It seems like every year we say, “Wow, Jewish food was really popular this year.” And it’s true — we’ve been riding a wave where Jewish food has been elevated and reinvented. We scramble to Instagram photos from Mile End Deli in New York City, Wexler’s in Los Angeles and Abe Fischer in Philadelphia. And I think that’s a pretty exciting thing: matzah ball soup and pastrami sandwiches and shakshuka are coveted. This isn’t quite the Jewish food of my grandparents’ generation though it’s very much rooted in memory and tradition, just with the addition of fresh flavors and modern cooking techniques.
With no end in sight, not that I am complaining, it’s time to look ahead to a new year of Jewish restaurants across the U.S. — from Portland, Maine all the way to Portland, Oregon. Here are the five Jewish restaurants I can’t wait to check out in 2018.
Freedman’s, Los Angeles, CA
It’s not exactly like Los Angeles is lacking for Jewish delis: With new-school joints like Wexler’s and classics like Canter’s, Los Angeles has a long, and delicious history of Jewish eateries. But Freedman’s is a not-quite-so-traditional Jewish restaurant reinventing classics like stuffed cabbage, latkes and even making its own “Toronto-style” bagels, a fluffier counterpart to the Montreal bagel. Extra points for the Mad Men-esque decor set in the heart of uber-trendy neighborhood Silver Lake.
Ema, Chicago, IL
Unlike other major cities in the U.S., Chicago has few Jewish and Israeli food options, other than historic Manny’s Deli (although it’s so good one could argue that you don’t need anything else). But with Ema (meaning mother in Hebrew), Chef C.J. Jacobson is bringing elevated, Israeli-inspired cuisine to the Windy City. My colleague Molly Tolsky recently visited and raves about the house-made labneh, fluffy pita, roasted grapes and stracciatella, which is also house-made.
Ray, Portland, OR
Chef Jenn Louis was deeply inspired by the vibrancy of vegetables and diversity of Jewish foods on her trips to Israel, and wanted to bring those flavors and less formal eating experience to the Portland community. The mouth-watering menu celebrates much more than falafel and hummus, with Persian, Yemenite and Greek flavors all appearing on it. All I can say is: Time to head to Portland.
Rose Foods, Portland, ME
Maine isn’t exactly best known for its Jewish deli scene or enormous Jewish community. But when Rose Foods opened this past year, pastrami sandwiches, matzah ball soup and smoked fish officially arrived, to the delight of Portland residents. Rose Foods is also making its own bagels, which Bon Appetit Magazine says are the real deal.
Tsion Cafe, New York, NY
New York City is certainly one of the most passionately Jewish food cities in the world, and while Tsion Cafe isn’t exactly new (it’s been around since 2014), an Ethiopian-food-meets-Israeli cafe in the heart of Harlem is an exciting addition to the American Jewish culinary landscape. Not to mention the fact that The New York Times recently featured the Harlem eatery, which puts it firmly on my must-visit-immediately list. I can’t wait to get my hands on some homemade injera paired with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon – Ethiopian Jewish meets New York Jewish.