It’s called Bubbie’s and it’s certified kosher, but it’s not exactly what you might expect. Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz is about to open as a pop-up in the Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street NE, and it will feature plant-based American food including burgers, hot dogs and fries.
Chef Margaux Riccio and her partner Shaun Sharkey had no idea that bubbe is a Yiddish word for grandmother when they came up with the name for their upcoming restaurant. It’s actually the nickname for Riccio and Sharkey’s shih tzu. It was Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld who explained the connection. He is on a mission, along with Maharat Ruth Friedman, to bring more certified kosher restaurants to the area, through their organization DC Kosher.
Riccio, Sharkey and John Yamashita are the founders of Pow Pow, also on H Street, NE, which features plant-based Asian fare. It was their first foray into a kosher-certified restaurant. Hertzfeld and Friedman work closely with them to ensure that kashrut is strictly observed, while encouraging their pursuit of creative new concepts, including Bubbie’s.
The plan for Bubbie’s is to offer food that is easy and accessible. “With Pow Pow, it’s Asian fusion and it needs an explanation for some people, and we just wanted to be more straightforward whether you eat meat or not,” says Riccio. “Plant-based foods are the fastest-growing food trend right now, and we want to capitalize on food that everybody can enjoy.”
The menu includes a sandwich called “Monkey Wrench” with a house-made patty, “pork belly” bacon, pickled jalapeños and “cheddar” on a bun. There’s also the “No Diggity,” a ballpark-style carrot griller topped with “bacon” bits, shredded “cheddar” and a pickle. “Colonel Cluck” is Riccio’s take on a fried chicken sandwich. She makes it with seitan and adds lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and her own special sauce. Mangia Roll is a twist on a meatball sub, with Italian fried cashew mozzarella balls on a toasted roll topped with a red pepper marinara and basil.
Sides include classic fries with ketchup and yum sauce, which is a spicy house-made mayo. “Not Cho Tots” incorporate tater tots with shredded “cheddar,” ketchup and yum sauce. There are also fried onion poppers, and for a bit of whimsy, there’s “Jon and Ponch”—a side of CHIPS (cute!) with “Pacific Coast Highway Styled wind-in-your-hair type fancy ass salsa.” (See the full menu here.)
Riccio prefers the term plant-based to vegan. She makes all her proteins in-house, and Friedman helps her locate certified products, which can be challenging at times. If it’s not the proper certification, they send it back and start all over again. “I give that woman so much credit,” says Riccio, referring to Friedman. “She will go above and beyond to find the certification for something we need.”
When asked if being kosher helped grow their audience at Pow Pow, Riccio enthuses, “Absolutely. We could not be happier.“ She didn’t think it would make a difference initially, but since they only had to change a few ingredients on the menu and work with Rabbi Herzfeld to kasher the kitchen and provide ongoing supervision, they went for it.
“The community is really supporting us. We get invited to serve at the synagogue [Ohev Shalom, the National Synagogue where Herzfeld is the rabbi] and are now doing some catering. If I had known there was such a need in the city, we would have done this years ago.”
Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz opens May 9 at the Rock and Roll Hotel at 1353 H Street NE, Washington, DC and will continue “as long as there is support for it,” says Riccio.
Look forward to more kosher venues to come from this inventive group, too. The team is scouting a second location for Pow Pow, most likely in Northwest DC. They are also seeking a flagship location for Bubbie’s. And finally (at least for now), they are offering kosher-certified sushi and Japanese street foods at Nori Dojo, which is currently operating as a roaming pop-up around DC.
Top photo: Mangia Roll (All photos courtesy of Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz)