Orlando is a city of magic – even for the kosher family. Here are some highlights from our recent visit; or as they say in Disney, “Let the Memories Begin…
Cohen’s Deli and Butcher Shop
Justin Cohen owner, master butcher and deli chef, and co-owner Marty Francis encouraged us to come early. “It’s a 48 seat restaurant, and there are no reserved or held tables, and it’s “Yeshiva week”, the week that Yeshivas throughout the U.S. are on break”. So my family of seven arrived on Sunday night at 5:20 PM. Yes, we do consider that early-bird timing – don’t you? How delighted and gratified we were to see a busy kosher restaurant in action. Our names were first on the waiting list for a large table. Alas, one hour later, we were seated, or shall I say we seated ourselves. But during that time we viewed a restaurant in chaos: two servers to do it all – take orders, deliver food, answer phones, and clean tables; one frenzied cashier/take out order person (Justin’s wife); and a stream of potential customers frustrated with the slow, erratic table service and takeout waits.
The Good News is the food! When it finally arrived at 7:10, my Sloppy Joe hot pastrami sandwich was luscious. This oversized creation was dripping with cole slaw, mustard, Thousand Island dressing and huge mounds of warm pastrami encased in three fresh toasted pieces of rye bread, plated alongside a handful of hot French fries. Delicious! This deli meal was on par with the best of NY - extremely generous portions and well cured meat. But, sadly I had no Dr. Brown’s cream soda with it – they were out. And they were also out of the day’s special homemade mushroom barley soup and even sandwich rolls. But, the matzo ball chicken soup tasted homemade. The corned beef, brisket, chopped liver and various sandwich fillings we ate were exceptional. Our fellow diners seemed to enjoy their steaks as well. Our recommendation: if you are planning to dine in or take out food during any of the busy tourist times in Orlando, count on a 1 to 2 hour people watching and eating experience at Cohen’s Deli. And during your wait, you might catch a minyan for mincha or maariv as we did. Or strike up some conversations with other waiting kosher diners. Or some in your party might want to walk across the street to Simkas Sweets to browse this other kosher establishment, and perhaps enjoy a pre-dinner smoothie. Our suggestion: visit at off hours, between 2 PM to 4 PM, and enjoy a late lunch or early dinner. We’re hoping to return – at a quieter time to taste some of the other menu items (it’s extensive) in this delicious Orlando kosher option with great potential.
We applaud The World of Disney for reaching out to the kosher traveler. Although the Orlando area offers relatively few options for kosher restaurants, (see the Chabad Orlando website for the latest list), the Disney properties have kosher food available in all of its hotels and restaurants. Most of the kosher meals require 24 hours notice; reserve at 407 WDW-DINE (407 939-3463). However, we know of one Magic Kingdom restaurant with kosher food always available; the cafeteria-style Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland, which offers kosher food under the hashgacha of Mehadrin Kosher and OK Labs certification. The food is sealed in “airline” type packages and heated in four microwaves set aside just for kosher. The day we were there, the choices included pre-wrapped meals with a selection of either corned beef, chicken strips or burger, with a side of potato croquettes ranging in price from $9.99 to $10.99. The current caterer is Webermans. By the way, according to the restaurant manager, this restaurant is the third busiest restaurant in the whole world.
More about kosher Disney:
• There are no restrictions on bringing food or drinks into the park.
• If budget is a concern, we suggest bringing your own stroller – rental for a double stroller is $31.
• There are many kosher ice cream and candy vendors scattered throughout the park, including an Edy’s ice cream store.
• And, if you wish, be prepared to once again join a pop-up minyan when visiting Disney. These popped up in several locations.
• For a dinner show experience, consider Arabian Nights. When making reservations, be certain and request kosher meals(which are specially prepared by Cohen’s Deli).
Don’t miss the decadent Ghirardelli chocolate store in Downtown Disney. We ate several chocolate samples! In fact, don’t miss Downtown Disney – it’s a people watching town center with shopping, entertainment, and food.
And, a bit more about Orlando: We stayed in a spacious, contemporary family sized 5 bedroom home near the Disney property, enabling us to prepare our own breakfast and dinner. The children were delighted with their rooms and the wall murals of Goofy, Mickey and various Disney characters. Enjoy your visit. There is so much more to do and see. We can’t wait to return to the Magic of Disney!