by Suzanne Pollak
It's been an active week for kosher dining in this area as one area restaurant closed its doors for good while another changed ownership.
The swinging door of the Pomegranate Bistro slammed shut, closing permanently after serving dinner Sunday, April 29. That upscale restaurant in Potomac's Cabin John shopping center was open this time for a mere four months. The restaurant had changed hands and reopened in January, after being closed for seven months. Prior to that, it had been open for four years in the same location.
In an email blast to his customers, owner Jacob Schorr explained that "the restaurant has not been a financial success." He also pointed an accusatory finger at a recently filed lawsuit that alleges the restaurant and co-owner David Dahan were in breach of a contract provision forbidding the restaurant from engaging in catering and thus competing with Potomac 18 Caterers.
There have been recent attempts to settle the lawsuit out of court, but last week the Vaad Harabonim - the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington that supervises kashrut - asked representatives from both sides of the contract dispute not to make any comments to the press, WJW has been told.
As the closing of the restaurant drew near, comments on Facebook and the Silver Spring listserve heated up. Many writers talked of sadness that a kosher restaurant couldn't make it while others discussed what they thought the Pomegranate's downfall had been. The causes ranged from high prices, slow service, the lawsuit and the restaurant's location.
While some called the closing a loss to the community, still others said good riddance.
Meanwhile, the popular Ben Yehuda Cafe and Pizzeria in the Kemp Mill Shopping Center in Silver Spring officially changed hands May 1, ending Scott Schlesinger's five-year reign as owner.
The new owner Josh Katz promised to continue serving up great pizzas, salads and other kosher food. In fact, Katz said he was not planning to change the dairy restaurant.
Katz, who describes himself as "born and raised" in the Kemp Mill area, worked at Ben Yehuda when it first opened about 12 years ago. In fact, he was one of the first employees hired, he said in a phone interview.
Most recently, however, he has been working in e-commerce.
Katz officially took over ownership on Tuesday from Schlesinger, who called his own departure "bittersweet."
"I have never put so much of myself into anything," he said about the restaurant. "Ben Yehuda is a piece of me. I'm going to miss it a lot."
However, he noted, "the food industry is not necessarily my passion." Schlesinger plans to pursue a career in software development.
For his last day, he cut the prices on pizza to thank customers for their support.