Kosher Luncheonette Serves Comforting Goodness

I like exploring downtown to find promising places to eat, but I always prefer to follow a good lead. I was absolutely starving at 11:30AM on Friday, and so I followed Lunch’er Matt’s suggestion and my stomach’s desire for a hearty meal down to Kosher Luncheonette on the corner of Fulton Street and Cliff Street.

Matt recommended the falafel, so I got myself one of those, but as I was voracious – and so that I could give you guys a better sense of what Kosher Luncheonette has to offer – I also got a kasha knish and a bowl of tomato rice soup.

That morning I think I could have gnawed on a shoe and been happy, but even in that state I could recognize that Kosher Luncheonette’s food was not only far better than a shoe but was really good on its own right. My falafel was good, but the other food was even better, and I’ll be heading back to Kosher Luncheonette regularly for my lunchtime Jewish comfort food needs.

This is the part of the review where I usually talk about the charm of a restaurant’s interior. No such luck at Kosher Luncheonette, where customers are not even allowed inside. The service, such as it is, is friendly and great, but it’s takeout window or bust. This doesn’t bother me in the least, but I know that getting away from one’s desk for an hour is an absolutely critical part of lunch for some folks.

So with no interior decorating to comment on, we’ll get straight to the food. First up, Matt’s recommendation, the falafel.

As you can see, it’s a bit of a mess, but I don’t think that’s a very good indicator of quality. Once you manage to actually dig into this guy, it’s a very good falafel sandwich. Well seasoned, good salad, spicy hot sauce. I’d have liked the falafel to be a bit crispier, but I did appreciate how well mixed the filling of the pita was – I hate it when all the falafel are buried under the salad. Maybe not as good as Sam’s or Alan’s, but close thereto, with no line and far more side options. If you really want some fries with your falafel, this is the place for you.

But at $4.95, it’s a dollar more than the carts, so I don’t see Lunch’ers flocking here for the falafel unless they’re close by. Fortunately, there are other reasons to flock here.

Oh knishes, you lovable, doughy little gut-bombs. This one is kasha (for the uninitiated, kasha is buckwheat groats, an earthy and flavorful grain), which is one of my favorites. They also have potato, spinach, mushroom, cheese, and – I’m excited to try this one – pizza versions.

My knish was very tasty and, for $2.50, it’s a good deal. Like every other knish I’ve ever had, including at the famous Yonah Schimmel’s, this knish was reheated before serving. That means that the crust is not super fresh or crisp, but it’s still very good, and the kasha filling is savory and well-seasoned.

So I’ll definitely be back for more knishes, but I’ve saved the best for last:

That’s the tomato-rice soup, and boy is it good. Salty, a little sweet, and very tomatoey. A solid amount of rice. I was very happy. I can’t really put my finger on what it was I liked so much about this soup, but it really struck a chord. I actually usually like creamier tomato soups, but this one was on the brothier side and I still loved it. Just a great soup. At $3.95 for a pint, I can’t wait to get back and try their others. Soup options change daily and are recited verbally rather than written down anywhere. I confess that I was sold immediately when I heard tomato-rice and cannot remember the rest of the list from my visit. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

For me, Kosher Luncheonette fills a really great niche down here. They serve the kind of food I crave on a rainy day or when I just need something that – yes, this is incredibly lame and trite and unoriginal, but I still think it’s true – that feeds the soul as well as the body. Next time I’ll go for soup and a knish, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich, and just typing that is making me hungry, so I think that the next time will be sometime soon.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • A nice place serving up hearty, filling food at very reasonable prices.
  • Amazing tomato-rice soup, which bodes well for the other soup options.
  • Tasty knishes, reheated or not.
  • Super-friendly service.

THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • The falafel is pretty good, but it costs $1 more that the carts and is definitely not any better.
  • I only eat my knishes fresh from the oven, so these just won’t do.
  • There’s no place to sit!

Kosher Luncheonette, 56 Fulton St. (at Cliff St.),  (646) 261-0405


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