A Lower East Side deli without meat

Vegan sisters turn Jewish classics on their heads.

Bagel and "cream cheese and lox." (photo credit: KATIE B. FOSTER)
Bagel and "cream cheese and lox."
(photo credit: KATIE B. FOSTER)
If you order a bagel with cream cheese and lox to go at Orchard Grocer on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, you may be in for a surprise.
The bagel might be how you remember it, but the “cream cheese” is made of cashews and the “lox” is actually smoked carrots.
That’s because Orchard Grocer, opened by sisters Erica and Sara Kubersky, is entirely vegan. The pair have had a vegan shoe store, MooShoes, for 16 years. But they realized they’d love to branch out into food after decades of leading a vegan lifestyle.
“We became very immersed in the vegan food movement, how exciting it was becoming and how many more people were open to it and wanted more,” Erica told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview.
It was also important for them to marry their values with some of their history and tradition.
“I grew up in a very traditional, culturally Jewish family,” she said, remembering brisket and cholent and “that kind of hearty food.”
But when she became vegetarian at a young age and vegan in high school, “I was just lucky that my family understood my decision.”
The deli, which opened earlier this year, also offers its take on a Reuben – made with beet-brined seitan, “Bubbie’s sauerkraut,” vegan thousand-island dressing and vegan cheese on marble rye.
That’s in addition to vegan versions of the BLT, grilled cheese and Greek salad, among others.
The Kubersky sisters grew up in Queens, and “the Lower East Side was a place that we visited when we were kids,” said Erica. One of her grandmothers, she said, was Israeli, and the other was born in the historically Jewish New York immigrant neighborhood of the Lower East Side.
“The tradition of that was very ingrained in the family,” she recalled. “We went there [Lower East Side] to get different foods and it was especially a place we went to before different holidays to pick things up.”
But it took some time and “trial and error” to recreate some deli classics. “It was also us trying to decide which items were the most important to include on the menu,” said Erica.
And they still have their eye on veganizing some other dishes.
Next on their wish list: A gluten- free, vegan matzo ball.