The atmosphere is what you might expect from a kosher restaurant in Mid Beach: an Israeli having a pressed bagel sandwich while talking business on his cell phone, two Orthodox women wearing tichels (kerchiefs) on their heads and donning casual uniforms of long denim skirts.
Located at 41st Street and Prairie Avenue, and situated in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Mid Beach, Montefiore Café is a no-frills dining spot that has a variety of menu options, from salmon burgers and sandwiches to Israeli dishes like shakshukka and Jerusalem bagel toast.
Montefiore is a certified-kosher restaurant, and for all the gentiles out there, that means you can't mix dairy products and meat.
But you can't have a café without an American cheeseburger on the menu, so the chef, Mike Rodriguez, puts a twist on an old favorite: the American cheeseburger with all the usual accompaniments but made with a salmon patty instead of the red meat variety.
Rodriguez explains that Kosher food requires a lot of rules, especially regarding how lettuce and vegetables are cleaned as well as the careful sourcing of fish and dairy products. But ultimately, he says, the extra effort results in higher quality.
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"It's a lot of rules but I would say for me as a chef it's better because everything is super natural," Rodriguez says. He explains that kosher milk is complex but it all goes back to a specific cow that was used only for milk and dairy products. "All the cheese and milk is way more expensive. I'm lactose intolerant but I can eat this milk and cheese," he says.
With finely chopped tomatoes, onions, and parsley and then tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, the Israeli salad ($8.95) is light and refreshing, a perfect antidote to a brutally hot and humid lunch hour. The Israeli bagel toast ($13.95) also stands out with a sourdough bagel and sesame seeds, brushed with butter and then pressed with your choice of savory filling.
If you want a departure from the typical café fare, try the shakshukka ($11.95), the Israeli take on a breakfast standard: a poached egg topped with a tomato and chili pepper sauce and pita points for dipping. Take a seat, gefilte fish, this Kosher cuisine is way more exciting!