I dream of Jewish fast-casual
The doctor (or wait -- lawyer? investment banker?) runs down the stairs of his office building, his mind on his next appointment. He gets into his car, ignoring phone calls, and zooms off like a drunken race-car driver. The man is very hungry. And very Jewish.
He stumbles into his favorite deli, but is horrified to see the bane of many Jews' existence: a line. He's foaming at the mouth for some matzoh, a latke, a blintz. But he hasn't been late for anything since 1986. He walks out, the taste of Boar's Head pastrami lingering on his tongue.
As he retreats back to his office, kvetching all the way, something catches his eye. He does a double-take, turns his BMW around, and there it is, rising from a strip mall, tucked between a nail salon and a jewelry store. He salivates as he reads the sign:
Okay, so I made up that story. But this is the tale I'll one day use to pitch to investors something else I made up: the most brilliant restaurant concept ever. With fast-casual places now devoted to Mexican (Chipotle), American Indian (Tocabe), Indian Indian (Bombay Bowl), Thai (Noodles & Co.) and every other genre of food, I think it's high time for a Jewish fast-casual place, where Israelites and Gentiles alike can gab over gefilte fish and laugh over lox.
Imagine it: You walk into a modest location, and my grandmother -- or any number of seasoned Jewish grandparents, presuming expansion goes well -- greets you with a warm hug, a soft cheek for you to kiss, and a highly detailed report about her grandson ("He's a blogger! Can you believe it? My grandson, a fancy blogger!").
You walk to the counter and take in the menu. It features some twists on the classics for appetizers -- namely "gefilte fingers" and "matzoh puppies" (basically a hush puppy, but with matzoh meal). And while I'd encourage you to devour half the menu, I would first suggest you go for Nemkovsky's pièce de résistance: the Latkerrito.
These thin, foldable potato pancakes are fried up fresh and filled with the ingredients you have come to know and love: robust, fatty brisket, smooth chopped liver, creamy egg salad and, of course, sour cream and apple sauce. There will be two sizes: the I Slaved All Day, Why Aren't You Hungry? (small) and Don't Worry, We Can Save the Rest for Leftovers! (large). We'll also offer a variety of soups. And by variety, I mean matzoh ball soup and borscht. And for no extra charge, every soup order will be accompanied by a small, folded piece of paper, each with its own handwritten note saying such things as "I told you to wear a jacket, why don't you ever listen to me?" or "What about that nice Solomon girl? I hear she's studying biology!"
From there, you slide along the line to the register, and after the cashier takes the coupon I'm sure you've brought -- many, many will be printed -- you can head over to the soda fountain. But you will find no soda. You will find only egg cream, the delicious beverage that contains neither egg nor cream.
With latkerrito and egg cream in tow, you'll sit down in the contemporary-looking dining room and begin to nosh. Like Chipotle, each Nemkovsky's will be similar. But instead of stainless steel and oddly artistic photos of the restaurant's exterior, our dining rooms will be done in the 'NewJew' style, which was invented by my mother and named by me. It consists of finding the wackiest, most eccentric tchotchkies -- little knickknacks that decorate many a Jew's humble abode -- and arranging them in a way that somehow creates a strange synergy, so when anyone walks into your house, they get hit by a wave of disorientation followed by a perplexing sense of enjoyment. It's like tripping on acid, only you have to take your shoes off first.
After you enjoy your meal, you will be encouraged (read: guilted) into cleaning up your own mess, by a sign on every table reading: "Don't forget to clean up when you're done. The table still has some specks on it!" And the lasting memory of the place will be our slogan, displayed prominently near the exit:
"You want I should grow old before you come here again?"
I'll see you at my imaginary restaurant soon. It's time that everyone began to enjoy the food of the people who will save our economy (and write all the funny movies).