Kosher Travel

Restaurant Article

“Eating out” is easy in a city blessed with Kosher restaurants under reliable supervision. However, a city that does not have the availability of Kosher restaurants presents some Kashrus challenges to its inhabitants. Some people, who are otherwise very careful about the Kashrus standards in their homes, might weaken at the temptations of eating in a non-Kosher restaurant. They might rely on the common Kashrus myth that there are actually many foods that do not require Kosher supervision, and therefore, they may be eaten in any restaurant. In fact, many of these so-called problem free foods are in fact quite problematic in the world of kashrus. There are many who feel that if a restaurant has the label “health foods” , “vegetarian” or “natural foods” that it certainly must automatically fall under the rules of Kashrus.

Nothing is further from the truth. These types of eating establishments could be full of food that pose grave problems to the Kosher consumer. For example, at such a restaurant one might feel quite safe (both nutritionally and from a Kashrus perspective) ordering a plain salad with dressing.

Careful attention must be paid to the dressing to ascertain its Kashrus status and even to make sure of its pareve nature, if that is what the situation calls for. However, the real concern of such a dish in a health – food restaurant is not only the status of the dressing but in the salad itself. We must always take great care that a salad is checked carefully for bugs since the prohibition of eating insects is even more Halachically stringent than eating pork! Today, there are many companies such as Dole, Fresh Express, Ready Pac and others that have many runs of their products kosher certified bug-free. Therefore, it is important when someone is dining in a non-Kosher establishment (or a cruise ship etc.) that they are able to clearly determine that a Kosher brand of bug free lettuce is being used and served on a cold clean (or disposable) plate. As we have already stated, the dressing must also be carefully checked. In addition, one would also have to check to be sure that no sharp food (such as an onion or radish etc.) was added to the salad as this would constitute the Kashrus problem of a “Davar Charif” (a sharp food that is cut with even a clean, cold traif knife renders that food traif). Yet another concern with a salad would be to ascertain as to whether any of the vegetables (or fruits) were imported from Israel, as they could pose such problems as Terumos and Maasros (Tithing). The above concerns would be only a small indication of the difficulty in eating in a “pure vegetarian” or Vegan restaurant. Such establishments still permit insect contamination in their foods, non – Kosher wine or grape juice, other non-Kosher flavorings and oils etc. In addition, they would not know or understand the importance of the issues connected to machinery contamination, such as pure vegetable oil being processed on machinery that has just processed lard.

Coffee Shops often seem to be growing at a faster rate than the general population. When there is Kosher certification on a whole coffee shop it is very easy for the Kosher consumer to peruse their menu and order whatever they choose. However, many of the popular coffee shops today (such as Starbucks) sell some Kosher coffee, but also carry many non-Kosher items, flavorings and drinks. As a general rule, plain unflavored coffee (regular or decaf), in many types of roasts (such as French Roast etc.) does not present a Kashrus problem. The main concern in such drinks would be that they be served in a disposable cup and stirred with a disposable utensil. Patrons may even add milk if they are not particular about Cholov Yisroel. The small cream containers often display the Kosher certification (such as O/U) and one has only to check the container for the reliable Hashgacha. As a pareve alternative, many coffee shops also carry pareve soy milk, which too must be checked to ascertain that it is, in fact, under proper kosher supervision. Unless the sugar used is flavored, that too does not pose a Kashrus challenge. However, a real problem in non-certified coffee shops are flavored coffees. Flavoring is often derived from non-Kosher sources and therefore must bear a reliable certification. Some of these non-certified coffee shops actually use coffee flavorings bearing the O/K, O/K d, or O/U, while others use flavorings with no Kosher certification at all. In order to determine this, one must ask to examine the bottle of flavoring used in the flavored coffee to check for the presence of the Hashgacha. In an unsupervised shop, this must be a ritual that is repeated each time one orders a cup of flavored coffee as the store can change the source of their flavoring at any given time. Therefore, if a coffee shop is not under reliable Kosher supervision, the Kosher consumer may purchase any unflavored plain coffee, or ask (each time) to see the bottle(s) of flavoring or topping used in a drink they want to purchase to look for a reliable Hashgacha.

