Kosher food-truck fried-chicken sandwiches: It’s a Thanksgiving miracle. Schmaltz Brothers has made it happen.
Yehuda Malka and Chappall Gage own and run this food truck based in Silver Spring but wheeling all around the DMV.
Kosher food is at a premium within Washington, DC, especially outside of the vegan and vegetarian sphere that DC Kosher certifies, but this one received certification from OU.
The truck kicked off in August, aiming to “show that that “kosher” is not the limiting factor that so many people fear,” says Malka. “I see what’s trending in the non-kosher food world, and so long as there’s no pork or shellfish, wonder, ‘Why can’t we do that just as well?’”
Malka, a rabbinical school graduate, grew up keeping kosher and has worked in many local kosher restaurants—and he’s also a third-generation mohel, should anyone be asking. He met Gage working in restaurants and through the food industry; Gage is the president of Susan Gage Caterers, which he runs with his mother.
The concise menu begins on the foundation of that chicken sandwich. It’s a hefty dish, taking inspiration from the hot-chicken sandwich trend in DC and around the country (see: Popeye’s, Roaming Rooster, Hot Lola’s, Roy Boys and others).
Malka first prepares the chicken in (what else?) dill pickle brine and then double-fries it in a spiced breadcrumb. It’s served snug inside a house-made toasted challah roll, which stands up well to the sandwich’s toppings: a liberal dousing of harissa aioli, plus fermented slaw and a few dill pickle slices.
The truck also nods to beloved bubbes with its thick brisket sandwich, also served on that challah roll with carrot jam and Concord grape (à la Manischewitz) steak sauce.
Craving Passover? Pick up a shareable plate of fried matzah ball bites under a blanket of hot honey schmaltz.
Malka notes that he and Gage had been searching for opportunities in the kosher food world for more than a year. While they considered a brick-and-mortar shop, they decided to start off with a food truck—perfect timing, he says, “because COVID would have hurt us” had they opened a shop.
Beyond the chicken, brisket and matzah balls (there’s also a divine babka) on the menu, the duo also offers Shabbat, bar/bat mitzvah and wedding catering, as well as prepared High Holiday dinners last month.
Buying from local purveyors as much as possible, Malka says, “The Torah is clear on the importance of first taking care of those around you. As we grow further, we’ll be looking for unique local purveyors and farms with whom to partner.”
During Sukkot, the truck was parked at Electric Cool Aid, a new bar in Shaw specializing in frozen cocktails. The owners of Ivy & Coney, a casual sports bar also located in Shaw, are part owners of Electric Cool Aid. Readers may be familiar with Ivy & Coney, which has thrown Chanukah parties famous for its nine-shot-glass “shotnorah” and slivovitz-based cocktails. The food truck is set to be based at Electric Cool Aid bar most Sundays going forward.
Through these and other partnerships, and meeting customers on the road, Malka says that “appreciating thoughtful food, in the right context, can be just another path to appreciate the wonderful world that was designed for us.”
His goal, he says, is “to make delicious food you want to eat, that happens to be kosher.”
Photo courtesy of Schmaltz Brothers