News and Reviews

 

 
Paper: Jewish Herald-Voice
Date: Thu 09/19/2013
Section: Dining
Page: 1
 

Dining Out: Suzie’s Grill.

By: TED POWERS
Food Editor

Things are not always what they seem. I went with some friends for a kosher meal at Suzie’s Grill. I thought we would order some of Suzie’s great Beef or Chicken Kabobs, or maybe one of my longtime favorite dishes, Lamb Chops. I also thought about Pasta with Meatballs or Chicken Schnitzel, that wonderful breaded breast served with Israeli salad and fries.

Well, the evening took on a completely different glow. We spotted the Chinese menu, and the pictures looked so good, we ordered one of each dish. They were outstanding and hard to beat, even in some of the best Chinese restaurants. The Chinese menu always is available.

First, let me give you some basic facts about Suzie’s Grill. The eponymous Susan Goldstein runs the show. She came to New York from Iran when she was 13. Most of her dishes are based upon recipes from the Middle East, Israel, the Mediterranean and Persia, all of which are served fresh, hot and in large portions. Suzie’s is Glatt Kosher and supervised by both the Houston Kashruth Association as well as mehadrin kashrus. They are mashgiach timidi (supervised full time), shomer Shabbos (closed on Shabbat) and pas Yisrael (bread baked by Jews). They do bake their own pita bread and challah.

As for the Chinese menu, catch this: We ordered Sweet Orange Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, Chicken Lo-Mein and Chicken Stir Fry. Every dish was delicious and filled with vegetables. I couldn’t believe how tender the beef was. Dishes came with eggrolls and white or Chinese fried rice, except for the lo-mein. If there are only two of you, order the Chinese Platter. It’s a combination of three dishes, including rice and eggroll.

Another special menu at Suzie’s is the Burger Madness Menu. Hard to believe you can get these eight burgers kosher, but they are! The half-pound burgers are served with soy cheese (nondairy) and seasoned French fries. The Israeli burger is stuffed with French fries, humus and harif spread (Yemenite hot sauce), plus lettuce, tomato and pickles. The TexMex has guacamole, grilled jalapeno, plus the regular toppings. I love the idea of the Hangover Burger and I’m trying that one next time. It has a sunny-side egg on top, plus sliced pastrami, guacamole and the regulars. Other burgers include the Sloppy Joe and Schnitzel Chicken.

Suzie’s does catering for all kinds of occasions. If you are interested in Shabbos take-out meals, they have seven menus to serve as few as four and up to 25 guests. They include baked chicken stuffed with rice, cholent, meatloaf and brisket. Some meals include chicken soup and a choice of grilled veggies and potato kugel.

The lunch menu has Falafel with Humus, tahini and Israeli salad; also a Hot Pastrami sandwich; Chicken Shawarma, with Mediterranean salad and Baked Potatoes, with toppings like shawarma, Sloppy Joe, grilled veggies and meatballs.

One of my favorite things at Suzie’s is rice. There are green rice (made with dill), lentil, cherry (made with dried cherries), a fabulous Chinese rice (made with veggies and eggs) and of course, white. Most times, you can ask for a complimentary plate of crispy rice, scraped from the bottom of the pots in which the rice is cooked. My grandkids love this healthy treat.

The kid’s menu has hotdogs, chicken fingers, pasta, meatballs and fries. Of course, kids also will like hamburgers, shawarma and falafel in pita.

Suzie’s is a small, not fancy restaurant. They do a huge take-out business, which is very convenient, with the only kosher drive-through in Houston. They are open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Look for Suzie’s at 8402 Hillcroft St. at Beechnut St., 713-729-5741, or go to suziesgrill.com.

 

 

 
Paper: Jewish Herald-Voice
Date: Thu 04/07/2011
Section: Dining
Page: 1
 

Dining Out: Suzie’s Grill.

