Times Square
Times SquareFlash 90

(New York Jewish Week) — The Times Square location of Miznon, the fast-casual restaurant chain from Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani, is going kosher.

The pita-focused eatery, which is located at 1410 Broadway at 39th Street, opened two and a half months ago and is one of Shani’s four Miznon restaurants in Manhattan. It has been serving a kosher-style menu nearly since the start, according to Mika Ziv, CEO of Good People Group, Shani’s global hospitality brand. This location has no dairy products on the menu and the meat they serve is certified glatt kosher.

But on Sunday, January 21, the kitchen will be thoroughly cleaned and prepared according to kosher guidelines, and a certificate of kashrut from Rabbi Aaron Mehlman of National Kosher Supervision is expected to be issued that week.

The Miznon location will be Shani’s second kosher establishment in New York City — the first, Malka, opened on the Upper West Side in November 2023.

The decision to turn a second Shani restaurant in New York into a kosher eatery was both an ideological and pragmatic one, Ziv told the New York Jewish Week. “We always knew there was a need and desire for people to eat our food — we didn’t understand fully to what extent,” she said. “Now that we opened Malka, there has been such a beautiful welcoming to New York. We have been getting people asking about lunch, about delivery, about catering. Malka is doing amazing. We are getting so much love which is so exciting to us.”

“There are no compromises because it is kosher,” she added. “It is a happy place in this very unhappy time.”

That sentiment is shared by many kosher-keeping foodies in New York, including Jerry Richter, a high school history teacher from West Hempstead, Long Island, who came to Manhattan Sunday night to have an early dinner at Malka. There, his server told Richter, his wife and their two friends that Shani was expanding his kosher footprint in Manhattan by converting the Times Square Miznon into a restaurant under rabbinic supervision.

Richter said their table was thrilled by the news. “To be able to access the Miznon menu, being kosher, that’s great!” he said. “Everyone is excited.”

Richter announced the news to the popular Facebook group Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies, which boasts 101,000 members, and the response was overwhelming: “Finally!” wrote one respondent. “Wow!!!” posted another.

According to Elan Kornblum, publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Media Group, Richter’s post has been viewed 24,000 times in less than two days.

“It’s a big change to Times Square to have something like this,” Kornblum said. Other kosher restaurants in Times Square include Le Marais, a French steakhouse and AO Bowl, an organic, gluten-free, Japanese restaurant.

Shani himself does not keep kosher, but five years ago he opened Malka in Tel Aviv — which, at the time, was the only kosher restaurant in his portfolio. He told the New York Jewish Week last year that he first opened a kosher establishment because he saw that kosher consumers were “craving” his food but they couldn’t eat it because it was not kosher.

“These people are part of my nation,” Shani said. “Part of my people. How can I make food without letting half of my people eat it? That is the main reason I opened Malka.”

At the moment, in addition to Malka on the Upper West Side, Shani operates two kosher-certified restaurants in Israel. In Paris, three Miznon locations use all-kosher ingredients but they are not certified kosher.

Shani’s team decided to turn the Times Square Miznon outpost into a kosher restaurant because of its central location, close to the Diamond District, the Theater District and the Garment Center — all areas that are frequented by observant Jews. Ziv said that they had discussed making the restaurant certified kosher from the get-go but opted to test the waters with Malka first.

Ziv said she hopes customers who have been eating at the Times Square location will continue to do so. Since the location has been serving glatt kosher meat from the start, prices for the food under rabbinic supervision should not be affected dramatically: “We will have a tiny adjustment, just a slight price increase,” she said.

Upgrading the inclusivity of the restaurant by adding kosher certification has taken on an added importance since the war between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7, Ziv added.

“Everyone became more open and connected to being more accommodating and close to our roots,” she said. “Just as we always make sure there are vegan options, and we make such a big effort to accommodate so many others, it is not complicated to approach kosher restaurants, especially since our restaurants outside of Israel are places where Israelis and Jews can come together.”

“It makes sense to offer a kosher option,” she added.