When Steve Katz wanted to set up kosher concession stands a few years ago, he approached the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers. The only team interested was the one that plays Sundays.
The stand opened before the 2011 season. Jewish fans, who before then did not have kosher food options inside Lincoln Financial Field, could now eat barbecued brisket and turkey sausage and cheer their team on with full stomachs. During halftime of games, a minyan would form in front of the stand.
“It’s really mind-boggling to me that given the size of the Philadelphia Jewish community, that the stadiums do not have kosher food options at their sporting events,” Katz said. He estimated that 80 percent of his business came from people who do not keep kosher.
In April, Katz announced that after five years, he planned to close Max & David’s, located in Elkins Park. He said at the time that he had no plans to shut down the concession stand or a food truck, but he has since decided to pull out of the kosher food business entirely, save for possibly a non-dairy ice cream business.
“It was a passion of mine and I am happy I did it. It was a wonderful part of my life, and now it’s like the weight of the world is off my shoulders,” Katz said.
Eagles’ fans fear not — Keep It Kosher will be filling the void created by Max & David’s exit from the Linc. The company based in Rochelle Park, N.J., sells kosher food at the stadiums of such teams as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New Jersey Devils. Among its offerings are a buffalo chicken sausage, a turkey cranberry sausage and a chili that substitutes brisket for ground beef.
“What we try to do is offer that convenience and accessibility to people who keep kosher, so that they can attend sporting events knowing that they can actually eat something,” said Jonathan Toubian, owner of Keep it Kosher.
He said he is also in negotiations with the Wells Fargo Center to provide food at 76ers and Flyers’ games.
The primary motivation for opening the concession stand wasn’t to make money, Katz said, which he didn’t expect to do much of. He saw it as a service to the community and enjoyed the venture.
But the logistics of the operation proved difficult. Food had to be prepared off-site at Max & David’s and transported to the stadium, a significant undertaking for only eight games a year. Keep It Kosher is a larger operation providing food at multiple venues in the area.
Burger.org, a kosher restaurant chain, will soon open in the space formerly occupied by Max & David’s in Elkins Park. Katz said that he left almost all of the tables, chairs and kitchen equipment in the restaurant, which were certified kosher, because it made the transition easier, and it was important to him to have a kosher restaurant in the area.
“A Jewish community needs a synagogue. You need Jewish schools. You need food, and a kosher restaurant is another reason to live in Elkins Park,” Katz said.
As for Eagles’ games: “I wish [Toubian] all the best. I will personally be there to eat every game,” he said, “and I hope the food is as good as ours.”