When Carly Meisel came to the George Washington University in 2015, she was surprised by the lack of kosher food options available at a school where 28 percent of the student population identifies as Jewish. Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of Jewish Colonials Chabad at George Washington University, had been dreaming about opening a kosher food truck ever since the university dropped the majority of its kosher food options. Steiner hadn’t found anyone who wanted to drive the project with him—until he met Meisel.
Even though neither of them had any previous experience or idea about how to run a food truck, it took them less than a year to fund and get the truck out onto the streets of DC, but it wasn’t an easy feat. “Each day is a challenge,” said Meisel, “since neither of us are experts in the food industry, and running a restaurant is really hard work.”
With the help of food-truck consultant Dylan Kough, the idea of a kosher food truck started to turn into a reality. A GW alumnus donated a large chunk of the $70,000 needed to start the truck, and Meisel and Steiner crowdfunded the rest through the GiveButter platform. The truck is a nonprofit, which is rare in the restaurant world. Profits from the truck support Steiner’s Jewish Colonials Chabad, which is also a nonprofit. The money will be used for continuing to serve kosher food and, hopefully, funding Chabad events.
The truck, aptly named Brooklyn Sandwich Co., hit the streets on July 5, 2016 and has been serving glatt kosher pulled brisket sandwiches, knishes, matzah ball soup and other Jewish fare ever since. Meisel and Steiner enlisted Sam Akselrod, a New York-based gourmet chef, to craft a menu of updated Jewish classics for the truck. According to Meisel, the DC food scene was lacking an authentic Brooklyn-style delicatessen, and the truck fit that niche perfectly. Meisel’s favorite item from the menu is the grilled chicken wrap.
Even though many of the truck’s customers aren’t Jewish, and the majority of the Jewish customers don’t keep kosher, having the kosher certification was of utmost priority for the food truck founders. “Each day is really a hit or miss,” said Meisel. “However, because our food truck is a kosher food truck, we see every meal sold as a hit. And even if we go out and we hit the streets and only sell one sandwich, we see it as a successful day because another person in town gets a kosher meal.”
Top photo: Brooklyn Sandwich Co.’s knish with chipotle aioli and pulled brisket sandwich. All photos courtesy of Brooklyn Sandwich Co.