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Letter in Today's Brookline TAB, With Commentary

My letter in today's Brookline TAB can be found at http://www2.townonline.com/brookline/opinion/view.bg?articleid=527528. For those who don't want to follow the link, I'll quote it here behind the cut and then comment on it.

Letter: What about Rubin's?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Your article "Brunching in Brookline" left out one of the best restaurants in Brookline for Sunday brunch: Rubin's, at 500 Harvard St. My wife, Nomi, and I frequently go to Rubin's on Sunday morning to partake of their delicious breakfast menu, which includes a variety of omelets, fruited pancakes, blueberry stuffed challah French toast, and bagels with nondairy cream cheese and lox. Rubin's also has two other advantages. First of all, since it is a kosher restaurant, the quality of the food is always excellent. (I noticed that none of the restaurants you named in your article cater to the significant kosher-observant population of the town.) And second, all the items on their breakfast menu are available any time they are open, just in case you get into the brunching mood at dinner time.
    Michael A. Burstein
    Fuller Street
    Town Meeting member, Precinct 9
    Library Trustee

Now for the commentary.

The main reason I wrote that letter should be fairly obvious to anyone who reads it. Nomi and I frequently do in fact go to Rubin's for brunch on Sunday, and we do enjoy the food quite a bit.

But there's also the kosher issue.

There is a restaurant in Brookline that I will not refer to by name, and I'd appreciate it if no one else did either. For sake of a label, let's call it NKD for Non-Kosher Deli. Now, NKD promotes itself as a traditional "Jewish" deli, and from what I understand, the food there is actually quite good.

But I've never eaten there, because it's not kosher.

And it bothers me on a few levels that NKD gets a lot of press and publicity, whereas an excellent, revitalized place like Rubin's does not. It bothers me because I've had more than one person shocked and surprised to discover that I can't eat at NKD; they've all assumed that a place that markets itself as Jewish would be kosher. Some of these people had even eaten pastrami and Swiss cheese at NKD, and it never seemed to penetrate their minds that such a combination is a violation of one of the most basic laws of kashrut.

So when I saw last week's TAB list NKD as one of the great places in Brookline for brunch, I knew I had to respond in praise of Rubin's, a deli that to my way of thinking exemplifies Jewish values far more than NKD does. Now I can only hope that perhaps this will drum up a little more business for Rubin's. At the very least, it should remind the population of Brookline what NKD isn't.

Copyright © Michael Burstein


I'm not sure when the Rubin's revitalization happened. It wasn't in between 1976 and 2002 - I ate at Rubin's a few times over that period. The quality of the food, IMHO, varied between average and bad. Assuming NKD is the place I think it is (further up the street on the opposite side) I liked it a lot better than I ever did Rubin's.

I'm not sure even in Brookline it is worth ensuring that the shomer kashrut community gets something of out every restaurant survey. For one thing, I doubt there is a shomer shabbat Jew in Brookline that hasn't at least heard of Rubin's. So where's the chiddush? If a kosher restaurant is good enough to be counted as among the best in Brookline sheerly on the merits, THAT I will agree is news. :>)
Rubin's changed their menu the year they renovated over Pesach, to the point where they now offer a lot more than just deli. They have a lot of dinner dishes, including chicken marsala and steak. They recently introduced a whole slew of rollups. I've had many good experiences with their food over the past five years.

And your second paragraph shows that you missed the point of the letter. I am in fact saying that Rubin's should be counted as among the best simply on its merits. Here on LJ I am going into more detail on the kashrut issue, but for the TAB letter I merely mentioned it as one selling point.
If you think Rubin's is good enough to be included among Brookline's best purely on the merits, fine. The gates of teshuvah are always open - maybe they've gotten better. Bli neder I will try the brunch sometime when I'm in Boston.
Competition from other kosher resteraunts has forced Rubin's to upgrade in recent years -- including a healthier, expanded menu.
I've only eaten at Rubin's once, and it wasn't their breakfast food, so I have no opinion on its quality. However, I was puzzled by this sentence in your letter:
First of all, since it is a kosher restaurant, the quality of the food is always excellent.
How does that necessarily follow?
Depends on what yardstick you use for quality. I"m not talking about taste here, or nutrition, but the fact that there is another process in place for making sure the food is up to a certain set of standards.
My usual yardsticks for quality include kosher (Y/N), then taste and nutrition both. However, something can be kosher and far from excellent quality (aged leftovers, for a trivial example).
Just what I was wondering.
Then there's the *other* NKD that when it was in the process of being opened I could have sworn was going to be a KD since it's opening was just after pesach. This would have made sense(why open a kosher deli right before Pesach only to have to close it the next week)?
I agree completely, on both points. NKD's marketing drives me up the wall.
I have tried NKD. I have eaten there precisely once. It wasn't worth it.

Rubin's, well, I have not tried their breakfast menu. I do wish their sandwiches were a bit less pricy. Gotta agree on the quality of the food. Excellent steak there, I'd put it up against some of the elite steakhouses in Boston.

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