Jake’s Kosher barbecue aims to join challah as a must-have Shabbat staple.
The newly-opened joint on Haverford Avenue in Overbrook Park offers a rotating selection of kosher meats that are hand-smoked and paired with carefully assembled spice rubs. Recent offerings included two kinds of brisket, three kinds of ribs — including lamb ribs — and spicy Italian chicken sausages.
Jeff Klein, owner and pit-master at Jake’s Kosher, said the feedback through the first four weeks of the takeout restaurant’s soft launch has been incredible. The meats have consistently sold out, no small feat considering the store is only open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Already, we’re looking at expansion. I don’t know that I can keep up with the demand,” he said.
Most orders are placed in advance and retrieved during operating hours, though Klein offers a small selection on a first-come, first-served basis.
Along with his daughter, Rachel, and wife, Daryl, Klein prepares the meats from beginning to end. A distributor delivers large pounds of meat, and the restaurant’s team butchers, cooks and packages it. Klein does all of the smoking himself, outdoors in a “remote location.”
He developed a technique for smoking the meats through backyard experimentation.
“I have a gazebo in the backyard, and I started smoking brisket for some friends of mine,” he explained.
Yet his wife, Daryl, was reluctant to encourage the brisket smoking.
“She was resistant because it’s a bubbe thing. It’s a recipe that’s kept in the family,” he explained.
Klein has smoked fish for 50 years, catching freshwater fish and smoking them for fun. Daryl eventually allowed him to smoke brisket two or three years ago.
The former handyman and licensed pharmacist had never been in the restaurant business prior to Jake’s Kosher.
“We’re learning,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. The day I’m smoking could be an 18-hour day. I’m up at 3 in the morning, and I don’t get home until it’s dark. It’s a lot of preparation.”
The preparation pays off, and Klein has developed an ardent fan base.
A variety of spice rubs and sauces keep the offerings fresh.
“We try to do a different flavor of brisket every week,” Klein said, noting flavors like bourbon, chipotle cinnamon, Ethiopian spice and coffee.
Such variation makes it difficult to secure kosher certification, though all products are kosher, including the spices.
Customers appreciate the kosher status, Klein said.
“A good percentage probably are [buying for Shabbat dinner]. That was my idea from the beginning.”
Demand has expanded for offerings beyond Shabbat meals, Klein said.
To cater larger gatherings, Klein partners with Daniel Israel, the caterer with whom he shares a kitchen.
“We are definitely not competitors,” Israel said, noting that at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, Klein prepares the meat, while he cooks everything else.
“We share our customers,” Israel said. “On Fridays, while he sells the meat, I sell sides like mashed potatoes and rice pilaf.”
The near future tentatively includes expanded operating hours, Klein said.