Concession stands, such as hot dog stands found in many sports stadiums or shopping malls often advertise that they use “Kosher all beef” in their hot dogs. This can be very misleading to the Kosher consumer as this meat is not regarded as Kosher for many reasons. To begin with, the bun and condiments used with your hot dog may, most likely pose a Kashrus problem. Next, the meat used is often not of a recommended quality in Kosher supervision. Also, there is no guarantee that the brand of “Kosher” hot dog that is being advertised is the one that you are actually purchasing. However, even if one can assume beyond a reasonable doubt that the hot dog that is being served is actually the brand of Kosher hot dog that the concession stand claims it to be, there is still another grave problem to be considered. This concern is connected to the Halacha of “Bosor Shenisalem Min Ha’ayin” – unsupervised meat. All Kosher meat must be constantly supervised by a Shomer Shabbos Jew in order to be considered truly fit for a Kashrus observant Jew to consume.

Therefore, any concession stand that serves any form of meat, must have constant supervision by a Shomer Shabbos Jew (which is almost never the case!). This Halacha is often of great importance and relevance in ones home as well. A non-Jewish housekeeper or worker cannot be left alone in a Jew’s home all day without some form of Hashgacha in the course of the day. This can even be arranged as a “Yotze Venichnas” (a Shomer Shabbos Jew coming in and out of the home at any given, unspecified time of the day) situation in the course of the day.  A non-Jewish worker in the Jewish home must constantly be aware of the possibility of a Jewish neighbor, friend or relative entering the home to “supervise” (even for a short time) so that they will have that level of “awe” to adhere to the strict Halachic rules and regulations given them. In cases where this was not the practice, they should consult their Rav todetermine if they need to re-kasher their kitchen, as is often the case. Traveling and vacations may often present difficulties which may often be resolved with advance planning. If one travels by air, simply ordering a kosher in-flight meal in advance will usually suffice to guarantee a Kosher meal en route.

Cruise Ships and Hotels

Resorts on occasion advertise Kosher meals with full supervision. In cases where the facility does not include a Kosher kitchen, the hotel is usually happy to provide ample airline-style meals for its guests. These can be heated in the non-Kosher ovens as they are double wrapped for this purpose. In addition, one can order gourmet meals from caterers who specialize in mail order Glatt Kosher meals. These too are double wrapped and sealed to allow heating in a non-Kosher oven. Most of these establishments are most agreeable to provide cup up fruits upon request as well.

Restaurant or Caterer?

One of the difficult decisions that one must make when choosing a Kosher Restaurant or Caterer is how to determine the Kosher standard and what separates one from the next in quality. It is first important to determine the level of commitment of the owners of the restaurant (often non-Jews or non-Shomer Shabbos Jews) to the Kashrus quality of their establishment.  Are they respectful of the Halachos of Kashrus and willing to adhere to these Halachos?   Are they willing to work honestly and openly with the supervising agency responsible for their establishment in order to ensure the finest quality Kashrus levels and standards to their patrons? Next, of course, it is of great importance for the potential customer to evaluate the level and standards of the Kashrus organization itself that has the authority of the Hashgacha in the restaurant. Do they operate on the level of Kashrus that we demand for ourselves or are they perhaps lax in certain areas? Is the Mashgiach careful to assure that the produce served in the restaurant is truly bug-free? Do they check every leaf of leafy vegetables (such as iceberg lettuce)? Do they use pre checked? Is the Mashgiach aware to look for bugs in strawberries and other such fruit? In addition, if the owner of the restaurant is a non-Shomer Shabbos Jew or a non-Jew, then the Halacho of “Bosor Shenisalem Min Ha’ayin” (meat in an establishment of a non-Jew or non-Shomer Shabbos Jew needing constant Kashrus supervision) is of great importance. Is there a Mashgiach Temidi (a Mashgiach who is constantly present at all times in a meat restaurant) present? This is true even if the restaurant professes to be Glatt Kosher. Therefore, deciding on a place to dine out, is something that needs a degree of serious investigation.

