‘On Mondays We Eat Local’: Roommates Launch an Initiative to Help Local Kosher Spots Survive

Eli Nussbaum and Jonah Rosen eat local on Mondays.

By Lisa Kava

Upper West Side roommates, Jonah Rosen and Eli Nussbaum, both in their 20s, recently launched an initiative called “On Mondays We Eat Local.” Their goal was to organize a group of participants to order dinner from a designated local kosher restaurant each Monday. The two young professionals had been looking for a way to help neighborhood restaurants, which continue to suffer due to the pandemic.

The idea for “On Mondays We Eat Local” came during the snowstorm in December, when Rosen ordered takeout from one of his favorite Upper West Side kosher restaurants. It was a cold messy night, and Rosen arrived at the restaurant to find it dark and empty, with the owner sitting quietly alone inside. “That image really highlighted for me what a terrible hand the restaurants have been dealt through no fault of their own,” said Rosen. “I felt frustrated with the lack of help that restaurants and small businesses have received. I wanted to step in and help.”

Around the same time, Rosen read a column written by Frank Bruni, which moved him. Bruni spoke of restaurants as a meaningful part of New York City life and emphasized that many will not be able to survive as a result of the limitations brought on by the pandemic. Rather than simply accepting that fate, Rosen said he was inspired to be part of a solution. “These are more than just restaurants. They have history. Chefs, waiters and other workers rely on them for employment.”

Rosen spoke with Nussbaum about his concerns and the two roommates brainstormed, trying to figure out how to make a difference. Together they came up with the idea for “On Mondays We Eat Local.”

Rosen, a 2017 college graduate who works in the airline industry, has lived on the Upper West Side since 2018. Nussbaum, who works as a physician’s assistant, graduated from college in 2016. The two are part of a listserv (an electronic mailing list) for the young, Modern Orthodox community on the Upper West Side, comprised of professionals between the ages of 22-30. Utilizing this listserv for initial outreach, the team has since developed a new email list of 150 Upper West Siders who wish to participate. They have also created a FB page.

Rosen and Nussbaum pick one Upper West Side kosher restaurant to promote each Monday night. Members of the group, who are notified of the designated restaurant by email and through the Facebook page, then order dinner (either takeout or delivery) from the featured restaurant. Each restaurant includes a token of appreciation, such as a free dessert, along with dinner that night. The schedule rotates so that each restaurant will be featured more than once.

Featured restaurants so far have included New Amsterdam Burger Bar, Talia’s Steakhouse, and Kasbah Grill. On deck is Arba Modern Bread and Bagel. Rosen and Nussbaum are also in discussions with a number of additional restaurants.

So far, the project has been a success and restaurant owners are appreciative.

“This is a much welcome and needed venture,” exclaimed Ephraim Nagar, owner of Talia’s Steakhouse on Amsterdam Ave at 93rd Street, who said his dinner orders increased by 50% the night his restaurant was featured. This enabled him to hire back two former employees for the evening to help package the food. Nagar gave each customer a free homemade chocolate mousse.

“It has been a very challenging time,” said Nagar, noting that in addition to indoor dining, he previously held live jazz events as well as Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations at Talia’s. “None of that has been possible since March.” Like many Upper West Side restaurants, Nagar says he set up an outdoor tent with two sides open, heat lamps, and arranged tables six feet apart. “I am doing what I can do, but it is still tough,” said Nagar. “Jonah has really begun to raise awareness of what we restaurants have been going through.”

While Rosen acknowledges that “we are not saving these restaurants by ordering from them on one night,” his hope is that the project will remind the community of the plight of restaurants, and inspire people to take small steps to help out.

If you would like to help support kosher restaurants by participating in “On Mondays We Eat Local,” you can sign here, or join the FB group here.

FOOD, NEWS | 46 comments | permalink
    1. Jodi says:

      Love it. Good work Jonah and Eli!

    2. Mark says:

      Third post in a row showing at least two people in close proximity without masks.

