Brooklyn — As New York City marathoners tracked their way through the five boroughs on Sunday, Nov. 3, Jewish denizens of Brooklyn and beyond were completing a marathon of their own — of the food variety.
‘It’s a kosher food pilgrimage, and this is our hajj,” said Ronen Halevy, a Modern Orthodox resident of Crown Heights, lending a sense of the sacred to Sunday’s Crown Heights Kosher Food Crawl.
The crawl, now in its third year, has tracked the growth of kosher food options, many of them upscale, in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood that is home to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. It was organized by JMenu, an online ordering service for kosher takeout ordering, dubbed the kosher Seamless, and doubled as a fundraiser benefiting Toys for Hospitalized Children, a charity that delivers toys to sick children.
When Halevy and his family first moved to the community four years ago, they had “no idea” that “Crown Heights was poised to become the Mecca of artisanal kosher food.”
“It’s been an amazing perk,” said Halevy, who particularly enjoyed sampling the sour-dough and olive bread prepared by Crust Baker, a kosher artisan bakery on Nostrand avenue.
Taking part in this year’s crawl, in and around Kingston Avenue, were more than 20 restaurants and nearly 500 participants, up from 250 two years ago.
Gruit, a new kosher beer garden and Ashkenazi comfort food spot that opened earlier this year, served up artisanal chicken liver with toasted sourdough and braised plums. The new kosher steakhouse meat, which recently opened in a historic building in the neighborhood’s northern edge, served savory smoked meats to passersby. Phomen, a kosher Vietnamese restaurant specializing in pho and ramen noodle selections, doled out a hearty pho broth. And the Boozery, a new kosher, alcohol-infused icecream company accompanied by the tagline “Ice Cream for Grown Ups,” served scoops of dairy free chocolate and butterscotch frozen desserts with a boozy kick.
Gabriel Boxer, better known for his online persona “Kosher Guru,” attended the crawl, snapping pictures of food samples and with participants to add to his ongoing Instagram story. Indeed, Boxer has chronicled the rapidly diversifying kosher food scene on social media for the past several years.
“As a kid growing up in Queens, we went to Crown Heights maybe once or twice a year, and it wasn’t for food,” said Boxer, who today lives with his family in Woodmere. “Now? It’s the bastion of the kosher foodie scene. If you care about quality kosher food, Crown Heights is your first travel destination.”
Aside from the food, Boxer enjoyed seeing “Jews from all walks of life” enjoying the day. Participants wore everything from jeans to black and white chassidic garb; women wore wigs, scarves or no head covering. “Food is becoming a uniting force in this neighborhood,” Boxer said. “That’s special to see.”
Though the Food Crawl was scantily advertised, 500 participants traveled in from the communities around New York to sample the fine kosher cuisine. Elayna Koevary, a self-described “Jewish foodie” from the Upper West Side, attended the event with two girlfriends. Together, the three launched a recent club to cultivate their tastes for artisanal kosher food. The annual crawl was the club’s second official event. “I got tired of your standard roast beef deli sandwich,” said Koevary. “In Crown Heights, the standard for kosher food has been raised.”