Fish Restaurants can be confusing to the Kosher consumer as well, as some feel that, after all, it is “only fish” and what could possibly be wrong with that? In reality, there can be many problems in Kashrus in connection to a fish eating establishment.  As with a health food restaurant, one cannot assume that a fish eatery is inherently Kosher unless it is properly supervised as such. One cannot Halachically assume that they are in fact being served the trout that they ordered unless there is proper supervision to establish that as fact. In fact, once the fish is fileted in a restaurant (which renders it unrecognizable), one can certainly not assume that it is that exact fish that was stipulated in the order. Only with proper Kosher supervision can that claim be verified. Another important issue in a fish restaurant would be the oil which is used to prepare the fish. Even if the oil container states “pure vegetable oil”, we should be concerned about the possibility that it was produced on non-Kosher equipment, which would render it non-Kosher as well. In addition, if the restaurant would also serve crabs and other non-Kosher seafood, this, of course, would compound the problems with the full contamination of the utensils used in the kitchen to prepare these dishes. Clearly then, a fish restaurant warrants the same level of supervision as any other restaurant would.

Maaras Ayin, the  appearance of eating non-Kosher in a public situation is something that the Kosher consumer must take into serious account. For example, a Kashrus observant Jew should not take Kosher pizza into a non-Kosher pizza parlor (as is sometimes done so that the children can utilize the play areas of these non-Kosher establishments while having their “imported” Kosher pizza) and eat it in public. Onlookers could easily assume that the person is eating the non-Kosher pizza served in that facility. In that case, in addition to Maaras Ayin (jumping to inaccurate and damaging opinions about the person in question) it could also lead others to sin, as they might assume that if Mrs. … is eating in this establishment it must be all right for me to eat there as well. Similiarly, to take a glatt Kosher burger into a McDonalds, for instance, would clearly not be permitted according to Halacha. This is also true of an observant Jew attending a non-Kosher wedding in which the hosts have provided a few Kosher meals for their guests with those needs. However, if the meals at such a wedding are clearly marked in a different way (i.e. on different china, very differently prepared food etc.) and those attending such an event would clearly recognize that these meals were of a different nature, then one is permitted to partake in those meals.

Finally, Kosher Franchises can often be confusing to the kosher consumer. One can find a Baskin Robbins store for instance kosher in one state and not in another. Dunkin Doughnuts is not kosher in most parts of the U.S., kosher certified in some other cities (with regular dairy ingredients) and Cholov Yisroel in yet other locations. Therefore, it is important when dealing with a franchise store to check the certification on that particular store to ensure the Kashrus status of that establishment. Some non-franchise yogurt and ice cream stores, for example, have Kosher certificates prominently displayed in their windows, giving the impression to the public that they are kosher supervised, when in fact the display of the certification is misleading. Often such certifications only certify that certain products used in the store are Kosher supervised, not the store itself . This means that there is no guarantee at all that the store is consistently using this Kosher product. Therefore, the store is legally free to change the use of products and ingredients at their will, without alerting the public. This, obviously, poses serious problems to the Kosher consumer and one should be cautious of such establishments.

Amusement Parks, Movies, Theaters, Sport Stadiums and the like that sell dry roasted peanuts in the shell do not pose a problem for the Kosher consumer.However, fresh popcorn cannot be used in any of the above locations. Even when the vendor displays a kosher oil being used at this time, we have no way of ascertaining that non-Kosher oil was not used until now. If butter is being used it too may be of a non Kosher origin.The beer and soda are often Kosher and readily available.Fortunately, we live in a time where Kosher food of the highest level is easy to obtain when one prepares in advance. Many restaurants are happy to deliver as well.

This often can resolve a situation where one needs to eat in a place that does not have Kosher food on hand. Whether in Alaska or Hawaii, cruise ship or plane non-Kosher home or hotel, one can always have a gourmet meal on hand with proper preparation.

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