Restaurants are hurting and it is a dark time for the food industry. While indoor dining will resume on Feb. 12, two Upper West Side millennials are doing their best to keep eateries afloat.
Roommates Jonah Rosen and Eli Nussbaum, both in their 20s, are not involved with restaurants at all, but they enjoy eating out. They keep kosher and have seen numerous businesses shutter since the pandemic began.
Sensing the despair in the community, the duo launched an initiative last month dubbed “On Mondays We Eat Local.” Each Monday they encourage community members to show support for a different kosher restaurant by ordering discounted dinner specials.
“We live in the UWS. We care about restaurants here,” Nussbaum said. “Unfortunately a lot of them have closed, so we’re trying to help the ones that are still here.”
Rosen recalled that the idea for the concept originated in December. He ordered food from a kosher restaurant and when he arrived the place was pitch dark and completely empty. At first he wondered if it was closed as he saw the owner sitting by himself.
But suddenly an employee came running out with his food and said, “Here you go.” Rosen said, “Are you sure this is mine?” It was the only order all day.
After returning home and telling Nussbaum what occurred, they began to ponder what they could do to help.
“We don’t have the means to save a restaurant financially, but what can we do?” he said.
The two of them are part of a listserv with several hundred Modern Orthodox young professionals on the UWS and decided to use that to their advantage. Rosen and Nussbaum began to reach out to restaurants and peaked their interest about them collaborating about a promotion every Monday, the slowest day for eateries.
Owners were thrilled and since Jan. 14, there has been a different promotion each week.
“We’re not getting anything out of it,” Nussbaum explained.
For example, on Jan. 18 they featured Talia’s Steakhouse, an UWS family-owned restaurant that has been serving the community for over 17 years. The special offer was “$13 and under” menu featuring a full list of delicious options for an extremely reasonable price.
Talia’s also added a free dessert on any order over $20, before taxes and fees.
They told the West Side Spirit that the initiative has received positive feedback from the owners and residents. Other restaurants that have been promoted include Deli Kasbah Grill, 251 West 85th St. and Arba, 472 Columbus Ave. The duo has heard about entire apartments of people ordering food.
“We’ve been very lucky, personally I’ve been surprised,” Rosen said. “This is what we hope will save restaurants.
Rosen, who is able to work from home, understands how hard it is for restaurants right now. The closure of indoor dining affects families and the well-being of many people.
Ultimately, it was important for him to help his community, even if it was a small gesture.
“This pandemic has hit so many people,” Rosen said. “We just wanted to do our part to help out the small businesses. One night will not save them, but giving restaurants hope is what we’re trying to do.”