In his own words, Kenny Shopsin is “a middle-class Jewish kid from the suburbs who’d never known a day of hunger in his life.” He opened a corner store in the 1970s. Ten years later, with his wife, he converted it to a restaurant. The Shopsins employed a whatever-works approach, creating dishes suited to his whims (the full menu contains 900 dishes)–from macaroni & cheese pancakes to hamburger soup.
Shopsin’s Corner Store soon became a well-respected eatery, combining Kenny’s wacky inventions with more standard fare. Shopsin’s recipes are often profoundly unkosher–his famous cookbook, Eat Me, opens with shrimp and closes with cheese-topped spaghetti Bolognese. There’s even a menu item called “Treif” (brisket sliders with fried eggs, sautéed onions, and two kinds of cheese). But Shopsin’s approach to cooking is fully Jewish-American–that is to say, a real melting pot.
In the first half of the 20th century, mini-markets spread to virtually every corner in American cities, and most were owned by Jewish immigrants. In that regard, Shopsin’s evolution from grocer to gourmet restaurateur mirrors the evolution of Jewish America. And, lest you think that he’s all treif, Shopsin’s menu contains chicken soup, egg cream, Chinese food, and a genuine love for everything he cooks and eats–and there’s nothing more Jewish than that.