Monday, August 03, 2020

In New Jersey, when a new kosher restaurant opens and begins to create a buzz, it’s usually based in one of a handful of towns known for kosher dining options. Towns like Elizabeth, East Brunswick, Highland Park, Lakewood, Springfield, Teaneck, and West Orange easily come to mind. So when you learn that the new establishment is located in Linden, you take notice.

When you visit that restaurant, the Bakeristor Café on St. Georges Avenue; see the creative menu, the freshly prepared food and the patrons visiting from different areas of the state; and you hear the inspiration behind the eatery, you start to understand how it can flourish in a town not well known (until now) for kosher dining.

Hindy Gruber, the owner of the restaurant, explains how the business is a natural outgrowth of her professional background, the development of the new chasidic community in Linden, and the traditions of that Kehilla.

Families from the community of Kossoner chasidim, whose home base is in Boro Park, began migrating to Linden two years ago. They were attracted to the town because it had the basic infrastructure a growing frum community would need—a mikvah in the town’s small Orthodox shul, Anshe Chesed; an eruv maintained by the next-door community of Elizabeth/Hillside; and a kosher grocery store in Elizabeth. Linden is also, at off-peak times, an easy 35-minute drive to Brooklyn. The Kossoner satellite community of Linden is now 80 families strong and dispatches its children to Yeshivot in Boro Park, sending three buses over the bridge each day.

Witnessing the growth of her new hometown, Gruber—a mother of seven children, with the oldest two married and the youngest a 2-year-old—thought that the community could use a local restaurant all its own. Drawing on her experiences having set up businesses in telecom, energy services, importing and internet filtering, she decided to tackle the challenge herself. Her husband, Mendel, whose maternal grandparents had run the very successful Weiss Restaurant on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, knew what she was getting into and cautiously supported her initiative.

In March 2019, Gruber signed a lease for a storefront property that formerly housed a Klippers Barbershop and needed a fair amount of work to transform into a restaurant. She invested months in a wholesale renovation and opened the new restaurant to the public on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

The restaurant provides a bountiful variety of sandwiches, salads, egg dishes, pizzas, paninis, pastas, fish, soups and appetizers. It features an experienced pastry chef, Udi Ezra, who creates high-quality scones (three varieties), cookies and other delights, including gluten-free almond cookies that you wouldn’t know were gluten free if they didn’t tell you. They are committed to making dishes from the very best ingredients and preparing them fresh, on the spot. The menu, which is regularly adapted to bring in new items, also invites customers to create their own sandwiches and salads, from an array of ingredients. The restaurant is under the strict supervision of Rabbi Moshe Shmiel Rottenberg, the rav of Congregation Bais Moshe Shmiel Kozeva in Brooklyn.

Gruber takes as her inspiration the stories of Reb Shaya’la (Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner), the Keresteir Rebbe in Hungary, who passed away 93 years ago. Reb Shaya’la was renowned for providing for everyone who needed food. According to the legends, he prepared the dishes and served his chasidim personally. There was always enough food for all who were hungry and only when the last person was provided for was the serving bowl, then completely empty, put aside. The name of the Bakeristor Café is based on the name of the hometown of Reb Shaya’la—Bodrogkerestor, Hungary.

The restaurant’s patrons readily state that the new Bakeristor Café is a rare gem.

“My friend Sarah, from Passaic, and I wanted to meet for lunch and the Bakeristor was a smart choice, because it’s midway between our towns, “ said Raisy Sirote of Highland Park. “The food here is excellent and fresh, the menu is current and everyone is super-helpful. And when I told them I was gluten free, they were very accommodating.”

Isaac and Bar Reich of Elizabeth stated: “We live in Elizabeth and this restaurant is quite convenient for us. It also offers really good food, everything is very fresh, and they have the best pizza we’ve had in our lives! We love this place.”

Gruber says that the most rewarding thing about running a busy restaurant like the Bakeristor Café is when someone comes in and says: “I’m hungry.” She remarked, “When someone says that, we’re excited because we know we can fill that need.”

Give this restaurant a try—you won’t regret it. And you’ll want to make a return trip.

Café Bakeristor is located at 221 West St. Georges Ave., Linden, NJ 07036, between Dewitt St. and Summit Terrace. Visit their website at https://bakeristor.com or call them at 908-275-3251.

By Harry Glazer