During Jewish holidays, people by the hundreds turn up Tulane University's Mintz Center for Jewish Life. But throughout the year, traditional Jewish fare and a great deal more are served at Hillel's Kitchen (912 Broadway, 909-9919; www.hknola.com), a kosher restaurant inside the Jewish student center near Tulane's Uptown campus. It's open to the public, and it's exceptionally friendly to vegetarians and vegans.
There's also house-cured pastrami, salmon burgers, chicken salad and chili dogs, so this is far from a meatless kitchen. But there is a clear focus on fresh, health-conscious meals here. That's the hand of chef Harveen Khera, who opened Hillel's Kitchen earlier this year in the new, 10,000-square-foot Mintz Center.
Originally from London, Khera built a culinary career in San Francisco, where she ran the French-Indian fusion restaurant Tallula in that city's Castro district. She moved to New Orleans to help design a kitchen for the Mintz Center and that work evolved into planning this public restaurant for the center. Her menu is inexpensive and loaded with locally-sourced and house-made items.
"Coming to New Orleans, my highest ambition was having people get as close to good food as possible, and when you strip away all the bells and whistles more people can do that," she says.
Her list of specials recently included a lamb bacon BLT, for instance, and Vietnamese-style roast duck po-boys are on the menu. The kitchen mixes up traditional Jewish deli specialties (bagels with lox and latkes), all-American comfort food (meatloaf sandwiches) and international flavors (the Indian puffed rice salad bhel puri and the French socca chickpea pancakes). In-house preparation, from the pickles to the breads to the smoked salmon, is a uniting feature, along, of course, with kosher Rabbinic supervision.
Hillel's Kitchen is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Each Friday evening, the Mintz Center serves a free Shabbat dinner in its dining room. For details, visit www.tulanehillel.org.