By: Shlomit Ebbin  | 

How Kosher Restaurants Around YU Have Fared During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Manhattan restaurants have taken a direct hit during the COVID-19 pandemic as New York City (NYC)  laws limited their business to take-out and delivery food service until June 22. Because of the financial toll that these restrictions had, many restaurants are no longer in business, including Midtown’s Mendy’s, Paprika and Abigael’s and Washington Heights’ 16 Handles. 

The guidelines for the reopening of NYC restaurants consisted of four phases. Phase 1 involved only take-out and delivery, while Phase 2 through 4 allowed for the addition of outdoor seating. On June 22, NYC entered Phase 2 of reopening which allowed for outdoor dining, and indoor dining became permissible three months later on Sept. 30. 

Two frequently visited restaurants on 34th Street, Mendy’s and Paprika, are permanently shuttered. These restaurants were located on the same block as Brookdale Residence Hall and both accepted the YU Caf Card. Though no longer open in Manhattan, Mendy’s remains open at its Brooklyn location. Similarly, Paprika has merged with Colbeh, another Mediterranean restaurant located on West 39th Street. “At the end of last year I finally discovered the perfect order, and now I will never be able to just quickly run downstairs and eat that delicious wrap again,” lamented Ellie Berger (SCW ‘22) when she learned that Paprika moved. Tiberias and Kosher in Midtown (more commonly known as Eden Wok), both across the street from Brookdale, are currently still open and continue to serve YU students.

Beren students planning on living on campus when the dorms open on Oct. 21 are worried about the decreased number of restaurants, especially because the Beren cafeteria is not guaranteed to provide food on Fridays and Sundays. According to the FAQ section on the YU website, “Friday and Sunday options are still being evaluated… Local restaurants will be open near both campuses.” However, since fewer restaurants are open, students are frustrated that there will be significantly fewer options available. “As an out-of-towner, I ate at those restaurants every weekend,” recounted Hadas Hirt (SCW ‘22). “I’m not sure what I’ll be eating without them.”

Mr. Broadway, Bravos and 16 Handles, popular kosher Midtown eateries that did not accept the YU Caf Card, continue to remain open. However, 16 Handles changed its hashgacha (kosher certification) a few weeks before March. Previously under Rabbi Aaron D. Mehlman with the National Kosher Supervision, it is now under Rabbi Zev Schwartz with the International Kosher Council. Rabbi Jacob Bernstein, the Beren campus rabbi, wrote on the “Ask the Campus Rabbi” Whatsapp group for Beren students that 16 Handles’ new hashgacha is not recommended.  

Abigael’s on Broadway, another popular kosher restaurant, is shut for good. The owners already had plans to close their restaurant in December, but after the COVID-19 restrictions forced them to shut their doors for some time, they decided it wasn’t worth it to open again for just a couple of months. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken a toll on the restaurant industry, too. Sadly, we have made the difficult decision to not reopen Abigael’s as a dine-in restaurant,” shared Abigael’s co-owner Jeff Nathan on Facebook. He explained that this was the final year on the lease and their partner of 35 years was ready to retire and, therefore, “it is no longer practical for us to continue with the grand plans we had.” 

By the Wilf campus, nearly all restaurants that previously accepted the YU Caf Card will be open when students return to campus. However, 16 Handles on Audubon Ave. and its adjoining pizza store 8 Slices, are temporarily closed according to the 16 Handles website and an 8 Slices’ Facebook post on April 17. Additionally, Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of 185th and Audubon Ave. was temporarily closed over the summer but has since reopened. 

The restaurants directly adjacent to Yeshiva College on Amsterdam Ave. include Golan Heights, Burgers and Grill, Grandma’s Pizza, Lake Como Pizza and Chop Chop. These restaurants have remained fully active throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, barring Lake Como, which closed around the summertime and has been open intermittently starting around the holidays. These restaurants have remained open despite the fact that most YU undergraduate students have not been providing them with the usual business these past few months. “Obviously we were heavily impacted because our clientele base is the student body and that [was] mainly non-existent,” shared the Mashgiach at Burgers and Grill, Moshe Niren (SSSB ‘21). “But there’s a good owner who’s staying there for the community and he’s staying there for the workers. He’s making sure that the business is staying open.” 

In terms of safety precautions, Burgers and Grill employee Nathan Greenberg (Katz ‘23) added that “we try to keep the restaurant as clean as possible, wiping commonly touched surfaces, enforcing masking, as well as our cooks and employees wearing masks and gloves when near the food.” Niren commented that since the pandemic, there have been a lot more deliveries and online orders for takeout than before. “We at Burgers and Grill really appreciate the business that the Washington Heights community is giving us during this tough time, and we look forward to being back at full capacity as soon as possible.” 

Photo Caption: Restaurants in New York City have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Photo Credit: Yosef Lemel