By: TED ROBERT
STAFF

If you went to South Braeswood and Hillcroft and couldn’t find Suzie’s Grill, not to worry; they moved! They now are located just a few short blocks away on Hillcroft, near the corner of Beechnut. This wonderful kosher restaurant may be smaller, but the food still is the same – great meat and pareve dishes with many vegetarian choices. Suzie’s cooking is a combination of Mediterranean, Israeli, Persian, Middle Eastern and American. And, yes, they still are Glatt Kosher and supervised by the Houston Kashruth Association, as well as Mehadrin Kashrus.

Here’s a bit of trivia I found quite interesting: Suzie’s Grill has a drive-through, and this may be the only kosher restaurant drive-thru, not just in Texas, but in all the U.S. Except for Israel, it may be the only one in the whole world. Susan Goldstein is the magic behind the grill. She came to New York City from Iran when she was 13, learning to cook from her mother. It was law school for her husband that brought her to Houston.

So, what’s to eat? I like to start off with appetizers of hummus and babaghanoush and maybe a few Moroccan Cigars dipped in tahini. Vegetable eggrolls also are good, but often I will go for the borekas (potato or spinach). I just love their Matbucha, a cold dish made with tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic and chili pepper. Falafel is excellent here. Sometimes, I just order the Combo Platter and get a bunch of different dishes. Pita bread is served with many dishes, and it is freshly made in their kitchen.

For my salad, I have a weakness for the chopped Israeli Salad; it always reminds me of eating in Israel. For lunch or a small dinner, I like the burger and fries and one day, I am going to try the Pastrami Burger with strips of you-know-what on the burger. Sometimes, I order shawarma, which is chicken and lamb cooked on a vertical grill. This plate comes with tahini, hummus and Israeli salad, at a reasonable price. Subs, sandwiches and wraps also are on the menu. For a real condiment treat, ask for a small plate of pickled cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and celery – crispy and delicious.

If you want soup, my first choice is usually barley and mushroom, but Suzie’s makes a great split pea. During the recent rodeo season, they served Fish Gumbo. Be sure to ask about the soup of the day.

For more serious food, there is Baked Salmon, topped with Moroccan or dill sauce, lamb chops, rib-eye steak, Schnitzel and Stir-Fried Beef or Chicken with fried rice. But my favorites are the kabobs. You can get them with white- or dark-meat chicken, ground beef and chunks of steak. All these entrees come with a choice of rice, and that includes white, green (dill and peas), lentil, saffron and cherry. Pastas like Angel Hair with Marinara and sautéed mushrooms, Spaghetti with Meatballs and Chicken Lo Mein are on the menu.

Save room for dessert. I adore their hamantashen; but, alas, they only make that during Purim. They do have tiramisu, chocolate mousse and more – all pareve, of course.

Suzie’s Grill can do full-service catering for a party at your location. They can handle parties up to 500 guests, including a band, if you like. If you want an international dining adventure, on some days they serve Mexican, Italian, Japanese or Chinese foods. If you are interested in Shabbos take-out meals, they have seven Shabbos menus to serve as few as four and up to 25 guests. They include baked chicken stuffed with rice, cholent, meat loaf and brisket, plus chicken soup and a choice of grilled veggies, roasted potatoes or potato kugel. What a deal to have a kosher restaurant like Suzie’s right in the heart of our neighborhood.

This is a very family-oriented eatery, so don’t hesitate to bring the children. The Kid’s Menu has hot dogs, chicken fingers, meat balls and pasta. They are open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Look for Suzie’s Grill at 8402 Hillcroft at Beechnut, 713-729-5741, or visit suziesgrill.com.

 

 

 
Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Thu 03/17/2011
Section: Houston Belief
Page: 1
 

Suzie's Grill keeps Houston Jews kosher, connected.

By: KATE SHELLNUTT
STAFF

Earlier this year, the roof began to collapse on Suzie's Grill, so owner Susan Goldstein rushed to find a new location. Two weeks later, she was serving up her signature Mediterranean cooking from a drive-through at a gas station a mile down the street.

