A kosher restaurant is an establishment that serves food that complies with Jewish dietary laws (kashrut). These businesses, which also include diners, cafés, pizzerias, fast food, and cafeterias, and are frequently in listings together with kosher bakeries, butchers, caterers, and other similar places, differ from kosher style establishments in that they operate under rabbinical supervision, which requires that the laws of kashrut, as well as certain other Jewish laws, must be observed. Such locations must be closed during Shabbat and Jewish holidays if under Jewish ownership.
In most cases, the location is limited to serving exclusively either dairy or meat foods. But some types of establishments, such as delicatessens, frequently serve both, kept in separate areas.
Kosher restaurants exist in many cities that have Jewish communities. In cities with large Jewish populations, the choices in kosher dining available may be quite large. In the United States, New York City has the highest number of kosher restaurants, and in Canada, Toronto has the most. In New York, some well known restaurants include Talia's Steakhouse & Bar, The Prime Grill, Solo, Le Marais, Basil, Clubhouse, Kolbeh, and the recently opened Prime KO. In cities with smaller Jewish populations, kosher dining is often limited to just a single establishment. Some cities do not have any kosher dine-in facilities, but the small communities have other arrangements for Jewish residents to obtain ready-made kosher meals and other types of food that may be hard to obtain kosher otherwise.
Common types of food
Unlike in the general population, where many restaurants and fast food businesses specialize in a particular type of food, many kosher establishments have a variety of different types of food popular among Jews.
Pizza is a popular food served at kosher restaurants, but kosher pizza shops typically serve Middle Eastern cuisine, such as falafel, and other foods that can be served with dairy, such as fish and pasta.
Bagel shops are also common, serving bagels with lox and cream cheese and a variety of other spreads. At kosher bagel shops, salads may also be served. Some locations also have the menus common at pizza shops.
Kosher fleishig (meat) establishments often serve meat dishes popular within Middle Eastern cuisine, such as Shawarma, along with common American fast food staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. Fish may also be served at fleishig restaurants, though it cannot be served on the same plate as meat.
The world's first kosher Subway restaurant opened in Cleveland and was followed by kosher Subways in Brooklyn and Kansas City.
Kosher Chinese restaurants are also common. These are mostly either fleishig or vegetarian (serving only pareve food). In recent years, a tradition has developed in Jewish communities to eat Chinese food on Christmas Day (and Christmas Eve), as many Chinese restaurants are open on these days. This phenomenon is the subject of the song Chinese Food on Christmas.
Many kosher delicatessens exist that serve both milchig (dairy) and meat foods that are kept separate. The dairy items include various sliced cheeses and cream cheese, and the meats include cold cuts and meat spreads. Many pareve items and fish items are also served, such as smoked whitefish salad and herring.
While most kosher restaurants are small businesses operating only a single location, some operate multiple locations within a city (often in New York City).
Some corporate restaurants and fast food chains operate kosher locations in places with Jewish populations. In Israel, kosher KFC, McDonald's, and Sbarro franchises can be found. In the United States, there are many kosher Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Subway locations.  Most of the kosher Subways have failed. Some of these locations must modify their typical menus in order to comply with Jewish dietary laws.
Baskin-Robbins ice cream is kosher at all locations, certified by the Vaad Hakashrut of Massachusetts. A few of the flavors served at Baskin-Robbins are not kosher, and a sign found at all locations that certifies the products as kosher indicates which flavors are not.
Other types of kosher businesses
Many cities with Jewish communities also have kosher grocery stores. These can range in size from a corner store, similar in style to a delicatessen, or a full-sized supermarket similar in appearance to a big box store. As of 2010, the largest such store in the United States is Seven Mile Market in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. Corporate supermarket chains also sometimes have "kosher" sections inside their locations in Jewish areas that specialize in food that is popular among religiously observant Jews.
Kosher cafeterias and food stands can sometimes be found at college and university campuses, Jewish community centers, hospitals, professional sports stadiums, and some tourist attractions. In some of these locations where special stands do not exist, prepackaged kosher sandwiches and other meals are offered, or can be pre-ordered. Some airlines also offer kosher meals when ordered in advance.
With kashrut being a very sensitive issue, there have been many controversies surrounding the kosher dining industry.
In 2006, the owner of a kosher meat distributor in Monsey, New York was found to be passing off non-kosher meat as kosher. This resulted in residents of the local community needing to kasher their kitchens.
In 1990, a planned kosher fundraising meal aboard a ship on the Baltimore Inner Harbor contained non-kosher food as the result of an error. The mix-up was caused by a kosher and a non-kosher caterer that were under the same ownership.
Dropping of certification
Occasionally, an establishment operating as kosher will make the choice to drop its certification and become non-kosher.
One such instance was a Dunkin' Donuts in Rockville, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D.C.), which made the decision to be non-kosher in 2007 in order to offer menu items sold at non-kosher Dunkin' Donuts locations (such as ham). This led to a protest. Dunkin' Donuts still has several other kosher locations in the Greater Washington and Baltimore area.
Civil enforcement of Kosher laws
In some U.S. states and other jurisdictions, laws have been passed that mandate establishments that claim to be kosher to actually comply with Jewish dietary laws. These jurisdictions sometimes employ rabbis to aid in enforcing these laws. Some of these laws, including one in New York State, have been overturned by high courts on constitutional grounds. The more recent trend for these laws is simply to allow the establishment to disclose its own kashrut standards, with the governmental authority then scrutinizing whether the establishment in fact lives by the kashrut standards it discloses. This approach appears to overcome the Establishment Clause issue successfully.
- Kosher style - restaurants that mimic some aspects of kosher laws, but are not actually kosher.
- Kosher airline meal
- List of kosher restaurants
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- My Machberes - The kashrus of chickens
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- Israeli Food & Restaurant Directory – Israeli & Kosher Restaurants & markets in the U.S, Canada, UK, & Israel.