The brownies beautiful, the Danishes divine, the apple tart ambrosial. And don’t get us started on the cookies. But at The Kosher Pastry Oven, baked goods like these are just the beginning.
The name, of course, does have a reason for being. Way back at its inception more than 20 years ago, owners Arie Eloul (better known as Popi) and his wife Shula, Israelis of Moroccan origin, opened a super-cozy bakery, focusing on catering and a swift carryout business. A self-taught baker, Arie was schooled not in a classroom, but in front of floured surfaces across the US and in Europe and Israel. When he returned to Washington, DC, he decided to share his toothsome skills with his neighbors and community.
After a decade of bustling business plying Wheaton with certified-kosher and pareve baked delicacies (including a pareve cheesecake!), the bakery moved into a former bank in Kemp Mill. Arie and Shula, then joined by their son Ron, cooked up a cafe and dinner operation to best use the roomy space. Now, save for Shabbat and holidays, when they close, customers can get a cappuccino or a three-course meal alongside fresh-baked babkas.
The Kosher Pastry Oven’s story has an even sweeter twist. In 2007, one of the many families that consider the spot a second home visited for dinner. Ron, working at the front of the house, happened to catch the eye of the daughter, Tali. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the family came back to dinner the next week. Tali soon began working at the restaurant—and started dating Ron shortly after that. Today, the two are married and manage the restaurant.
Family and community, in fact, are as much of a foundation as the food is. Arie and Shula have become community institutions. Their catering has graced the tables of many a simcha, from namings to anniversaries. Tali speaks about how proud they are to run a kosher restaurant in a small, but strong Jewish community: “We feel a responsibility to our customers, being friends and neighbors as well,” she says. “I feel like I know each and every customer that walks in the door.” Almost like a Jewish Cheers, without the bacon cheeseburgers.
As for the food, baked offerings continue to be a mainstay, especially given the talent of the master pastry chef in the back. From hamantashen to towering wedding cakes, the bakery and its cases overflow with goodies. And to this day, everything in the bakery is pareve to pair perfectly with a meat Shabbat meal.
Given this talent on that side, the menu reflects the care put into creating yeasty goods. Flatbreads and pastas are made in-house, including specialty items like ravioli, pierogi and gnocchi, all handcrafted in Old World style. The restaurant, located on the other side, with completely separate equipment, is dairy, so there the family focuses on fish. “We make a commitment to using the best fish distributor in the area; it all comes in each morning fresh,” Tali notes. In addition, they “also enjoy using interesting ancient grains like farro and volcano rice from organic sellers in the area.” And in the spring and summer, they visit farmers’ markets to purchase locally sourced ingredients.
The Kosher Pastry Oven is perhaps best known for its sufganiyot, which have been featured in the Washington Post and other local media and for which orders must be made weeks in advance. It’s hard to believe, but 20,000 doughnuts can fly out the door pretty quickly. Arie created his own proprietary recipe in the traditional style, and they are even hand filled without the use of syringes. Due to such high demand, the sufganiyot now come in four flavors: raspberry jelly, chocolate, caramel and custard.
Another popular item, and a house favorite, is the Moroccan Salmon. Made with chickpeas, bell peppers and a touch of cilantro, the salmon is simmered in a blend of Mediterranean spices. It’s all a nod to Ron’s North African ancestry, which is the inspiration for several other dishes as well. It’s the cherry on top, so to speak, of tradition in this homey, family-oriented restaurant.
The Kosher Pastry Oven, 301-592-8844, 1372 Lamberton Drive, Silver Spring, MD, Sunday-Thursday 8 am-9 pm, Friday 7:30 am-1 pm
Top photo: The Kosher Pastry Oven’s lemon tart