Exploring Atlanta’s kosher restaurant and food scene

Dining options for vegetarians, though improving, are somewhat limited in Atlanta. Moreso for vegans. But, when it comes to eating out, those who adhere to a kosher diet, the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut, are even more restricted. There are just a handful of eateries, and only one full-service, sit-down kosher-certified restaurant, in all of Atlanta.

Maybe you’re curious about the variety and taste of kosher offerings. Maybe you need a handy list of restaurants and grocery stores for when your kosher friend comes to town. Maybe you keep kosher yourself and don’t know about the latest kosher-certified spots. For all these reasons, it’s time to take a kosher food tour.

Compared with other dietary lifestyles, keeping kosher is not just about the foods that are permitted or not (no pork, for example). Among other things, keeping kosher is also about food handling, the overseeing of food handling by a kosher supervisor known as a mashgiach, about the ritual slaughter of meat, about not mixing dairy with meat in the same meal (a person who keeps kosher must wait six hours after consuming meat before he or she can consume dairy), and about a ritual hand-washing for a meal eaten with bread, which is why you'll find hand-washing stations at kosher-certified restaurants.

And, with that bit of background, let’s eat, starting with the closest thing to kosher fine dining in Atlanta: Fuego Mundo.

Located at the Prado in Sandy Springs, the restaurant bills itself as a healthy place to get a taste of South America. So, besides being certified kosher (which occurred in 2014), the menu is free of dairy (a kosher restaurant cannot serve both meat and dairy), the beef is grass-fed, and there are numerous gluten-free and vegan-friendly options.

Start with yucca “cheese” bread. Though made with Daiya brand dairy-free “cheese,” you’d swear there’s real cheese in these dinner rolls that make a nice pairing with the restaurant’s trusty Latin vegetable soup. The tapas sampler is a good option for trying appetizers like a flaky beef pastelito with a chunky tomato salsa as well as yucca fries with a nondairy garlic-Ranch dip.

For the main event, try the spicy Uruguayan steak skewers. It’s a filling plate of cubed rib-eye threaded along with grilled onions and peppers, served with chimichurri sauce, and rounded out with grilled plantains, Spanish rice and black beans.

If you question dairy-free desserts, Fuego Mundo’s cheesecake or brownie a la mode might make a believer of you.

When it comes to Israeli fare, the two best options are Pita Grille and Pita Palace.

Sure, you can get shawarma, beef kabobs or grilled chicken there, whether as a plate, on a pita or wrapped in traditional laffa, but let’s get adventurous. At Pita Grille, which opened a couple years ago in Sandy Springs, check out the shakshuka, which sees poached eggs in a chunky, stewy sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions. For something more unique, make it the malawach. A staple of Yemenite Jews, malawach is a pan-fried puff pastry that, at Pita Grille, gets folded and stuffed with boiled egg slices, tomato and tahini.

Over at Pita Palace in Briarcliff La Vista Shopping Center, the super friendly staff will invite you to make unlimited trips to a salad bar that holds raw and pickled vegetables and, of course, hummus. You can make any meal here a combo, which easily serves two and costs all of $15. My recommendation: the pargiyot — grilled strips of the dark meat of chicken thighs that come with extra pita, fries (order them spicy) and helpings from that salad bar.

In the mood for Chinese? You’ll find the only kosher-certified Chinese restaurant in the Southeast (between Maryland and South Florida) right here in Atlanta at Chai Peking. Located inside the Kroger at Toco Hill Shopping Center, Chai Peking is also the oldest kosher-certified restaurant in this city, in operation for nearly 20 years.

The cheery husband-and-wife team of Reuven Michoel Robbins and Trudy Robbins have a menu of more than 150 items — most are of the expected kind (egg foo young, Hunan chicken, General Tso’s beef) but some are a surprise (Jerry’s wings — order them braised — and the Chinese hot dog, which sees the dog wrapped in pastrami and fried). Also of note, Chai Peking can cater to the gluten-free crowd, since more than 90 percent of its dishes can be prepared without gluten.

Since we’re inside Kroger, let’s pause to consider a few kosher claims to fame for Atlanta’s supermarkets. There are five Krogers in Atlanta that, in varying levels — be it with a kosher bakery, deli, dry goods, fresh meat or frozen goods aisles — serve a kosher clientele (Dunwoody Club, Fountain Oaks, Sage Hill, Sandy Springs and Toco Hill). Also, the Publix at the Toco Hill Shopping Center is the only Publix in the U.S. with a kosher bakery and deli. Craving kosher sushi? Find it at the Kroger and Publix in Toco Hill.

Need a decent selection of kosher wine? Head to the Kosher Gourmet on Briarcliff Road.

Shopping for kosher groceries is especially fun at the Spicy Peach, also in Toco Hill Shopping Center. The small space is crammed with numerous imported specialty foods — everything from Pereg brand spices, grains and seed mixes to kosher Indian sauces, kimchi, fine cheeses, prepared frozen pasta, baking chocolate free of dairy, nuts and soy, and even kosher chips that taste like Doritos. On your way out, grab a panini hot off the press.

Bagels are often associated with Jewish culture, and the ones made at Broadway Cafe are kosher. The counter-order, sit-down spot offers numerous breakfast, lunch and dinner items, but it added bagels to the mix just last year. Try a flagel — a flat bagel — and bulk things up with Nova lox, egg salad, melted cheese and more. The midday and evening crowds have plenty of other options that range from salads and sandwiches to pizzas and pastas.

What to do when your kosher sweet tooth strikes? There’s Cinnaholic, the cinnamon bun destination in Edgewood, which recently became kosher-certified. But, if the craving happens late-night, there’s only one place to go: Sublime Doughnuts in North Druid Hills, a 24-hour spot added to the kosher A-OK list just a few weeks ago.

Kosher-certified restaurants and specialty grocers in Atlanta

A Healthy Touch. Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Sandy Springs. 678-812-3985, atlantajcc.org/interior-pages/about-the-mjcca-a-healthy-touch-cafe.

Broadway Cafe. 2157 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-329-0888, postmates.com/atl/broadway-cafe-atlanta.

Chai Peking. 2205 LaVista Road, Atlanta (inside Kroger). 404-327-7810, chaipeking.com.

Cinnaholic. 1230 Caroline St., Atlanta. 404-343-0805, cinnaholic.com.

Fuego Mundo. 5590 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-256-4330, fuegomundo.com.

The Kosher Gourmet. 2153 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-636-1114, kgatl.com.

Pita Grille. 4630 Wieuca Road, Atlanta. 404-500-4339, pitagrilleatl.com.

Pita Palace. 1658 LaVista Road, Atlanta. 404-781-7482, thepitapalace.com.

The Spicy Peach. 2887 N. Druid Hills Road, Atlanta. 404-334-7200, thespicypeach.com.

Sublime Doughnuts. 2566 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-315-6899, Facebook: Sublime Doughnuts.

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