The coffee is hot. The muffins are snug in their wrappers. And sushi is served on Wednesday.
Welcome to Canteen at the J, a kosher food stand at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville. Open since August, the stand is stocked with bagels, fruit, pastries and yogurt in the building lobby.
The proprietor is Michael Medina, who runs the nearby Kosher Kitchen Catering Co. He said Bender JCC CEO Michael Feinstein approached him 10 months ago and asked if he was interested in helping them open a stand.
“They said they really wanted coffee in the morning, something for gym-goers and people in the morning who wanted something light,” Medina said. “It’s food that is easy for people to grab and go.”
Medina previously owned the Distrikt Bistro restaurant inside the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center in Washington, which closed in 2014.
The hungry can buy ready-made sandwiches, and on Wednesdays sushi.
“I have a sushi chef in my catering kitchen and we put it together and deliver it by 11 a.m.,” he said. “We’re trying different things.”
Feinstein said that before the canteen could open, he and Medina had figure out who would obtain the food license from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. They eventually agreed that Medina would operate the canteen as his business under a five-year lease from the Bender JCC.
“He has a license for his catering business and we have a license for our kitchen, so it was a long process of going back and forth,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein said that the two fake bomb threats made to the Bender JCC in January and March, which were part of a national wave, contributed to the delay in opening the canteen.
Before building renovations began in 2015, the center had a kosher-certified Subway and Dunkin Donuts. An expanded kitchen for event catering is located where those establishments stood.
Last Friday, Kensington resident Steven Mathis was trying one of the canteen’s cookies.
“I like it. It’s nice to have something, and the food is good. I had one of those chocolate chip cookies, and I really like the juices.”
For his part, Feinstein favors the sushi. He said, “Now I’m having lunch much more regularly outside of the office.”