Running the only kosher meat restaurant in the area (and now one of the only kosher drive- throughs in the country), Goldstein considers Suzie's more than just a place to eat. It's a connection to all things Jewish in Houston.

Though heartbroken to leave the place where she started her business six years ago, she couldn't afford the $45,000 needed to fix the building on South Braeswood and had to move on. Fast. The Jewish community — plus Jews visiting the city on business or for treatment at the Medical Center - depends on her for certified kosher cooking and a lot more.

"People know I'm here, so they come and ask me, 'What's a good school?' 'I'm looking for a mikvah (ritual bath),' or 'Do you know a synagogue …? And we connect them. I send people all over," said Goldstein, from her small new place on Hillcroft. "We start with a meal and then go from there."

Beneath the counter, there's a row of fliers for events and synagogue celebrations. She grabbed a Jewish calendar with candle-lighting times for Shabbat and explained this weekend's holiday of Purim, a boisterous celebration of the Jews escaping the threat of a massacre in ancient Persia, as told in the book of Esther.

"It comes from my country," said Goldstein, with a friendly smile and a bit of an accent. She was born in Iran and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. Her Middle Eastern roots influence her menu of flavorful meats, stews, kabobs and wraps - and her Judaism, too.

"Iranian Jews do have a special place in their hearts for Purim because the story of Queen Esther is one which takes place in their homeland," said Karmel Melamad, a Los Angeles journalist who has covered the Iranian Jewish population there for more than a decade. Outside Southern California and New York, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 Iranian Jews living in the U.S., according to Melamad, and the number in Houston is very, very small.

"There is also a great sense of pride from the story of Purim for Iranian Jewry because they feel Purim is just a chapter in their larger story of survival and ability to retain their Jewish identity," he said.

Each year for Purim, Goldstein makes hundreds of hamantashen, a traditional triangular pastry filled with jams or her favorite, poppy-seed paste, to serve up at the restaurant, home and celebrations at her Orthodox synagogue, Young Israel of Houston.

Families will also serve a festive meal, a Shabbat staple such as chicken or brisket, just as for most Jewish holidays. There will be a little more wine than usual since Purim part yers are encouraged to imbibe at the feast.

"Somebody tried to kill us, they didn't, we won; we eat and drink," said Yismo Rosenberg, summing up the holiday. Rosenberg, also a member of Young Israel, works as Suzie's mashgiach, or kosher supervisor.

Because so many Jewish holidays have traditional foods, Goldstein has perfected recipes for Shabbat staples such as brisket and roasted chicken, and Passover favorites like sweet, nutty haroset. She began cooking professionally as a caterer and continues to provide kosher meals for bar and bat mitzvahs, baby bris, Kiddush lunches and other events.

An estimated 5,000-10,000 Jews in Houston keep strictly kosher, according to the Houston Kashruth Association, the agency that licenses supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants like Suzie's for their compliance with Jewish dietary laws. They're hoping that number will grow as Houston continues to expand its kosher offerings. (Goldstein plans one day to open a second restaurant that serves kosher Chinese food, which is the most-requested cuisine among the area's observant Jews.)

Because of complications over the separation of meat and dairy, including separate equipment used to prepare each, most kosher establishments choose one or the other. At Suzie's, Rosenberg ensures that every ingredient and piece of equipment in the kitchen meets rabbinical standards and trusted certifications. The steaks, ground beef and other meats come from suppliers that slaughter and process according to Jewish law. He's on-site all day every day making sure things stay kosher, and the restaurant can't serve meat unless he's there.

Jewish doctors and businessmen in yarmulkes wander in for lunch during the week, including Goldstein's husband, who visits her for lunch nearly every day. Many diners find Suzie's because they have to eat certified kosher food, but she hopes "they come back because it tastes good. It's just good food," she said.

It's her authentic Iranian cuisine, and not the kosher standards, that keep non-Jewish diners coming. Since moving into their new space, with several tables and a drive- through window, they've served more Mexicans, Muslims and mainstream diners.

"Everything happens for the way God wants it," Rosenberg said. "Since moving, we've gotten a lot more non-Jewish business."

