Small Plates, Friday, 1/5
Shmeers Cafe (8400 Delmar Boulevard), notable since its 2004 opening for being a vegetarian, kosher-certified restaurant, is kosher-certified no longer. Its menu now features both meat- and dairy-based dishes (a kosher-certified restaurant can serve only one or the other), and it will be open every day from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., with breakfast available until 4.
Owner Gershon Schwadron says he decided to give up kosher certification because closing on Friday and most of Saturday to observe the Sabbath and numerous fasting and High Holy days on the Orthodox calendar were costing him too much business.
As Rose Martelli detailed in her Riverfront Times review of Shmeers, Schwadron had been banking on the support of western University City's Orthodox Jews. The restaurant is located within their eruv, the area in which they are permitted to travel on the Sabbath. In fact, Schwadron had been banking on their support quite literally: An Orthodox Jew himself, he opened Shmeers at the urging of some area residents, who invested in the restaurant in exchange for repayment in trade.
Schwadron says the plan created a "cash-flow nightmare," and that once the investors had recouped their money, business fell off.
"There's no culture of eating out [at restaurants] among the Orthodox Jews" in the neighborhood, says Schwadron, who adds that for many local Orthodox families, this may be a financial decision: Many families have several children who attend private schools and so cannot afford restaurant dining.
Menachem Lubinsky, editor-in-chief of KosherToday, "the community of kosher food & beverage professionals," says the key to a restaurant keeping kosher is "very strong community support.
"Some owners bank on that," says Lubinsky, "and when it doesn't happen, they're disappointed."
Which in Schwadron's case would be too bad. The St. Louis area isn't exactly overflowing with good delis. Look for an updated capsule review, which I'll post as soon as I sample Shmeers' new menu.