When it comes to food, Kalman Goodman knows what he likes, and he probably learned to cook it in his mother’s kitchen.
An Iraqi refugee living in Israel, his mother embraced spices, and so does he. Her influence can be found in many of the foods offered at Kalman’s Deli, the glatt kosher eatery he opened in early September in Springfield.
“I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. For me, it’s like therapy,” he said.
In addition to his home-cooked favorites, like Moroccan salmon, dolmas (peppers stuffed with meat, rice, and vegetables), and basch (seasoned rice with meat), he also offers Israeli food (think falafel, shwarma, and Israeli salads), traditional deli, and hot foods like shnitzel and meatballs. He also offers cholent — the traditional Shabbat stew — on Thursday evenings.
Goodman is learning on the job. After cooking certain foods the way he grew up eating them — with a Sephardi rather than an Ashkenazi accent — Goodman has learned to adapt his fare to the local palate. His stuffed cabbage started out spicy and savory rather than sweet and sour. His Ashkenazi customers were nonplussed. So he changed the recipe. “It took me time to realize it cannot always be what I like. Sometimes it has to be what the customers want.”
He makes almost everything himself, and whatever he cannot make now, he plans to do in the future — like smoking his own turkey.
While a counter and a couple of tables are available for customers to eat in, the space is best suited for running a takeout operation.
His own background is in what he calls “shelf-stable salads,” the refrigerated goods stocked by grocery stores, such as hummus. He started at Sabra Dipping Company in 2006 and worked his way up to plant manager. After six years, he had learned enough to help found two different salad companies: Walla Salads, where he was also the chef and where he stayed until 2014, and House of Salads, a bulk business that began in March. Both focus more on manufacturing than fresh takeout.
Kalman’s Delicatessen marks his debut in the restaurant/appetizing world. “It was time for me to move on,” he said.
After hearing that Roman Zingerman, the owner of the storefront in that space, wanted to open a glatt kosher deli, Goodman came from his home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to check it out.
“When I saw the place, I got excited,” he said. “There’s nothing glatt kosher in five-10 miles from here, and now people come in all the time. There’s always walk-in traffic,” he said. As if on cue, a steady stream of customers began flowing in as the clocked ticked toward dinnertime.
The restaurant is under the kashrut supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest. While there are no deli/appetizing stores nearby, Tokyo Hibachi, a glatt kosher Asian restaurant, is located nearby on Springfield Avenue.
Goodman, 33, grew up in Israel, in Kfar Chabad. He is the nephew of Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights activists murdered near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964 during the Freedom Summer. His father is Andrew’s elder brother, Jonathan (now Yonason) Goodman, who became religious, made aliya, and raised Kalman and his six siblings in Israel. (Andrew’s younger brother, David, heads the foundation begun in Andrew’s memory.)
Kalman left Israel at 17, moved to the United States, and over the years spent time with his grandmother, Carolyn Goodman, who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan until her death in 2007. While she was outspokenly secular and progressive, her grandson embraces what he calls “very far-right views” for both Israel and the United States. Nonetheless, he said, “She was one of the most amazing people I ever met.” Smiling deeply just thinking about her, he added, “There are three women in my life: my mother, my grandmother, and my wife.”
He still identifies with Chabad-Lubavitch. “I live in Crown Heights and I pray at 770,” he said, referring to the address of Chabad headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. But he’s taken his own religious journey that has included periods “when I was not religious at all.”
Three of his four children are school-age and they attend Chabad schools. In a green T-shirt and black jeans, with a neutral gray kipa, he does not dress the part. “I am Chabad on the inside,” he explained, with a boyish smile full of charm.
Goodman’s favorite part of the business, he said, is something he never had the opportunity to experience while working in manufacturing: “I love the happy expressions on the faces of people when they eat my food!”