When you think of an authentic New York deli, images of pastrami and corned beef on rye instantly come to mind. When you think of a New Orleans lunch joint, po-boys and gumbo are among the immediate associations. But at Kosher Cajun Deli and Grocery (3519 Severn Ave., Metairie, 888-2010; www.koshercajun.com), Joel and Natalie Brown's Big Apple-meets-Big Easy restaurant, grocery and catering business, all of the above are part of the mix.
For 20 years, the Browns have served local and out-of-town customers seeking foods prepared using 100 percent kosher ingredients and practices. These days, they say that group includes a growing number of people who are discovering the health benefits of kosher cooking.
"Growing up in a kosher home, I saw what New Orleans was lacking," says Joel. "I saw a need to bring more kosher products into the city and open up the market, not just to Jewish people, but also to others. Our largest growth is people who are eating kosher because of the high quality and healthy way the products are made."
Kosher dietary laws, which are taken from the Old Testament, prohibit certain foods, such as pork and shellfish, and the mixing of certain food groups, such as dairy and meat. They also dictate how foods are prepared. Everything at Kosher Cajun is certified by a rabbi in accordance with kosher law, and every grocery item, from Hershey Bars to free-range frozen chicken, is kosher approved.
There is also a selection of foods that are "parve," a term signifying that they contain no meat or dairy. In addition to being important to kosher diets, parve foods (cakes, cookies, breads and more) have special appeal for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Dishes like the restaurant's shrimp po-boy (made with Alaskan pollack instead of shrimp) and its shrimp-less versions of gumbo and jambalaya are a draw for customers who are allergic to shellfish.
Though the Metairie store flooded after Hurricane Katrina, it was back up and running in three months. Near the entrance, a chalkboard bearing the words "Tough times don't last, tough people do," is a reminder of the Browns' commitment to being part of the rebuilding efforts underway in and around the city.
Inside the store, the assortment of foods is complimented by 60 different wines from all over the world. Outside the store, the Browns supply kosher foods to local grocery stores, including Dorignac's and Sav-A-Center.
- Joel Brown makes eating kosher easy and tasty at Kosher Cajun.