When Justin King opened his Roseway neighborhood bagel store, Ben & Esther’s, in 2019, it was designed as a conventional Jewish deli. The store, named for King’s grandparents, served matzo ball soup, lox, and whitefish salad, in addition to bagels slathered with smoked salmon schmear. King wasn’t consuming any of these issues, nevertheless. “I’ve been plant-based for a very long time,” he says. “Once I opened Ben & Esther’s, I used to be very business-minded, and I assumed that opening a conventional Jewish deli can be good for enterprise. After a 12 months, I couldn’t reconcile that with my rules.”
So, a 12 months into proudly owning his enterprise, within the midst of the pandemic, King slowly however certainly began taking the meat off his menu. The Ben & Esther’s staff began making lox with salt-roasted carrots, swapped the whitefish for brined-and-smoked hearts of palm, and commenced baking babka and rugelach with Earth Stability as a substitute of butter. The shift ended up being a success, particularly amongst Portland’s vegans.
Now, King is trying to broaden: first, with a brand new store and bakery on NE Alberta, adopted by a deli in San Diego. From there, King hopes to deliver Ben & Esther’s to the East Coast, to unfold the gospel of vegan knishes and not-lox bagels. “I wish to make vegan Jewish meals accessible to everybody,” he says.
Portland’s new Ben & Esther’s will open within the former Random Order Pie Bar this fall, and can function the corporate’s commissary bakery, churning out rugelach, hamantaschen, babka, and black-and-whites. The deli can have an similar menu to the unique location: deli salads by the pound, bagels with shmears made utilizing a Tofutti base, deli sandwiches like vegan corned beef Reubens and tofu “egg” salad, and chicken-free matzo ball soup. The store is presently round 85 % vegan, however King says he’s weeks away from releasing a completely vegan menu — dialing within the egg-noodle-free kugel, the vegan matzo ball soup. By the point the Alberta deli opens, each Ben & Esther’s will likely be one hundred pc vegan.
Vegan Jewish delis are uncommon — not simply in Portland, however within the nation as an entire. There are vegan delis, like NoButcher in Las Vegas and Orchard Grocer in New York, and there are Jewish delis with vegan gadgets, just like the mushroom Reuben at Smart Sons in San Francisco and Los Angeles. However with regards to one hundred pc vegan Jewish delis, the choices are slim. “Historically Jewish meals is all egg,” King says. “I believe the rationale you don’t see (extra vegan Jewish delis)… might be a mixture of individuals not figuring out how, and being unwilling to, experiment. However extra so, I don’t suppose folks put rules earlier than revenue.”
For that purpose, King is trying to open extra Ben & Esther’s, and never simply in Portland. Whereas King is making ready to open the Alberta store, he’s additionally engaged on a deli in San Diego with barber Marc Bennett. “I used to personal barber outlets, and I’ve a buddy from the trade down there,” he says. Bennett, enamored with the unique Ben & Esther’s, talked about that he’d like to open one with King in San Diego. “There’s good vegan and Jewish populations in San Diego; it appeared to make sense,” he says. “And [Bennett] has the identical work ethic as me.”
The San Diego store will likely be one thing of a beta take a look at, earlier than King pursues extra expansions and franchising in different elements of the nation. King, who grew up in a New York Jewish household, is especially excited to deliver Ben & Esther’s to the East Coast, if potential. “My complete household warned me towards switching to a vegetarian menu. I used to be admittedly scared, however I simply figured I’ve a duty as a enterprise proprietor,” he says. “I’m already creating extra waste and destruction by having a enterprise — I’m utilizing extra power than your common family, packaging, stuff like that. I simply wish to function as ethically as I can.”
Ben & Esther’s will open this fall at 1800 NE Alberta Avenue.
• Ben & Esther’s [Official]
• Bagels, Matzo Ball Soup, and Egg Salad Are Coming to NE Sandy Boulevard [EPDX]
• Portland Bagel Store and Jewish Deli Coming to the School Space [ESD]