 

 

 
Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Wed 02/15/2006
Section: Flavor
Page: 1
 

FILLING A VOID / At Suzie's Grill it's all kosher, all the time / It took a village to raise the funds for an eatery that keeps Jewish law.

By: PEGGY GRODINSKY
STAFF

MANY restaurants are born of intensely personal dreams. An ambitious chef yearns for a place of his own to hang his toque; a family of hardworking immigrants reaches for the American dream by opening a takeout shop; an entrepreneur bit by the restaurant bug spies a business opportunity.

Suzie's Grill, Houston's only kosher meat restaurant, was born of a community dream. It opened in late November on South Braeswood Boulevard because so many families in Houston's Jewish community hungered enough for such a place to invest in.

"Before this restaurant opened, there wasn't even one option," investor Ben Medetsky said. "If a person wanted a good steak, or a good burger, there was nowhere to go."

Susan Goldstein, the "Suzie" on the marquee, said it was "community pressure" that led her to open the modest restaurant, which serves a homey menu of Persian, Israeli and American food. A longtime kosher caterer in Houston, a devout Jew and mother of five, Goldstein had no restaurant ambitions when she was approached last summer and asked if she would consider buying the former King David restaurant. She couldn't afford it, she told Rudi Yeroshalmi, the owner of Bridal Connection and the dreamer and shaker behind a kosher meat eatery for Houston. Though he'd never invested in a restaurant before, he put up $20,000 of his own money and persuaded about 45 other families to contribute smaller amounts.

"This is what is called a mitzvah (good deed), " Yeroshalmi said, referring to the uncertain world of restaurant financing. "It was not a business transaction. Who is going to put up $10,000 to $20,000 of their own money, put it into the restaurant business, hoping (the restaurant is) going to make it (and) they are going to get their money back? It's a mitzvah. It's putting back into the community."

To keep kosher, or kashrut, is to adhere to the dietary laws that tell observant Jews how to eat. At their most basic, these laws instruct Jews to forgo pork and shellfish and to avoid mixing dairy and meat in a single meal, or even on a single set of dishes or pots. The laws of kashrut stem from the Torah, which is what Jews call the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

It's impossible to determine exactly how many of Houston's roughly 50,000 Jews keep kosher. Nine percent of respondents to a 2001 survey conducted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston reported that they do "all the time;" another 16 percent answered "usually."

In addition to Suzie's Grill, Houston Jews who keep strictly kosher may eat at the cafe at the Jewish Community Center; grab a pizza, boureka or falafel (all nonmeat) at Saba's Kosher Pizza on Fondren or dine at Madras Pavillion on Kirby (also nonmeat). For practical reasons, restaurants usually serve either meat or dairy foods, not both. The delis at Randalls and Kroger at Meyer Park are kosher, too. In comparison, Manhattan has 163 kosher restaurants, according to www.totallyjewishtravel.com.

"There are a few hundred families in the orthodox community in Houston who really - I cannot say the word `suffered' - but were very much inconvenienced by the lack of a place to go out to eat. That's the truth," said Chabad Rabbi Betzalel Marinovsky, who oversees one of the two organizations that certified Suzie's Grill as kosher. "And she opens a solution. There was a void in the community, and she filled that void."

Houston's Jewish community desired a kosher restaurant for other reasons, too. They are, Medetsky says, a "litmus test" of the strength of a city's Jewish community. Moreover, Suzie's Grill accommodates observant out-of-towners in Houston for business or medical treatment and religious Jewish teenagers on dates. It is also a place where Jews from across the spectrum of belief - from Orthodox to Conservative to Reformed - can mingle. Often divided by doctrine, they are united over kebabs and khoresh (Persian stew), schnitzel and salmon.

"What is really interesting and heartwarming for me is, you go in there and there are people from the reformed synagogues, and gentiles, sometimes all the way to your ultra-orthodox," Yeroshalmi said. "There are times there is somebody sitting there in a miniskirt on one side and in the table next to them you have an ultra-orthodox family completely covered from the wrist up."

