spices, lamb patties, onion pakora, and my absolute favorite, pieces of cauliflower lightly fried with a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, we walked away satiated and thrilled.
"It's good to see you, and it's good to be seen, " Paul Whitman said to Mrs. Lloyd, who has been a regular at Fischer Bros. & Leslie for the last fifty years. From across the shop, Paul's brother-in-law Steve Niederman smiled and said, "Mrs. Lloyd, from 57th Street! " Paul wrote down Mrs. Lloyd's order in his big book of house accounts and she was on her way. Over the course of the thirty minutes that we spent in this butcher shop, we witnessed many scenes like this. A regular would arrive, be greeted by name, place an order, pay via their "house account, " maybe set up delivery, and be off to their next errand. It is something that does not happen everyday, especially in New York. Fischer Bros. & Leslie, which has been in business since 1949, has proudly served three, sometimes four generations of families, and vice president and partner Paul Whitman has gotten to know most of them throughout his tenure with the shop, thanks in part to their commitment to the house account system. Fischer Bros. & Leslie does take cash, checks, and the occasional credit card, and it does have a website, but Paul encourages everyone to open a house account. "You get to know the people this way, " he told me. They will call a customer to let them know that one of their favorites is in stock: "We have some rib steak, just what you like. " The store even accommodates their regulars by preparing seasonal foods throughout the year, if demand warrants. Partner Yisroel Brown told us there is an older couple that loves their gazpacho, even in the wintertime, so "we'll make a batch for them, " and then added, "Just like latkes are not just for Hanukkah. "Paul has been a part of the Fischer Bros. & Leslie family ever since he married Leslie's daughter Marcy, whom he met in college. After graduate school at The Stern School of Business at NYU, Leslie invited Paul to work at the store while he got his resume together. "That was thirty-five years ago, " Paul told me. The full-service kosher butcher shop also prepares a large variety of Jewish favorites in-house, including matzo ball soup, which was initially prepared for Marcy one day years ago when she wasn't feeling well, but then became so popular that it was added to the menu. Paul went on to say that they set a wall on fire making the soup, which spurred them to build a kitchen. Another fire occurred years later, just before Passover, when someone left a brisket in the oven. Luckily, Paul was staying in the family's office upstairs at the time, and a neighbor (who knew he was there, thanks to his motorcycle parked out front) alerted him to the fire, and a Passover crisis was averted. When I walked out of this old world shop, Jenna, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, turned to me and said, "My family has been in New York City for over a hundred years, and I have heard them tell stories of places like Fischer Bros. & Leslie, places where a customer was greeted by name, where money only changed hands at the end of the month, where quality of product went hand-in-hand with quality of service and character, but I had never experienced it myself. Wait until I tell my Grandma that a place like the ones she reminisces about still exists. " (Good thing they deliver to Brooklyn. )
Everyday that I am in this city, I discover another reason why I love it, but on the day that I stopped into the Sirovich Center, I was truly proud to be a New Yorker. I could not help but tear up when the caring people I met explained what the mission of their organization is. For over twenty-five years the center has been offering a variety of classes, social events, and counseling in an effort to support Holocaust survivors, seniors, the homeless, and any others of the Jewish faith who are struggling in life. They are cared for and attention is given to each of their specific needs - no one is left to manage life on their own, if they are unable. Within the center is a soup kitchen, Project Ore, which provides family-style kosher meals. The commitment and compassion that everyone shares at the Center is heart-warming. I encourage anyone who is interested to visit their website, and consider helping out.