      • Danielle says:

        The post does mention that the 2 are roomates, which is probably why they aren’t wearing masks…
        I personally am going to focus on the positive here, which is a great initiative aimed at helping out some of the most vulnerable in our community.

      • Jodi says:

        They are roommates!

    3. Mordi says:

      Great job!!!!!

    4. Shoshy Ciment says:

      Such menches!

    5. WombatNYC says:

      Can someone tell me if a good kosher restaurant actually exists? or is it just overpriced and of poor quality. I honestly would like to know b/c I ain’t seen it yet !

      • Standards, plz says:

        No, there is no such thing as a high-quality, reasonably priced kosher restaurant…particularly not if you’d like decent service. I’m Jewish, but can count on one hand the number of times that a visit to a kosher restaurant has not entailed a chilly reception by staff, strangely rigid menu policies that have nothing to do with kashrut (kosher rules), or both. The staff act as though they’re doing you an immense favor by existing. A representative example: I ordered a cheese omelet (probably $15+) and received plain eggs with a cold slice of cheese beside them. When I stated I’d ordered a cheese omelet, I was told that this is how they must serve cheese omelets. ???

      • Jacqueline says:

        There are many good quality restaurants on the uws that provide good service. Noi Due, newly arrived on 84th and Columbus, is outstanding. Talia’s mentioned in the article is another, among many. Sabba’s is great pizza. Kosher restaurants are good or bad to the extent that any restaurant is.

    6. reb says:

      reb says great mizva cannot thank you enough
      those of us in kosher restaurant business
      are suffering and this is a true inspiration
      keep up the good work

    7. Bob says:

      I mean this is cool I guess but seems rather discriminatory to only support kosher restaurants. And I would say the same thing if someone was doing this only for halal restaurants, or only vegan restaurants, etc.

      This seems to send the wrong message during a time when so many people are hurting by only supporting one group.

      • Boris says:

        The turnip truck must be in town. How can they support non-kosher restaurants if kosher people eat only at kosher restaurants? It sounds like you’re totally oblivious to the practice of keeping kosher according to the Jewish faith.

        It’s also incredibly mind-numbing to hear someone describe this as discriminatory by comparing kosher dietary practices to those of a vegan.

      • irish says:

        why would it be discriminatory if it was vegan restaurants?!

        anyway, I do agree a little bit with your comment. ALL hospitality is suffering, not just kosher. can we make Tuesday irish bar night?!

        as for Amsterdam burger bar, I was made feel unwelcome there once for not being jewish.

        • Boris says:

          This is probably the earliest in the day that I’ve popped corn and gotten ready to sit back and watch the mental calisthenics sure to unfold.

          What part of practicing Kosher dietary practices don’t you understand? It’s not something one does less than 7 days a week so that they can go out for Irish night or Mexican night occasionally. A kosher person will not eat food at a non-kosher restaurant/bar any day of the week.

          As far as feeling unwelcome at Amsterdam Burger Bar, it’s pretty disgusting to accuse a business of doing that to you because you’re not Jewish. I can only imagine how you pushed their buttons.

          • Neighbor says:

            Boris, it’s not fair of you to accuse Irish of putting their buttons at Amsterdam Burger Bar. You weren’t there. I speak from experience that I myself have been treated rudely at many a kosher restaurant–Irish didn’t experience an isolated phenomenon. I am Jewish (although not visibly so). My sister is Orthodox (visibly so). Both of us have been treated astoundingly poorly in kosher restaurants. It may not be a religion problem–broadly speaking, staff attitude at kosher restaurants is a problem.

          • West Sider Since Forever says:

            Oh dear me – not everyone is as happy in their skin as you are and on top of it – remember to be kind –

        • PastramiBliss says:

          don’t take it personally they’re rude to everyone and I’m Jewish.

