Students with special dietary needs can find a wider selection of food options on campus with the recent opening of a kosher restaurant at the GW Hillel. The new dining area, dubbed “the H Street Underground,” serves lunch and dinner five days a week in the lower level of the Hillel building at 23rd and H streets.
Kosher meat, which is prepared in a certain way to meet dietary requirements, satisfies the needs of Jewish students who keep kosher and Muslim students who adhere to the Islamic dietary law Halal.
In the past, students who wanted kosher meals from Hillel had to preorder a day in advance, but now diners can show up at the venue before a meal without preordering.
“It needed to be more convenient to eat and keep kosher,” said senior Dani Greenspan, dining hall coordinator for Hillel. “We’ve always had kosher (food) at GW, but now you can just grab it and go, like J street.”
Stacks Deli, located at 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, provides the food. Greenspan said he and the deli create a weekly menu, featuring various warm entrees and a daily selection of prepared salads and deli sandwiches. The menu is available at www.gwhillel.org.
Prices range from $7.95 for deli items to $10.95 for hot dinner entrees, and students can pay with Colonial Cash.
“This is a lot better than in the past … now you can just stop by between classes,” senior Meredith Weinberg said. “It may encourage students who have never kept kosher before to try it away from home.”
The restaurant is currently fully functional, with new tables donated by the law school and freshly painted walls, but additions of new cabinetry and carpeting will continue through the rest of the month. The renovations to accommodate the new dining hall cost about $10,000, said Simon Amiel, executive director of Hillel.
Hillel has already seen an increase in student interest since the restaurant opened about a week ago. Last year Hillel served eight to ten people daily, but 40 to 50 people eat daily now, Amiel said.
“And we have the capacity to boost that up,” he said.
Despite initial interest, the dining venue is on a one-year plan, which Hillel will evaluate at the end of the year. Students will complete surveys during both semesters.
Officials said GW has seen five different kosher restaurants fail over the last 15 years. The most recent was a Chinese restaurant that closed four years ago after a debate ensued over whether the restaurant actually served kosher food.
“(The restaurants) didn’t do very well,” Amiel said. “Some were not managed well enough, while the kosher oversight board questioned the level of kosherness of other restaurants.”
Hillel officials said the dining area is open to all students, regardless of denomination or dietary preferences, and they hope it will promote interaction between ethnic groups on campus.
“Food is the great equalizer,” Amiel said. “This is a nice way to sit down, have a nice lunch and interact with people of other religions and backgrounds.”
Muslim students said they are looking forward to the new option so they have a place to eat meat on campus.
“Kosher meat is perfect for Muslims to eat,” said Omar Matadar, president of the Muslim Student Association.
Hours for the new Kosher meals are 12 to 2 p.m. for lunch Mondays through Fridays, and 6 to 8 p.m. for dinner Mondays through Thursdays, but beginning at 7:15 p.m. on Fridays.
-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.