New York City is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world outside of Israel. With an estimated 1.1 million Jewish residents, New York has developed a thriving kosher food scene to meet the dietary needs of its Jewish community. Kosher dining options abound throughout the five boroughs, but dairy restaurants occupy a special place in the hearts and stomachs of New York’s Jewish residents.
What is Kosher?
Kosher refers to Jewish dietary laws that dictate what foods are permissible and how they must be prepared. Kosher rules are based on biblical commandments and rabbinic regulations developed over centuries. Kosher food must come from ruminant animals that chew their cud and have split hooves, like cows, sheep, and goats. Fish with fins and scales are also kosher. Birds such as chicken, turkey, duck, and goose are also kosher.
Kosher animals and fowl must be slaughtered according to religious procedures, with a sharp knife in one swipe across the throat. Blood must be drained fully from meat before it is eaten. Dairy and meat products cannot be mixed or served in a meal. There are also rules regarding which parts of animals may be eaten. Pork, shellfish, reptiles, and most insects are not kosher. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are kosher as long as they contain no insects.
Anything that comes into contact with non-kosher food becomes non-kosher, so kosher kitchens use separate dishes, utensils, and appliances for meat and dairy. Kosher restaurants follow strict procedures of cleaning and separation to maintain kosher standards. Certification agencies monitor compliance.
The Allure of Dairy
Within the framework of kosher laws, dairy restaurants hold a special allure, especially in New York. First, there is the comfort factor. Dairy conjures up soothing cups of coffee with a splash of milk, creamy cheeses melting on top of warm cooked food and satisfying desserts like cheesecake, parfaits, and ice cream. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice cultured dairy treat after dinner?
Second, keeping kosher at home can seem like a chore with all the dishes, pots, and utensils that must be kept separate for milk and meat. Eating out at a kosher dairy restaurant provides a nice break from the complexities of maintaining a kosher kitchen. There is something relaxing about ordering a dairy meal without considering whether it mixes with meat.
Finally, kosher dairy restaurants evoke a sense of nostalgia for the “old country” cuisine of Eastern Europe, where dishes like blintzes, kugel, pierogi, and borscht originated. These hearty dairy recipes have been passed down for generations and take on an aura of authenticity in a kosher dairy restaurant setting. There is also a familiarity with American-style deli food and diner fare like matzo ball soup, knishes, deli sandwiches, salads, egg creams, and other staples commonly found on kosher dairy menus.
For all these reasons, kosher dairy restaurants hold an enduring appeal for New York’s Jewish community.
The Kosher Dairy Restaurant Scene
There are over 100 kosher-certified restaurants in New York City, with dairy menus ranging from casual to upscale. They are concentrated in Jewish neighborhoods like the Upper West Side, Midtown, Lower East Side, Borough Park, and Queens. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick nosh or a nice night out, New York has plenty of options for kosher dairy dining. Here are some of the most popular:
1. Mike’s Bistro
Address: Multiple locations on the Upper West Side along Amsterdam Ave.
This Upper West Side mainstay offers an extensive menu of deli sandwiches, burgers, salads, and classic dairy entrees. Matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, and cheese blintzes are house specialties. Try the chocolate babka bread pudding or a towering slice of their famous chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The whole family will leave happily stuffed after dining at Mike’s Bistro.
Address: 235 West 48th Street in Midtown and 84th and Amsterdam on the Upper West Side.
With locations on the Upper West Side and Midtown, Solo is upscale dairy dining at its finest. The ambiance is elegant, and the menu features contemporary twists on kosher cuisine, from French onion soup with kashkaval cheese to potato-crusted Chilean sea bass, served with a creamy shallot and chive sauce. Their extensive wine list and decadent desserts make Solo a terrific choice for a romantic date or special occasion.
3. Gottlieb’s Restaurant
Address: At 189 Allen Street on the Lower East Side.
This Lower East Side kosher dairy staple has continued since the late 1950s. Gottlieb’s is old school with diner-style counter seating, jukeboxes on the tables, and memorabilia adorning the walls. Menu options range from all-day breakfast plates to deli sandwiches and homemade soups like mushroom barley and split pea. Daily blue plate specials keep regulars coming back again and again. Don’t leave without trying their renowned cholent – a traditional Jewish meat, bean, and barley stew.
4. Tevere 84
Address: 84th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side.
Craving fine Italian cuisine that adheres to kosher laws? Look no further than Tevere 84 on the Upper West Side. They serve up kosher takes on Italian classics like chicken parmesan, veal marsala, and pasta with pesto or vodka sauce. Try their brick oven pizzas topped with fresh mozzarella and vegetarian options like eggplant parmesan. Save room for tiramisu or creamy gelato for dessert. The upscale ambiance makes Tevere a terrific date spot.
5. Mintz’s Chinese
Address: 513 8th Ave in Midtown near 39th Street.
If you’re seeking an Asian-inspired kosher dairy meal, check out Mintz’s Chinese in Midtown Manhattan. They prepare your favorite Chinese dishes like vegetable lo mein, sweet and sour chicken, spring rolls, and egg drop soup, substituting kosher ingredients where needed. Their low-mein noodles with tofu are a big crowd-pleaser. Mintz’s Chinese will satisfy your cravings for Asian fare while adhering to kosher dietary standards.
The kosher dining landscape in New York continues to evolve, with new restaurants opening all the time. From old-fashioned delis to modern gourmet cuisine, there are endless options for experiencing kosher dairy cuisine in New York City. New and long-time residents alike appreciate the mouthwatering variety. New York City delivers for locals and tourists seeking authentic kosher dairy fare.