Matzoh ball soup is a traditional Jewish dish, but it needs to be carefully prepared according to Jewish religious rules to be considered kosher.
Matzoh ball soup is a traditional Jewish dish, but it needs to be carefully prepared according to Jewish religious rules to be considered kosher.

While preparing kosher food involves many rules and strictures, eating kosher food is not at all complicated. A little knowledge about kashrut, Jewish law concerning food, is all you need to enjoy a delicious kosher dining experience without unintentionally giving offense.

Kosher Restaurants Versus Kosher Style Restaurants

Kosher style restaurants abound in many cities, offering traditional Jewish foods like blintzes, bagels and knishes. These restaurants usually observe some kosher rules, such as not mixing milk and meat in specific dishes and not selling pork or shellfish, but they are not strictly kosher, and there usually aren't any specific points of etiquette to observe when dining at this type of establishment.

Actual kosher restaurants have rabbinical supervision for all food preparation and follow guidelines about kosher food preparation very closely. They do not serve any foods that are not strictly kosher.

Types of Kosher Restaurant

Most kosher restaurants only serve foods with meat (fleishik) or with milk (milchik), but not both. If a kosher restaurant does offer both milk and meat options, the foods, and all the dishes and utensils involved in preparing and serving them, will be very carefully separated. Patrons who eat a kosher diet would refrain from mixing milk and meat options at the same meal, and non-kosher patrons should do the same.

Kosher restaurants are not limited to only traditional Jewish food. Any style of food can be kosher, provided it contains only kosher ingredients and follows the proper guidelines for preparation. For example, kosher Chinese restaurants are not unheard of in many cities.

Bringing Food In

It is generally not polite to bring outside food into a restaurant, but there are some situations, such as dining with small children, when this is acceptable. In a kosher restaurant, however, patrons should never bring in any outside food. All of the food in a kosher restaurant has been prepared in accordance with religious law, and introducing outside food that could contaminate the dishes or utensils would be disrespectful.

Making Requests

Before making any requests for changes or additions to your meal, make sure you are aware of kosher guidelines. In a fleishik restaurant, for example, butter will not be available, but completely dairy-free margarine may be an option. Milchik restaurants may serve imitation meats, but you will not be able to order a real hamburger. Do not ask about pork products or certain types of seafood, as these will not be found in any kosher restaurant.