Café 613, a new all-kosher eatery, hopes to foster the growing Jewish community.
Philadelphia cheesesteaks never taste as good as they do in the Italian Market, Chicago pizza cannot be created anywhere except in the Windy City and New York bagels just don’t taste the same outside the Big Apple. Imitation is never as good as the original, but such is not the case with Café 613.
A self-proclaimed “New York-style Deli,” the café, located in the Edward G. Rosen Hillel Center on 15th and Norris streets, delivers just that – a delicious kosher sandwich, created in an old Brooklyn-style corner deli.
The café opened Oct. 25 after a few weeks of “soft openings,” during which Hillel invited several groups from Main Campus and the community to sample some offerings. Now the café is open for lunch and dinner and serves up deli classics such as pastrami, roast beef or turkey sandwiches. Kosher hot dogs, salads, soups and munchies are abundant.
Director of the Hillel Center Phil Nordlinger said although the center is awaiting certification from the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia, a decision was made to make Café 613 a meat-only establishment, as it’s easier to keep the food kosher without adding dairy ingredients into the mix.
Café 613 is the first 100- percent kosher facility on Main Campus and serves more than 100 visitors each day for lunch and dinner. Although the Johnson & Hardwick cafeteria offers kosher options for students, its plates and silverware are used by nonkosher diners.
According to Nordlinger, several Hillel Centers throughout the nation have dining facilities inside, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland. The name “Café 613” came from a student submission in a competition held by the Board of Directors. The number “613” represents the number of commandments in the Torah.
“The reason the committee liked [the name ‘Café 613’] is because to a select group, they understand what 613 is, and to others, it’s just a cool number,” Nordlinger said. “It doesn’t necessarily have overt implications of being kosher. Some of the suggestions were, ‘The Kosher Café,’ and we wanted people … to not feel that this was for Jews only, [but] that this is a place that everyone can come to eat, as they go to the Noshery down the street.”
As Nordlinger suggested, all are welcome at Café 613. Non-Jewish students, faculty and local community members frequent the establishment, and it receives business from the Muslim community as well, whose dietary restrictions – Halal – resembles koshery.
Yosef McIntosh, a sophomore university studies major, said he goes to the café about two or three times a week but will probably start going more often, noting the café’s proximity to his house.
“I don’t [keep kosher] so much at school, but because the café is so close, I can do it more,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh, a New York native, said when comparing Café 613 with Jewish delis at home, the taste is on par, but he wishes there was more food worth his money.
“Get us more food for the price of the meal plan,” he said. “They’re going to go out of business before it’s even started.”
As for vegetarians, the café offers salads, soups and hummus-and-vegetable sandwiches. No meat alternative is offered yet, but once next semester begins, Hillel will look into updating the menu options.
“It’s like the field of dreams – you build it, and they will come. [Café 613] makes Temple an option for an entire segment of the Jewish population that never considered it before,” Nordlinger said.
Nordlinger said he hopes the presence of a kosher dining hall on campus will attract a larger Jewish population to Temple and help the school grow.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at email@example.com.