By Helen Camochi, guest reviewer (This guest review is a response to the Tuesday, August 16 article “Certified kosher, Chicken.Org opens at 4th and South Streets in Center City.”)
Israelis seem to be the only ones with enough cojones to open up kosher restaurants in Philadelphia, so I do give them props for the tremendous effort. I do want to say to all of them, though, that, while there are many people who really like Middle Eastern food, I think the folks among us who have no choice but kosher are a bit tired of it. So, when you open up your Western-style, fast-food, organic-chicken or organic-burger joints, please leave the hummus, babaganoush and tehina at home. If the kosher among us want those things, we’ll go to Mama’s. The non-kosher have even more choices. I see a lot of Koreans in Old City opening up small delis, but I have yet to see one that serves up kimchi.
When you finally decide to open up your restaurant, it is also nice to have a big menu posted instead of (or maybe in addition to) photocopied menus. Even something as simple as a big chalkboard with the menu written on it would have been nicer. I’ve even seen a product that you can paint on the walls that makes the wall a big chalkboard.
While we are talking about menus, it seems to be a very Israeli thing to have a menu on which half of the items are unavailable. I for one can tell you that nothing raises my blood pressure more than having this happen with absolute regularity at almost every Israeli-owned establishment to which I have been. Also, if you don’t have half the things on the menu, don’t look at me in the eyes and say “what can I get you?” … tell me the three choices that I have right off the bat.
Also, I noted that, on the menu, it says “1/4 chicken.” On the planet from which I come, 1/4 of a chicken is a breast and a wing if you like white meat, or a leg and a thigh if you prefer dark. A half of a chicken means a breast, wing, thigh and leg. If you want to sell 1/8ths of chickens, feel free, but don’t give me a thigh and tell me that it’s 1/4.
Finally, get some T-shirts or some form of a uniform. There were 10 guys speaking Hebrew to each other, and it seemed like either I was in a restaurant full of employees or customers were handing me my chicken. Oh, and the big bling Jewish stars hanging from your neck? I’m sure the ladies love them, but, to me, they’re just tacky. Maybe you were thinking this was Boca….
Overall, the food was not too bad. Ideally, I would have liked some mashed potatoes with my chicken, but it was your first day open.
I do think this restaurant fills a niche and could be fairly successful and lucrative for you owners if they play your cards right. There are lots of areas to improve, but I will keep testing the waters every now and then to see if the kinks get worked out…
With all joking and criticism aside, I know how hard the restaurant business is, and even more so for one who has taken on the added costs and challenges of holding by the strictest standards of kosher. I know I can speak for the entire kosher community in saying that we hope any criticism is taken as constructive and that you have more success than you had ever wished for.