Kitzel’s is a community focused deli with wonderful Jewish based creations and isn’t afraid to be bold. The title “Kitzel’s” along with its subtitle “Crazy Delicious Delicatessen” is plastered in big, bright letters on both windows on either side of the entrance. An enormous calendar sits on the left side wall; essentially a giant blackboard with important community events chalked in.
Kitzel’s even has its own shrine: a “K” constructed out of various keys and knick knacks. What makes the shrine special, however, is a collection of sticky notes where the customers interact with the employees. Suggestions for food to put on the menu or people sharing their positive experiences are only a couple examples of what was written down.
The theme of community runs deep in Kitzel’s. Part of its creation came about as a response to a recent controversy.
According to the Olympian, the co-op board started the boycott of Israeli goods July 15, 2010.
“There was a big division and a lot of Jews in the area felt disenfranchised or alienated because of the controversy,” said Gendelman.
She said that she and co-owner, Hana Aviv, wanted to create a sense of community where, “people would feel pride in their cultural heritage.”
Although creating a welcoming place for those of Jewish heritage was important to Gendelman and Aviv, they had another motivation for opening Kitzel’s.
“We used to have a lot of dinner parties and have friends over and feed people all the time,” Gendelman said. “We just love to feed people and love cooking.”
The food itself reflects Gendelman’s Russian Jewish heritage. When approaching the deli line I asked Gendelman what she would recommend. She told me that their brisket had “made her mouth water all day”. I figured that since the owner was tempted by it, it must be quality. I ordered that along with vegetable ikira, which she also recommended.
The brisket was composed of some of the sourest meat I have ever had. Not to say that it tasted bad, mind you. It was juicy and tender and the large amount of fat it contained was delicious. The meat’s mass far exceeded that of its breaded lid.
The vegetable ikira barely had any flavor in it. It was composed of eggplant, carrots, zucchinis, parsnips, onions, and the usual secret ingredients. It had more of a temperature than a flavor. It was cold. Very cold. I had to eat it slowly in order to glean any taste from it. I felt like I was eating tasteless matter.
To top off my meal I had, of course, what Gendelman recommended. It was a beverage titled Paika and she described it as similar to Coca-Cola but also entirely unique. I felt it had little in common with a Coke except that it was also carbonated. It tasted a bit like ginger ale except that it had a taiga root instead of a ginger one. I was saddened that my bottle was emptied so quickly.
The meal items are reasonably priced. I paid about $11 for my meal which seems about average price for a non-fast food restaurant. You also get quite a bit of food for what you pay.
I could barely eat my entire sandwich and if I hadn’t been as hungry as I was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to conquer it.
Alison Marie Baker, an employee of Kitzel’s, said that, “everybody is so sweet. I am amazed with how on board everyone is for a new place we’re still trying to get figured out.”
Indeed, everything I saw reinforced Kitzel’s eagerness to create a community.
Before I left I saw Gendelman sit down to talk with one of the customers. She seemed curious to know how his food was and even took a second to sit down next to him. Her body language indicated the warmth she wanted to communicate. I, too, felt at ease around Gendelman. All of Kitzel’s radiated the same friendly atmosphere.
My only regret is I didn’t try out one of their bagels and locks. They are so good that Gendelman admits she found herself eating them plain which is something she wouldn’t normally do.
I intend to go back.