COURTESY OF ARIELLA SHUA
The Daily Special allows customers to create their own Kosher lunch bowls.
Because I keep Kosher, I often feel restricted in Baltimore. When friends and I go out to a restaurant, there’s always a bit of hesitation on my part: what will I actually be able to eat there?
There are different levels of keeping Kosher. I’ll only eat Kosher-certified meat and won’t eat pork, shellfish or gelatin. It’s confusing. I tell people I’m a vegetarian for simplicity’s sake.
Because I eat vegetarian in restaurants, I’m able to enjoy at least a few dishes out. But students who are stricter at keeping Kosher and will only eat at Kosher-certified establishments aren’t as lucky. Until last spring, the closest off-campus options were in Pikesville, a suburb about a twenty minute drive away.
Hopkins actually does well with providing Kosher food for students (Dovid, the Kosher chef, is the reason I still frequent the FFC as a sophomore). But everyone wants to get off campus once in a while.
That’s why I’m amazed that it took me so long to finally pay a visit to The Daily Special. It’s the only Kosher restaurant in downtown Baltimore. Located about a ten-minute walk from Peabody, The Daily Special is the on-site restaurant of 201 North Charles Street, an office building.
Fortunately, the owner of the building had the same predicament that I do: he keeps Kosher and wanted somewhere to eat. In April of 2018, The Daily Special opened its doors. It’s been thriving ever since.
Owner Salomon Bemaras discussed the importance of offering a Kosher restaurant in an email to The News-Letter.
“We are very proud and happy to provide a service to the Jewish community where they can have a place to hold business lunches and meetings,” he wrote.
When I visited The Daily Special on a Friday, what I saw confirmed half of Bemaras’ statement. I was in the restaurant for about an hour and a half, during the noontime lunch break. Many customers came down from their offices on upper floors. Some got their meals to go, ready to return to work. Oddly, few were noticeably Jewish.
Bemaras explained that this is normal for the restaurant. Unlike most Kosher restaurants, which exist purely to serve the Jewish community, The Daily Special has a dedicated customer base of non-Kosher and non-Jewish eaters, simply looking for a good meal.
“Our Kosher consumer base is very important,” he wrote. “But we have seen a larger increase with the non-Kosher consumers every day.”
Bemaras said that about 50% of the restaurant’s customers come regardless of the Kosher status. They just want a quick, tasty meal.
Compared to a Kosher-style Chipotle for its design, The Daily Special’s main menu item is its build-a-bowl option. Customers choose a salad or grain base and top it with fish, chicken, falafel or tofu. Finish the bowl with five options from a rotating topping and dressing selection. The choices include veggies, fruits, seeds and croutons.
Other menu options include a Za’atar Falafel Bowl, Korean Glazed Salmon and a Vegan Goddess Salad. All meals are entirely natural — ketchup is the only ingredient that isn’t made from scratch on-site.
For my first visit, I made my own bowl. I tried a brown rice bowl with shawarma chicken strips, topped with chickpeas, cooked cauliflower and bean sprouts. I got sesame vinaigrette on the side.
The chicken was perfectly cooked, and my toppings blended together nicely. The sesame was a nice addition. At first, I could barely taste it, but it kicked in after a second, and it made all of the flavors stand out.
Unlike most Kosher establishments I’ve eaten at, The Daily Special felt especially modern. The menu is painted on the wall behind the serving counter. Most tables are in the center of the restaurant, but a comfy couch and low table are hidden in a more private nook towards the back of the room. The atmosphere was calm and friendly — cashiers joked with regulars about their orders. It was the perfect place to get some class readings done.
The only downside to The Daily Special is its hours. The restaurant is only open on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (except on Fridays, when it closes at 2). I went before my afternoon classes, but many students might have too tight a schedule to visit.
The Daily Special knows that their timing is a potential barrier for customers. Bemaras plans to make the restaurant more accommodating in the future. But until then it’s possible to order delivery.
“We have a great concept for universities,” he wrote. “We also have a catering department.”
Whether you’re a Kosher eater or not, be sure to stop by The Daily Special! It’s reasonably priced, a JHMI ride away and offers delicious food — everything that a college student could want. As Bemaras summed up, “We create a concept for everyone who is looking for a good and healthy meal.”
As a Kosher eater, it’s nice to finally feel included.