Let’s say you were in the mood for a really nice meat meal.
You could travel to one of the finer kosher steakhouses in Teaneck, Deal, Long Branch or Brooklyn. With gas, tolls and dinner costs, you’re looking at a few hundred dollars for the outing and a few hours roundtrip.
If you live in the Highland Park, Edison or East Brunswick region, you have another option for top quality, tastes-amazing meats that’ll also save you lots of time, travel and money: KoSoCo, a passion project of three good friends in Highland Park—Andrew Cohen, Dovid Becker and Rob Haarburger.
Cohen and Haarburger have known each other since attending the Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School in South River (now closed). They met Becker shortly after all three married and moved to Highland Park, within the last five years.
Cohen and Haarburger have long been fans of high quality meats, and began grilling together for different parties in the neighborhood. Word of their skills got around and friends asked them to help cater different events, such as a July 4th party and a Simchat Torah night gathering.
In 2018 Haarburger received an unexpected windfall and treated himself to a meat smoker, purchasing a $150 Cuisinart unit. Becker offered to store the machine in his home, and the three guys started working on perfecting the technique of smoking meats.
In the summer of 2019 the three, along with a fourth friend, Eitan Pludwinski, decided to take the show on the road and entered the Hava NaGrilla kosher meat grilling competition in Philadelphia. They didn’t take home the gold medal, or even the silver or bronze ones—Haarburger jokes that they came in fifth, in the grilled turkey division—but “it was a great learning opportunity.”
While learning how to smoke meats, the three friends would periodically travel to Lakewood to get supplies and try the food in some of the restaurants. They met Yosef Mutterperl, who was the owner of the South Side Sandwich Shop. Cohen credits Mutterperl with teaching them how to go from amateurs to experts in smoking meats, while Haarburger calls Mutterperl their “Smoker Rebbe” and consults with him periodically.
More friends started asking Becker, Cohen and Haarburger to cater parties and Becker suggested they consider a way to monetize their meat-smoking talents. Taking the team name they used in the summer 2019 competition, they called their new enterprise KoSoCo (short for Kosher Southern Comfort, alluding to the style of smoking meat popular in the South). In the summer of 2020 they began smoking meats frequently in Becker’s backyard and selling packages to friends and family.
By January 2021 it was clear to the three guys that interest in their smoked meats was strong and consistent. They decided to seek certification from the Vaad HaRabonim of Middlesex County and to upgrade their overall operation to sell their products weekly on a broader scale.
Over the following 10 months, the three guys tackled a few big challenges to “up their game”:
They met with the Vaad and, on their advice, located a mashgiach (Ari Soifer Fisch) for their operation, which moved to the meat kitchen of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park;
They all took the food handler safety course by Serve-Safe, a private vendor approved by the State of New Jersey, and received food handler safety certifications;
They hired a consultant to prepare a hazard and control point plan, as required by the state;
They ordered and received $9,000 in new equipment, including a 5-foot-high standing professional-grade smoker and a vacuum sealer machine;
They arranged for the County to inspect their entire operation and obtained their approval.
In November, the newly-Vaad certified and County-approved KoSoCo launched, sending samples of slow-smoked brisket to a bunch of local fans. (Disclaimer: I was one of those fans who got a sample and was blown away by the taste of the meat; I raved so much about it on Facebook, you’d think they were paying me.) The response was very gratifying and they conducted their first sales during the week of Thanksgiving.
Thus far, they report that their top week of sales included 27 individual orders and one large private order. They’ve also already catered events at three area synagogues and begun arranging deliveries to other communities such as Teaneck, West Orange/Livingston and Elizabeth; they require a minimum $300 collective order to schedule an outlying community delivery.
Local fans are all too happy to attest to the quality of KoSoCo’s meats.
“We love having the ability to order great kosher smoked meats from KoSoCo,” said Abby Eserner of Edison. “They always deliver fresh and delicious products, and they keep adding new items to their menu. Our favorite so far is their pastrami, but we love it all!”
“KoSoCo has been a great find for me and my family,” said Che Gary, the security guard at Congregation Ahavas Achim. “As an avid meat eater, I think their smoked brisket is by far the best I have ever had. Smoked to perfection, juicy and full of flavor. I have had kosher and non-kosher brisket and hands down these guys have got it dialed in! Kosoco is the best!”
“We love all of the KoSoCo products,” said Seth Berman of Highland Park. “The smoked brisket is the best brisket I have ever tasted, and the burnt-end baked beans is one of my favorite foods of all time. We just tried the smoked pastrami this past Shabbat and everyone loved it!”
Haarburger adds that KoSoCo has no intention of setting up a restaurant but, in the near future, hopes to see their products featured in kosher supermarkets throughout the region.
For more information on KoSoCo and to place an order, visit: www.kosoconj.com