August 9, 2011
Schnitzel gets its due
Schnitzly is the purveyor of perhaps the least-heralded Jewish food around — chicken coated in breadcrumbs.
It may not have the cachet of matzah ball soup or bagels with lox, but that could change thanks to Yakov Brenenson and Menachem Eliyahu.
The 21-year-old Orthodox entrepreneurs are founders of this kosher fast-food restaurant, which has locations in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood and a recently opened downtown spot at 119 E. Seventh St. The spunky schnitzel shop adds a new option for downtown kosher diners, whose choices already include Afshan, Bar-B-Kosher, Cohen and Pasha.
“Every Friday, I used to eat a lot of schnitzel,” said Brenenson, who grew up in the religious community of Kfar Chabad in Israel with Eliyahu. “I will never get sick of it.”
While many Americans may not be familiar with the popular dish, often associated with Austria, shops similar to Schnitzly — which means “my schnitzel” in Hebrew — are commonplace in Israel, he said.
“In Israel, you wouldn’t find a single soul that didn’t know what schnitzel is. It’s like part of the Jewish nation,” Brenenson said. “In Israel, it’s become part of the culture, just like hummus.”
Schnitzly offers the food served more than 10 ways, from schnitzel salad to a host of hefty, customized sub sandwiches. Patrons can choose from options such as garlic schnitzel, Indian schnitzel and even something involving Corn Flakes called “schnitzily schintzel.” There are numerous homemade sauces as well at the brightly colored restaurant, which Eliyahu believes is the only one in the area focused entirely on schnitzel.
The two friends and business partners came to Los Angeles last year by way of New York, where they had moved as teenagers to seek greater opportunity. Eliyahu found work at a schnitzel shop, and it gave them the inspiration to create one of their own.
Brenenson, whose American parents moved to Israel more than three decades ago, said the concept fit in nicely with his beliefs.
“I believe that it’s important for a Jew to try and eat kosher,” he said. “It’s [also] important to have a pleasant experience. It serves the community.”
It made sense, then, that the two started their first restaurant last summer in the Pico-Robertson area, where they could cater to a large, devout Jewish population. The decision to expand downtown in March served a different purpose.
“You can see literally all types of people. There are people who have a lot of money, and there are people who don’t have a place to live,” Brenenson said.
The diverse nature of people downtown and the way they receive Schnitzly will be important in determining whether it can expand further.
So far, business has been good, even among non-Jews, Brenenson said.
“People know by it being kosher, it’s more healthy. They know it,” he explained. “There’s more supervision and cleanliness. You pay more for it, but you also get better quality.”
Word is starting to spread already, he said.
“You wouldn’t believe it. I’m in New York, I’m in Israel, and I hear people who’ve been there, who’ve heard about it. … It’s insane because we just opened a year ago.”
For more kosher downtown dining options, visit TRIBE City Guide at tribecityguide.com.