Steven Davidson writes in the hyperliberal Forward:
“When it comes to food in Crown Heights, it turns out there’s a lot more to like than your bubbe’s chopped liver.
“This weekend, I attended “A Taste of Crown Heights,” Crown Heights’ inaugural kosher food crawl, and confronted my negative perceptions and taste buds head-on. As if to stack the cards even further against the local eateries, I recruited the only other Jew I knew to be the grandson of a kosher butcher, yet remain even less inclined to gorge on “Jew food” — my brother, Justin.
“On Sunday, we emerged from the Kingston Avenue subway to find ourselves in a brave new world. As far as the eye can see, we were in the only men without tzitzit and a firm grasp of kashrut laws. Chabadniks swarming to give us tefillin? Check (three times); one guy easily called my bluff when I tried to ward him off by claiming I had “a little tefillin” earlier that day.
“But whether it was the plan of Hashem or two davening schmos (or both), divine gastronomic miracles had come to be. Crown Heights’ kosher food crawl was organized by Shmuly Wolff, the co-founder and CEO of JMenu, an emerging app that seeks to become the GrubHub of the kosher world, and J.J. Hecht, the director of Toys For Hospitalized Children.
“Born and raised in the neighborhood, the pair saw the local food scene “explode” in recent years, and they felt a burning desire to show it off to the kosher world. “When I was a kid, there was one pizza shop, a burger shop, and a cafe,” said Wolff. “Now, we have 20 vendors [participating in the crawl] and we haven’t even included everyone.” Sponsors included COLlive.com and Hal’s New York Seltzer.
“Hosting visitors from far-flung places like the Five Towns, Flatbush, the Upper West Side and New Jersey, the Crown Heights food scene rose to the occasion on Sunday to assert its rightful place. “We are becoming the center of kosher food in New York,” said Wolff. “It’s not even a question.” By all accounts, the food lived up to the hype.
“Alongside modern-day perfections of traditional foods like shawarma and deli meats, vendors offered kosher takes on cuisine ranging from sushi to ice cream and beer. The melding of disparate influences with Crown Heights’ Orthodox identity was distinctly Brooklyn in its own unique, surprisingly hip way.
A reporter for the Kings County Politics website reported:
“If Jewish mothers have the well-earned reputation of never letting a person leave their house hungry, imagine what an entire Jewish neighborhood would do if they held a Kosher food crawl.
“Such was the case last Sunday when this reporter and his accomplice, Chana (last name withheld to protector the dieter) attended ‘A Taste of Crown Heights,’ billed as the first Kosher food crawl in the country.
“For this intrepid editor/reporter, a veteran schnorrer of the highest magnitude when it comes to free food and drink to the press, the gastronomic pleasures proved almost to be too much.”