The sidewalks of Manhattan are strewn with victims of kosher restaurants that have been forced to close once their lease ended. Levana Kirschenbaum of the famed Levana’s Restaurant was one of those victims. Estihana, which was open for two decades, recently closed as a result of an expired lease. While lease renewal is possible in many cases, the exorbitant rents are simply not affordable for kosher restaurants which are virtually shut down on two weekend days as a result of the Shabbat, not to speak of the Jewish holidays. In a recent spate of openings and closings, Elan Kornblum, the Restaurant Guy, President & Publisher of the Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine, has been tracking the almost dizzying changes. The reopening of the Prime Grill in a new location in Midtown was welcome news to the many Orthodox businessmen who used the restaurant as the upscale business lunch and to other diners who covet dinner at the Prime Grill.
The Upper West Side establishment, Mike’s Bistro, is opening a location in Midtown East at 127 East 54th Street (between Lexington and Park Avenue). Projected opening date is Spring 2014. According to Kornblum “this is a very interesting development with Prime Grill opening their new location just 3 blocks away a few months ago. And with Solo 2 blocks away, this short block radius will become the new hotbed of kosher restaurants. This also gives the Upper East Side some extra and very much needed life.”
Perhaps most intriguing is the on again-off again closing of J Soho that was launched amidst controversy over its former name Jezebel and its selection of a kosher certifier who was not “one of the big 5,” said one maven. One of the restaurant’s most talked about features was an artistic rendering of the actor Woodie Allen sitting at the helm of a Last Supper scene. Rumors have it that the restaurant will convert to a non-kosher eatery and that the restaurant may indeed have served its last supper, certainly as far as kosher is concerned.