The fact that Jews of all stripes eat under one roof, her roof, means a great deal to Goldstein, who said it brings her the feeling of "nachas." "You know what the word `nachas' means?" she asked. "Nachas means such joy, like a mother would see a child walking and get such joy from this child, a 2-year-old just started to walk."

At the same time, Goldstein emphasizes that Suzie's Grill is an ordinary restaurant with good food and fair prices, where Catholics, Hispanics, African-Americans and everybody else is welcome. For that reason, the sign outside - a drawing of a kebab - doesn't advertise the fact that Suzie's is kosher. She picked the name "to appeal to the Texan crowd."

Goldstein came to New York City from Iran when she was 13. Soon after, her father was diagnosed with cancer, which eventually killed him. She learned to cook to help her mother, who was by turns at the hospital and minding the family's clothing store.

In 1977, Goldstein moved to Texas with her husband, so he could attend law school. For many years, she volunteered making kosher lunches at her children's school. That led to a catering business, Dessert Delights, which she continues to operate. She opened Suzie's Grill on Nov. 27, a date heavy with meaning. It is the birthday of her daughter Erika, who was seriously injured in a car crash earlier last year but was able to return to law school, after many surgeries, in mid-January.

A few months into her run as restaurateur, Goldstein is experiencing all the usual headaches and a few extra ones, too. Finding, training and retaining a crew is tough. The pace can be grueling and getting kosher supplies takes extra effort and expense. The day I interviewed her, she was running 40 minutes late, a key employee was ill and some equipment was on the fritz. Goldstein was tired and perhaps a little overwhelmed. But she says she is sustained, in part, by her sense of obligation.

When I comment that her investors must have a lot of faith in her, she responds, "That's the whole thing that scares me ... it's a lot of responsibility. You see, if this was on me alone, (then) if I fail, it would be "my "failure. It would be my money. I don't have to answer anyone back but me. But (now) if I fail, I fail everyone else. That's a big undertaking. It's scary to know that all these people have this trust in me."

Her investors are members of 10 Houston congregations. Some of them know each other, or know her; some don't. Families invested varying amounts - $500, $2,000, $5,000 - for a total of more than $100,000, Goldstein said, structured as an interest-free loan. The Torah does not allow Jews to charge one another interest.

Decisions about running the restaurant are Goldstein's alone. After two years, a period intended to let Suzie's Grill become profitable, the agreement stipulates that Goldstein will begin to pay off the loan. If the restaurant fails - the failure rate in the United States is about 30 percent, according to a recent study by Ohio State University Hospitality Management Professor H.G. Parsa - Goldstein isn't obligated to pay the loan back.

Kosher dining options are so important, the investors say, it's a risk they're willing to take.

HOUSTON'S KOSHER EATERIES

Suzie's Grill: 5925 S. Braeswood Blvd. Source: Houston Kashruth Association

KOSHER POLICE The job of mashgiach is one of the odder ones in the food business: PAGE F5.

HOW TO TALK KOSHER Kosher: Food prepared according to Jewish dietary laws. The literal meaning is fit, proper or worthy. Americans also use it as slang for anything that's proper or correct.

Kashrut: The act of observing Jewish dietary laws.

Kosherize or kasher: Verbs for the process of making equipment, or entire kitchens, kosher.

Mashgiach: Supervisor or overseer. An observant Jew who ensures that food has been prepared in accordance with kosher law.

Hekhsher: A symbol on a food product that certifies it is kosher.

Pareve: Food, such as fruit, vegetables and eggs, that is considered neutral under the laws of kashrut, meaning that it can be eaten with either dairy or meat meals.

Treif: Not kosher. Source: How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws by Lisë Stern (William Morrow, $25).

Recipes that accompany this article may be viewed on Houston Chronicle microfilm or in the Houston Chronicle Recipe Database.

BABA GHANOUSH

HUMMUS

GREEN RICE

 

 


 

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