There’s an aroma of egg rolls, sesame chicken, wonton soup and dumplings as a steady stream of customers flow in through the door. It is lunch time at Holy Chow in Silver Spring, the Washington area’s lone kosher Chinese restaurant, and people are hungry.
Today is extra busy — it’s the tiny take-out restaurant’s one-year anniversary.
To celebrate the March 6 milestone, owners Ami and Rivka Schreiber are giving away free food.
“Chinese food is part of American culture and Jews like being part of American culture so [kosher Chinese food] very good to do that,” says Eli Wayhu, 16, as he waits in line to pick up his order.
Eli is here with other students from Yeshiva of Greater Washington, located next door to Holy Chow’s shopping center. The students all say the free food is what brought them here, but they also say the restaurant is important to them.
“Holy Chow is the definition of a Jewish community in the middle of a desert,” says Baruch Cortell, 17, said. “It’s an oasis.”
He and his family have been ordering from Holy Chow since it opened.
Behind the counter, the staff is slammed with work. There’s rarely a moment where someone isn’t on the phone or working the cash register or out on a delivery. Meanwhile, the customers sit in the corner, eating soup samples and joking around while waiting for their orders.
Elaine Millen is here to pick up lunch for her visiting son and grandson. “I use [Holy Chow] for Friday night dinners,” she says. “It’s very fresh and there’s friendly service,” she says.
Although customers had to pay for much of what was on the menu, the restaurant still ended up giving away more than $1,600 worth of free food throughout the day in the name of customer appreciation.
This is the Schreibers’ first foray in the restaurant business. Holy Chow ran out of food twice during its first week last March, and the Schreibers say it took a while to figure out an effective delivery system. Now many of the kinks have been worked out, they say.
“I want to make [Holy Chow] more and more accessible and feasible,” Rivka Schreiber says. “A year from now, I want to be doing what we’re doing now, just on a grander scale.”