My stomach cannot handle the lack of brisket and steak any longer. Although I do not look like a famished young woman, walking the streets of Orange County, I assure you I am lacking protein. I, eight years ago, decided that glatt kosher meat was an important concept to me. In all fairness to this article, I feel it is imperative to announce that I do eat pareve outside of the house. As the smell of various food venues surround my condo, I have continued to find the strength to resist my temptation to sink my teeth into a treif burger. Then it dawned on me. What are more observant Jews doing in Orange County for food?
Things have slightly improved since I moved to the OC. OC Kosher does have a deli that sells sandwiches and other lunch items that I have enjoyed for the past year or two. OC Kosher even expanded its store and carries more items in its general store. In addition, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) opened up a coffee shop filled with Blueberry Hill Catering when the facility moved from Costa Mesa to Irvine.
That being said, where are these young Jews having a romantic dinner, a celebration, a family get-together, celebration or a milestone that they do not have to cook or have catered? Where do they take their house guests when they have flown in from New York or Israel? “Having a busy schedule and two young children can be tough for us to get out for a nice dinner at a [kosher] restaurant, but when we do, it would be more convenient to have a [kosher] restaurant nearby in Orange County or Long Beach rather than having to head up to Los Angeles,” stated Rabbi Drew Kaplan. Rabbi Kaplan’s inconvenience is not different from other observant Jews’ claims. Orange County has a need for kosher establishments [restaurants] that is not being met.
There are approximately 40 synagogues in OC and of that 40, 17 are Orthodox, according to JewishOrangeCounty.org. These families may not all keep kosher, but many of them do, and in Orange County, they have little choice about where they shop. As Rabbi Dov Fischer of Young Israel of Orange County pointed out, unless you purchase food at OC Kosher, Trader Joe’s or search through your everyday grocery store, your options are Blueberry Hill (in the JCC), Krispy Kremes, Baskin-Robbins and Coffee Bean. Now, as a child, this is a dream to have two out of four places be dessert venues! However, this tells us two things as Jews in Orange County. It would pay to be a dentist in an Orthodox synagogue and that we need to have more dining options for kosher residents and visitors.
Please, do not think I am not appreciative of the options we have now. I am a patron of all the previously mentioned businesses. It is not as if they are not serving the community, but there is a niche that is not being met.
In order to grow as a community, we must see its potential. We should make the OC appealing to Jews looking to start families and become active in our community. It must be encompassing. The fact that Los Angeles has multiple dining establishments and Orange County does not have one full “sit down” kosher restaurant should behoove us as residents to do something about it. We are willing to be packed like cattle on the 405 freeway to have a kosher meal.
Kosher food should not be an anomaly or a luxury in our community. Yet, it still remains to be a challenge to feed everyone. Although it is a challenge, there is more to gain here than a restaurant. Orange County can profit by aiding traditional Jews in their religious observance. Opening kosher restaurants will create more Jewish businesses, attract more Jews to the area and allow observant OC residents to participate in dining experiences. Having a place to provide a kosher restaurant experience will place food in more mouths and cultivate a future for Orange County’s traditional residents.