Pair of restaurants stay kosher downtown

December 5, 2007 10:35:57 AM PST
Today is the first day of Hannukah. Traditionally, that means cooking things like potatoes or donuts in oil. But our Hungry Hound says there are also many people in the Jewish community who keep kosher, and he's found two brand new dining options downtown, one of which opened just last week.

Keeping kosher means not only do you stay away from pork and shellfish, but you also don't mix milk and meat products in the same meal. Plus, every ingredient has to be inspected and certified kosher by a governing authority. With all of these rules, it's no surprise that up until recently, the only good kosher options were in West Rogers Park or Skokie. But now, kosher diners have two new options downtown, one of which is partnering with a well-known celebrity chef.

It's lunch hour at the brand new Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies in the South Loop, but unlike other options in the area, everything here is completely kosher. The result of a unique partnership with Wolfgang Puck.

"We've taken some of the wonderful recipes that are known across the country and then put a new spin on them by kind of kosherizing them," said Laura Frankel, Spertus Institute.

As Director of Food Service at the Spertus, Frankel has plenty of experience. She ran the all-kosher Shallots in Chicago and New York, and brings her know-how to the job of translating Puck's recipes into acceptable kosher meals that are mostly grab-and-go.

"The twist in this building is its under rabbinical supervision with the Chicago Rabbinical Council, but the food is the same bright, natural flavors that the chef is known for," Frankel said.

Anything from a grilled steak sandwich, to mini potato latkes; even a moist, spiced pumpkin sponge cake with a cranberry-apricot jelly. She says it will come as a relief to kosher eaters who previously had to bring their own lunch everyday.

"They sit at their desk with a tuna sandwich -- a piece of tuna -- or whatever little can, and an orange or tangerine and that's it," said Frankel.

Over in Greektown, the Crowne Plaza Hotel has a sprawling restaurant -- Dine -- but within that restaurant, a gourmet kosher lunch-only option has been carved out. It's called the Metro Klub, and offers a fairly wide range of kosher options such as grilled chicken with vegetables, a buffalo chicken sandwich, even a vegan-friendly turtle cheesecake.

"We started doing the kosher catering, but the kitchen was underutilized. The other issue was the fact that there really is nowhere kosher downtown that anyone can eat," said David Friedman, F & F Realty.

And since Friedman's company owns the hotel, they thought, why not provide a kosher, lunch-only option, Monday through Thursday. Complete with its own hand washing station, the separate kitchen provides much-needed relief for diners who previously had to make up excuses with colleagues or friends downtown.

"You have to come up with a million reasons why you can't do lunch. Or say there's nothing kosher downtown," said Friedman.

Another bonus at Metro Klub is the free valet parking. Both restaurants are fleishig, which means they offer meat, but no dairy products. Another great kosher option is in West Rogers Park, it's called Taboun, and the kebabs there are outstanding.

Spertus Institute For Jewish Studies
610 S. Michigan Ave.

MetroKlub (inside Dine restaurant)
Crowne Plaza Hotel - Chicago Metro
Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
733 W. Madison St.
(free valet parking)

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