It’s a sunny Friday afternoon when a truck that looks like a UPS delivery vehicle — except this one is painted black with colorful swirls — parks across the street from the Silver Spring Jewish Center.
Music plays over the truck’s speakers, while Yehuda Malka and his two sons wait for customers to approach. It doesn’t take long. The Schmaltz Brothers food truck, recently launched, offers kosher comfort food with a backstory.
Soon, Nina Adelman walks up and orders the Zinger 2.0, which Malka says is his tribute to a kosher spicy fried chicken sandwich he once had at a KFC in Jerusalem. Schmaltz Brothers’ food is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.
Adelman takes it back to her car. “I love it. Finding good fried chicken that’s kosher is so difficult,” Adelman says, adding that she typically doesn’t eat meat, “but this is really good.”
The truck and catering company are a joint business between Malka and Chappall Gage, president of Susan Gage Caterers. The two were introduced years ago by a mutual friend, back when Malka worked as a chef at Equinox Restaurant in the District. The two launched the business venture in June.
“I have many friends in the Orthodox community who were always kind of pushing me to do something [like this],” says Gage, who is not Jewish. “And then when I met [Malka], just everything fell into place.”
The food truck’s menu features a brisket sandwich, an Israeli couscous salad and fried matzah ball bites, which Malka describes as an “Ashkenazi falafel” that “really tastes like you’re biting into a bowl of chicken soup somehow.”
The bread is based on an old Malka family challah recipe.
“I always thought of this as an opportunity to make kosher foods something that’s appealing and exciting,” Malka says. “It’s just great food and a great shared experience, but it happens to be kosher.”
The partners have been operating the truck in Montgomery County and its schedule can be found at schmaltzbros.com. Malka and Gage say they’d like to expand to Washington and Baltimore.
But the pandemic forced the two to regroup and they hope to sustain the business by catering small gatherings until the economy picks up.
“How I live my Judaism is seeing that things do work out at the right time if you let them,” says Malka, a member of Chabad of Silver Spring. “It’s been a silver lining that the truck was ready at the right time.”
The partners named the business Schmaltz Brothers because “schmaltz” is Yiddish for chicken fat and “brothers” “gives it more of a classic Jewish deli-type vibe,” Malka says.
They began preparing their food in the University of Maryland Hillel kitchen, but have since moved to the larger kitchen at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac.
Any other plans will have to wait.
“We need to get through the pandemic,” Gage says. “We’re doing a lot more smaller jobs, and that’s great. But being able to expand into doing much larger events, as soon as we get out of this, is going to be a really exciting opportunity.”