Pittsburgh’s kosher options grow on campus
FoodEating in Oakland

Pittsburgh’s kosher options grow on campus

Increasing kosher options 'helps people make Pittsburgh their home'

Mike Moses, Zebra Lounge manager, and Judah Cowen. Photo courtesy of Judah Cowen
Mike Moses, Zebra Lounge manager, and Judah Cowen. Photo courtesy of Judah Cowen

Campus life just got sweeter: A kosher coffee house opened at Carnegie Mellon University on Aug. 28.

Operated by Elegant Edge Catering, “Zebra Lounge” serves beverages, baked goods, salads and wraps.

“The hope,” owner Judah Cowen said, “is to open a bagel and panini bar. We have the equipment, but right now we are starting off with coffee, grab-and-gos and pastries.”

Lined with eclectic paintings and various zebra-themed decor, Cowen called the space “artsy,” while touting the java as a regional favorite.

“We partnered with Mechanic Coffee Co., which is based out of Verona,” he said. “They have a really unique offering. They are all about the human connection.”

The coffee is roasted fresh daily and then delivered within 24 hours, Cowen said: “It’s not coming packaged from somewhere else.”

Open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Zebra Lounge is one of several kosher spaces Cowen operates in Oakland.

At Carnegie Mellon, there’s The Edge — which serves pizza, bourekas, bagels and pastries — and Tahini — which serves shawarma, falafel, hummus bowls and grain bowls.

At the University of Pittsburgh, there’s The Delicatessen; though the Pitt eatery existed last year, the space was renovated and reopened on Aug. 21.

The Delicatessen’s lunch menu boasts bagels and bourekas. For dinner, there’s shawarma, falafel, spicy beef and specials, including schnitzel, sweet-and-sour chicken, and spaghetti and meatballs.

Food is prepared in Squirrel Hill, at Elegant Edge’s kitchen at Congregation Beth Shalom, then delivered twice daily to Pitt, where staff employ toasters and turbo chef ovens, Cowen said.

Judah Cowen stands beside the Wood Stone oven as pizzas are prepared. Photo by Adam Reinherz

The abundance of kosher food in Oakland aligns with national reports regarding colleges in Pittsburgh.

According to Hillel International, Carnegie Mellon and Pitt are among the top 60 schools for Jewish students.

Additionally, Pitt was listed among “28 Great Schools For Going Jewish Greek” by the Forward.

Rabbi Louis Fliegelman, who headed college guidance for the past 13 years at Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, told the Chronicle that kosher food on campus enables many Jewish parents to see a university as “a viable option” for their child.

“The more robust the meal plan, the greater the possibility of a student attending,” he said.

Cowen agreed and said his eateries are a boon to local college life and Pittsburgh’s larger Jewish community.

“People come here for school and some will stay here, so this helps people make Pittsburgh their home,” he said. “I also see a lot of people from the community utilizing these spaces, whether for a date, a meeting or a grab-and-go. People are utilizing it more and getting more comfortable coming on campus.”

Many of Pittsburgh’s kosher consumers live in Squirrel Hill, but the drive to Oakland, Cowen said, only takes from three to five minutes. Parking during the day is tricky, but by the afternoon — and certainly evening — it’s “a lot easier.”

The kosher caterer and restaurateur is confident that bringing people to campus is a win for the city and the suburbs.

“I believe that the broader Jewish community will benefit from this,” he said. PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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