District Pickle brings kosher deli sandwiches to American University

Melissa Strauss enjoys her lunch from District Pickle Photo by Samantha Cooper

It’s lunchtime at American University, and new District Pickle deli is catching a lot of eyes as students pass through the Mary Graydon student center food court. A few of them stop and glance at the menu, which mainly consists of sandwiches, and say they’ll be back later.
Junior Melissa Strauss is already inside.

“I’ve been waiting for this to open,” she said while digging into a falafel wrap, “I want to try the corned beef really badly.”

She then dove into a sample of kugel, which she declared to be “delicious” and said she would return.

District Pickle, which opened Sept. 5, is the first fully kosher restaurant at the university, which has 1,600 Jewish students. Until now, the university offered boxed meals in the cafeteria.


Jason Benkendorf, the Hillel director at American University, said that District Pickle is the result of the university switching food vendors last summer. AU made opening a kosher deli a requirement in its contract with Chartwells, which operates District Pickle and several other eateries on campus, Benkendorf said.

The university has a “substantial number” of students who will only eat meat that is kosher, he said. There are also students who are interested in keeping kosher.

“A deli not only meets the needs of Jewish students and those interested in kashrut but it offers an exciting new dining option for students who may not be concerned with kashrut,” he said.

The deli offers a small number of signature sandwiches including the Mumbo Jumbo, the Donkey and Elephant and Corn Beef as Pickles. There’s also a “Design Your Own” option.

Students can use meal swipes at District Pickle. Non-students can use cash. A “Create
Your Own” sandwich is $10.95, while the other sandwiches range from about $9 to $11.
Junior Cameron Wheeler and senior Hannah Gelband are sitting on a couch in the food court.

“In the past, we used to [have] kosher options that were microwavable but we never really had anywhere to heat them up, which was always sort of an issue,” Wheeler said.
Gelband doesn’t keep kosher, but says she has many friends “on the brunt end” of the issue and, like Wheeler, couldn’t rely on the university to serve kosher food.

They said the pickles were too spicy and the portions were too small, but were
satisfied enough to say they’d definitely return.

Some of their fellow students said that the District Pickle will encourage more Jews to enroll at the university.

“I think incoming classes will be more Jewish just because they have a place they can get food and eat,” said Sophie Becker-Klein, a junior. “I think it’s hard to go [to another university] if you are Jewish because there aren’t as many options.”

District Pickle is open Mondays through Fridays, and is open to the general public.Kosher supervision by North American Kosher.

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Twitter: @SamScoopCooper

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