With over 200 participating restaurants, Houston Restaurant Weeks dominates dining in August, but over the past couple of years a few establishments have harnessed the charitable impulses created by HRW to raise a little money for causes that are important to them.
This year, Houston’s best deli has established a national movement to highlight Jewish cuisine, a Memorial-area neighborhood restaurant is supporting education, and a Montrose French restaurant has chosen four different charities that are important to it. Here are the details.
Kenny & Ziggy’s
With interest in Jewish delicatessens growing thanks to the success of the Deli Man documentary, Kenny & Ziggy’s chef-owner Ziggy Gruber has rounded up 10 delis across the country to establish New York Delicatessen Month. Each restaurant has created its own three-course menu and selected a charity.
In Houston, Kenny & Ziggy’s will donate $4 from each $37 menu to the The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's Jerome Robinson Family Young Adult Division. Gruber, who served as the master of ceremonies at the group’s culinary-themed fundraiser earlier this year, tells CultureMap that he was inspired by the way the organization shares his commitment to perpetuating Jewish culture.
Towards that end, Kenny & Ziggy’s three-course menu (plus a side) offers up lesser known Jewish classics like a potato knish, kishke (stuffing made with rendered beef fat, barley, and spices), and Roumanian steak that even regular visitors might not have tried before.
“People are looking for interesting menus. I decided to come up with my own heimische approach,” Gruber explains. “We didn’t put any of the corned beef, the pastrami, the Nova, the usual suspects. Everyone has eaten that. I really want to showcase the traditional stuff that normal people usually don’t get and wouldn’t think of getting . . . The whole idea is to showcase Jewish food, and I think Jewish food is more than a pastrami sandwich or a bagel and lox.”
Of course, the portions are so substantial that they’re easy to share. After all, everyone should try Gruber’s signature items like chopped chicken liver or Hungarian goulash at least once.
Jonathan’s the Rub
After participating in HRW last year, Jonathan’s the Rub owner Jonathan Levine tells CultureMap that this year he’s choosing to support Memorial High School with a three-course, $45 menu ($5 to MHS). The school will determine how the funds are allocated.
“We get such great support at The Rub from the Memorial/Spring Branch people and we continually donate to the schools, churches, and local organizations,” Levine writes in an email. “So I thought perhaps it would be great to give back to those that do so much for us. We would not be here if it wasn’t for them, and MHS is the hub of our community.”
As diners have come to expect from Jonathan’s, the offerings are an eclectic mix. Starters include meatballs marinara, Chinese-style dumplings, and a strawberry caprese salad. Mains include a 10-ounce, USDA Prime sirloin with herbed polenta, Provencal-style lamb shank, and stuffed quail. Oreo cream pie, cheesecake, and tres leches make up the dessert choices.
The French restaurant that was removed from HRW in 2014 over a dispute about its menu still has its charitable spirit intact. This year it will donate 10 percent of all sales to one of four different charities: Volunteer Houston, Urban Harvest, Casa de Esperanza, and The Catastrophic Theatre. The restaurant requires that diners choose their charity when they make their reservations.
L’Olivier owner Mary Clarkson tells CultureMap that she and chef Olivier Ciesielski selected the charities based on their personal relationships with them. For example, Ciesielski buys produce from Urban Harvest vendors, and Clarkson began volunteering for Casa de Esperanza during her time as a student at the University of Texas.
Towards the middle of August, each charity will select a night for a dinner with a special menu created in partnership with Ciesielski. These nights will allow patrons who want to learn more about a charity to meet its key members.