        • Sunbee says:

          I don’t get it. The staff itself is not Jewish. It’s not like the owner waits tables. So if you were treated in an unpleasant manner, then why make it a discriminatory thing rather than just rude wait staff (if anything)? Also, I’ve seen rude wait staff at both kosher and non kosher restaurants. Not sure what this has to do with it being a kosher restaurant.

      • Peter says:

        What is the “wrong” message? Support the restaurants you prefer (based on taste or dietary restriction or religion or whatever else you want)?

        Go ahead and organize any number of groups you want, for any type of restaurants or organizations you prefer. Noone is stopping you, even in “this time when so many people are hurting.”

        • Bob says:

          I mean its called “On Mondays We Eat Local” not “On Mondays We Eat Local Kosher”. And they could do it for everyone and then just have a kosher choice as well as choices for other dietary / religious groups so that they are helping all struggling restaurants in the neighborhood.

          • Steen says:

            Dear Bob,

            May I suggest you start your own restaurant group to support? I’m assuming you have friends and can let them know what you’re planning rather than denigrate two kids who are trying to support what they love. I’m not Jewish and therefore don’t eat kosher, but I still love this idea.

            • Bob Lamm says:

              Dear Steen–Thank you so much for what you’ve posted. I was close to writing much the same yesterday but didn’t. I’m Jewish, do not keep kosher, and applaud what these two guys are doing. I’d similarly applaud two Greek Americans supporting Greek restaurants, two Mexican Americans supporting Mexican Americans, etc. etc. No such efforts are within 100 miles of being discriminatory. You have it right: this critic should do something positive himself and not put down this wonderful effort.

      • Andrew says:

        Do you also think breast cancer awareness month or raising money to support Alzheimer’s research is discriminatory against people with other types of conditions since, after all, so many people are hurting?

      • Amy Kotliar says:

        Instead of criticizing, why not start an initiative yourself?

    8. david says:

      $22 for a basic burger at New Amsterdam Burger. This is why restaurants are struggling to survive, not COVID

    9. My thanks to the Rag and to my friend who sent me here. I’m signing up to the mailing list.

    10. John P says:

      Nice work by these kids. Would always be nice to see the Rag do a quick interview once every week or two with a local business owner. Maybe we could drive some business their way

    11. Jen says:

      Im not Jewish, but am dying for a high-quality pastrami sandwich. Kind of Carnegie dei used to make. Not overly salty, thinly sliced, nicely grilled. Any recommendations? It doesn’t have to be Kosher, but I have never found a good one in non-kosher places.

    12. Sherri says:

      These kids are doing a mitzvah, while others pontificate and criticize. Way to uplift your corner of the world guys!

    13. lynn says:

      Just a note to say that restaurant week has been extended until Feb 28th! 🙂

    14. Leigh says:

      What a great way to inspire support of the neighborhood!! Great work!

    15. Linda says:

      Todah rabah!!

    16. Rochelle Perlman says:

      I hope the young men can also put on their radar, Cafe Roma. It’s my go to place for pizza 🍕 and more. Located on Amsterdam Ave between 101st and 102nd Street.

      Thank you.

      • People are people says:

        Hard pass. At Cafe Roma I didn’t notice the minimum charge sign & was then denied the ability to charge…but I didn’t have cash with me. I told the cashier I’d have to leave without my items. He told me I’d have to buy more to meet the minimum, but I told him I wasn’t interested in buying more.’ He called me a slur for a non-Jew. This was 10 years ago & I still avoid that block because the experience was so disgusting.

    17. Sheli Pickholz says:

      Perhaps a more reasonably priced special would entice more people to participate. Many kosher restaurants are just prohibitive in this economic reality.

    18. charles D hoffman says:

      an sustainable economy can’t be built on the notion that everyone needs someone else to cook him a hamburger

    19. Elizabeth Shackelford says:

      Where do we find the featured restaurants? I want to help. Three cheers for the young ‘uns🤪

    20. Rudi Weinberg says:

      What list serve were they initially on. The one for young professionals? I would like to join