In the Elmora section of Elizabeth, kosher eating comes easy. You can shop in the kosher section at the ShopRite on Grand Street, or grab lunch at Jerusalem Pizza, or stock up at One Stop Kosher, or eat in its revamped restaurant.
But until now, getting a hot kosher breakfast wasn’t that easy.
That was the gap David Altman and Larry Seidman spotted. The two longtime friends were frustrated, they said, that they couldn’t find anywhere “between here and Staten Island” where they could get a good, hot, kosher breakfast — “a guy breakfast,” as Seidman put it.
A few weeks ago they launched Larry and David’s Bagels on Elmora Avenue with the kind of eats a (kosher) guy can appreciate. The menu includes fresh-farm eggs Altman picks up each day on his drive from his home in the Catskills, bagels they get from H&H, and a host of baked goods — like muffins and croissants and cinnamon buns — that Seidman bakes when he comes in before dawn from his home in Hillside.
They also offer specialties like “chips on a stick” — a crispy spiral of potato slices — fried macaroni and cheese, and giant pancakes. Diet food it definitely isn’t, but they do also have a variety of fresh, homemade salads.
The place is under the kosher supervision of Rabbi Elazar M. Teitz, head of the Elizabeth rabbinic authority. It has a special sink for people to wash hands ritually before eating, and it is closed on Shabbat.
“We both believe in doing things right,” declared Altman. “Everything we offer is fresh, and made well.” They are open for breakfast and lunch, and hope later on to open for dinner, including Saturday evenings after Shabbat. They will also do full-service catering, “from 10 to 500,” they said.
For now, they are actually trying to take things slow — but without much success. From the moment they opened, people have taken them up on their logo, making it the place “where people meet; where people eat.” The plastic flags are still flapping across the sidewalk outside, but the place — with its logo depicting the two of them as bagel heads — has already become a local fixture.
On a recent morning, while Seidman breaded triangles of mozzarella in the kitchen, in the 40-seat restaurant a man was studying while eating his scrambled eggs. A couple came in with their toddler and ordered sandwiches. Three non-Jewish teenagers had come in to get bagels just because they like the ones they sell.
Cynthia Galimidi, a freelance makeup artist, had brought her children there for a before-camp breakfast, and returned to have coffee with a friend. “There wasn’t really a place you could go for breakfast. Now this has become the new hang-out place,” she said. “I love their Greek omelet, and the spinach salad, and the fried mozzarella sticks. Everything is scrumptious!”
Another woman said, “Be prepared to ask for a doggie bag though. The portions are huge.”
It helps that the two men are well-known in the community. Altman, who lived in Hillside until about a year ago and is about to move to Monsey, NY, has worked in catering as well as a number of other businesses. Seidman has been in catering all his adult life. Both attended the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, where three of Seidman’s four children currently go.
Despite his efforts to keep it very private, Seidman drew community attention when he donated a kidney three years ago to a woman he read about in a newspaper. Asked about that, he cut the discussion short with, “If I ever need something like that, I know someone will do it for me.”
Altman is equally reluctant to talk about himself, but he did let on that he used to be a lot heavier. A couple of years ago he had lap band surgery and has since lost about 115 pounds. Many of the treats on their menu are decidedly off his diet, but, he said, “I enjoy seeing other people get pleasure.”
Adina Abramov, who is director of marketing and communications for the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and lives in Elizabeth, said, “It’s great to see two big-hearted guys like David and Larry opening a place that truly represents their passion for people and food.” She said the menu “reflects both the traditional Jewish palate as well as some surprises unique to kosher dining.”
“There’s definitely a buzz about this place and everyone in town seems excited. Even our federation staff have visited and ordered in.”