‘On Mondays We Eat Local’ Aids NY Kosher Eateries

Original Post Published On The Jerusalem Post

Henry Simchi, the longtime manager of Kasbah Grill on West 85th Street, reports, “I didn’t know how to say thank you! We were struggling, and this income helps keep us going.”

When Manhattan 20-something Jonah Rosen went to pick up a food order from a local Upper West Side kosher restaurant, he was shocked and jolted to action.
“I saw the owner sitting by himself, and I was the only order of the night,” reports Rosen.

He was aware of how the Covid pandemic was affecting local restaurants, but now the problem hit close to home. “When you see an owner sitting in the dark, it tugs at you. You think of a person with a family. This is a ‘people are suffering’ issue.”

Rosen discussed his observations with his roommate, and the two brainstormed ways they and local residents might help. This is how “On Mondays We Eat Local” was born.
Rosen, a loyalty team member for JetBlue airline and roommate Eli Nussbaum, a physician’s assistant, decided to approach one local kosher restaurant each week and organize friends and other local residents to order food from that restaurant, each Monday. There was no risk to the restaurants, no guarantees of extra business, and no cut taken by Rosen or Nussbaum.

They encouraged patrons to order directly from the restaurants and not through an online food ordering and delivery platform. This would maximize profits for the establishments.
Restaurant owners would agree to offer “something special” to customers that night, ranging from a 10% discount, to a free menu item. Rosen and Nussbaum – and the local community – do the rest.

Early in the week, the organizers approach a restaurant, targeting those Rosen describes as “disproportionately affected.” He works out the “special offer” with the manager and, by Sunday, posts online, sends emails to friends and such community partners as Bnei Akiva, and makes a final big push on Monday.

So far, five restaurants, including Talia’s Steakhouse and Bar, and Modern Bread and Bagel, have benefited from the initiative. And customers and restaurant owners are generally very pleased.

Henry Simchi, the longtime manager of Kasbah Grill on West 85th Street, reports, “I didn’t know how to say thank you! We were struggling, and this income helps keep us going.”

New York City restaurants have been closed for months for dining in, and will soon open at 25% capacity. Simchi worked with Rosen to come up with a special offer where orders over $22 would come with six free sesame wings and fries. “We filled 33 orders in one day, where we were usually doing 10 or 12! It meant an extra $1,000!”

This week, the project expanded to Midtown Manhattan, where Taam Tov (West 47th Street) was pleased with the 40-plus orders it received through the “Eat Local” project.
“We were super happy. The proving is moving onwards and upwards!” reports Rosen.

Despite the lack of risk and relative simplicity of the program for restaurant owners, Rosen has found that some restaurants have either said they are not interested or have not returned his calls.
While most of the 21 comments in response to an article about the initiative in the West Side Rag (“News About the Upper West Side of NYC”) were very positive (Leigh: “What a great way to inspire support of the neighborhood!! Great work!” Shoshi: “Such mensches!”), some feel the project is “discriminatory” and should support more than just kosher restaurants.

Rosen is not discouraged. He hopes people will learn of the project and replicate it. “When people in other communities and cities read about it, they should say, ‘This is not complicated. I can do this!’”
Rosen even envisions a potential post-pandemic life for the initiative. “Perhaps roommates [he lives with three others in the West 90s] will set aside one night a week to dine together – by delivery or by cooking together.”

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