“It’s Chasids and hipsters,” chef and restaurateur Eric Greenspan says about his newest restaurant, Fleishik’s. “This is a meeting place in the best way.”
Greenspan’s latest all-kosher venture is a return to his own heritage — albeit in a more strictly observant dietary form than his own family’s practices — as well as a professional evolution.
The extroverted UC Berkeley graduate grew up in New Jersey and Southern California before cutting his teeth in restaurants such as the highly regarded original Patina on Melrose. He has turned his talents to an eatery where the clientele on a typical day wouldn’t necessarily overlap with the diners he has fed in the past at local restaurants such as Meson G, the Foundry on Melrose and Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese.
Here on Beverly Boulevard, he can serve food that’s kashrut compliant and takes advantage of the classic training he acquired at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. That said, Fleishik’s is not fine dining.
Late-lunch noshers still roll in at 3 p.m., and while Greenspan posits that the majority of Fleishik’s customers keep kosher, anyone can enjoy the irreverently named sandwiches such as the Teddy Hertz, an homage to Theodor Herzl, featuring chicken schnitzel with pickled red cabbage, red onion, green apple and hot mustard; and the Hillcrest Club, grilled chicken, beef fry, tomato, lettuce and harissa aioli in honor of the West L.A. country club. Nor is this project Greenspan’s first experiment with foods of the Diaspora; his erstwhile El Ñosh truck used to peddle Jewish and Latin fusion dishes.
It’s great if customers get the cultural allusions on the menu. And it’s OK if they don’t. Just, please, don’t call Fleishik’s a “deli.” If you want pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup, go elsewhere.
“I like to call it the Beastie Boys of sandwich shops,” Greenspan said, referencing the iconic Jewish hip-hop trio. “It’s a place to educate people on what Jewish tradition is. It’s a place to take some people’s favorites and present them in a way they haven’t had them before.”
So, “modern chicken soup” isn’t broth with noodles and a matzo ball, plus carrots tossed in. Instead, Fleishik’s version presents like a butternut squash puree but is actually Greenspan’s complex solution to a chicken soup conundrum that has dogged him for years.
“I always hate those bits that float in the broth because you never get the flavor of it,” he explains. His version incorporates pureed chicken and the water in which he has boiled skin to make gribenes (chicken skin cracklings).
The result is a velvety concoction that’s pure, satisfying comfort. As garnish, the fried wonton skins, aka “crispy kreplach,” speak to one of Greenspan’s iconoclastic opinions.
“As far as I’m concerned, matzo balls should only be around for eight days. Other than that, chicken soup should have kreplach in it, because they’re better,” he said.
Maybe someday Fleishik’s will serve kreplach, but at the moment, the kitchen is busy enough cranking out sandwiches, kugel bites, rotisserie lamb, fried pickles, kasha salad and other instant hits on the opening menu.
Customers order at the counter, where they can also get hard liquor and eat in a casual room where the hip decor includes geometric-patterned concrete tiles and dark woods.
Fleishik’s comes at a pivotal time in Greenspan’s career. Locals Avi Heyman and Daniel Uretsky initially approached and cultivated Greenspan and his business partners at Midcourse Hospitality Group out of a desire to improve and modernize kosher options in their neighborhood. At the same time, Greenspan and team were grappling with some other significant changes.
The closing of Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese and Maré Santa Monica overlapped with the period in which the team was preparing to open Fleishik’s. Meanwhile, the first iteration of Maré, a quasi-hidden outdoor seafood-centric restaurant tucked behind the former Foundry on Melrose, moved to a new 90-seat space on Hyperion in Silver Lake. Midcourse also owns Erven, chef Nick Erven’s celebrated vegan restaurant in Santa Monica, and Greenspan operates the Roof on Wilshire at the Hotel Wilshire.
“Last year was a significant year of growth,” Greenspan says of the ebbs and flows of his industry. “We have enough restaurants in our portfolio that we are going to focus on the ones that work.”
Nor is he considering expanding Fleishik’s just yet.
“I’m thinking about getting this thing down. Let’s just do this, and do this right,” he said. Adding catering is an immediate goal. He also needs to make sure to spend time with his family, as he is the father of two boys — a 3-year-old and an infant.
While Greenspan has adjusted to the demands of maintaining a kosher kitchen, another aspect of running Fleishik’s has proven tough: “If I hear Matisyahu one more time, I’m going to [expletive] lose it,” he said, a reference to songs by the eclectic, formerly Chasidic musician on the restaurant soundtrack.
So, that’s one more thing on his to-do list: find different tunes for Fleishik’s play list.
Fleishik’s is located at 7563 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 746-5750 or go to fleishiks.com