Chef Michael Gershkovich, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Flatbush, Brooklyn, opened Mike's Pizzeria on 91st Street and Amsterdam Avenue four years ago, but now he's ditching the dough for a sizzling grill.
Gershkovich is partnering with restaurateur Marty Katz, who has operated restaurants in South Africa and Sydney, and their crews are hard at work refurbishing the restaurant with an eye toward opening on Nov. 1.
"We felt that nobody out there is making a kosher burger with consideration," said Gershkovich.
To him, "consideration" means using a custom meat grind, considering every element from lettuce selection to bun proportions, and most likely using meat from cows that are ethically raised.
"That hasn't been done in the kosher market," he said.
The restaurant will have tables with 45 seats, and down the line, an outdoor cafe as well as delivery. They also applied for a liquor license.
But there will be more on offer than just burgers, Gershkovich said, including buffalo wings and chicken and tuna burgers.
"Getting wings and a beer in kosher dining is so so impossible," he said, until now.
His restaurant will fill a void in kosher dining, he said.
"It's about serving people who are underserved in every way [in dining] — service, quality, value."
The restaurant is undecided on using non-dairy cheese, focusing instead on nailing the burger, avoiding what he described as a "hockey puck" patty or one that's "crumbly and dry."
"A good burger is elusive," said Gershkovich said, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America.
As Gershkovich consulted with workers on the street outside the restaurant Thursday, Rabbi David Cohen of temple Young Israel of the West Side called out from across the street, "Where are the burgers Mike?"
Gershkovich chuckled. He's proud of what he's bringing to the Jewish community and to the neighborhood.
"They're getting something with thought and integrity," he said.