Seattle’s only freestanding, certified kosher restaurant closes amid pandemic pressure


(JTA) — If you keep kosher in Seattle — whose metro area is home to more than 60,000 Jews — you now have to head to the suburbs for a restaurant meal you can eat.

The city’s only freestanding, certified kosher restaurant, Bamboo Garden, is serving its last meals today. The vegetarian restaurant became kosher nearly three decades ago after local Jews contributed expertise and money to allow it to achieve certification, according to a piece in the Seattle Times about the restaurant and what it has meant to Seattle Jews.

The author, Joy Resmovits, an assistant metro editor and observant Jew, wrote that Bamboo Garden was the only local restaurant where she could take her parents when they visited from New York. Others had similarly meaningful associations, she wrote:

When news broke earlier this month that the restaurant would shutter at the end of July, because of recent pandemic-related challenges and the owners’ desire to retire, I received messages from lifelong Jewish Seattleites about their “mourning” this loss. How their only experience of dining out involved Bamboo Garden. How, to my friend Nina Garkavi, eating there became part of a night-out ritual during any visit to the symphony or opera or trip to the Space Needle with tourists.

Its regulars call it a place that bred diversity, feeding Buddhist monks, vegetarians and observant Jews, but also familiarity — a place where they could count on running into each other; servers who greeted diners with Hebrew phrases, anticipated your order and remembered your daughter’s age even when you hadn’t been there for a year or two. …

“When you’re a Jewish kid growing up in Seattle, you don’t eat at a restaurant that’s kosher and just say, ‘I really don’t like it,’” said [Jessica] Russak-Hoffman. “Every kosher restaurant you eat at you think is the best restaurant.”

Seattle still has a host of vegetarian and vegan restaurants for Jewish diners who want to avoid eating non-kosher meat but may be comfortable without kosher certification. And there are a handful of kosher restaurants in the suburbs, including a vegetarian Indian restaurant that became kosher following the Bamboo Garden playbook.

But Seattleites must drive several hours to British Columbia to eat kosher meat in a restaurant, Resmovits writes.

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