Original Z-boy Allen Sarlo suggested we go to Malibu Chicken after a couple of hours surfing First Point. After surfing, your body is screaming for fuel that is good and wholesome. By my memory, Malibu Chicken was kind of a greasy call, but Sarlo insisted, saying cryptically, Its kosher.
We got there and Malibu Chicken was gone. Instead, we were greeted by a new sign, clean and well lighted, with Malibu Beach Grill hovering over the slogan Its All Good. Next to the copyright logo, the name Glatt was a little too prominently displayed. Jeez, even the sign painters have big egos in Malibu.
Inside, a woman in colored dreads handed us printed paper menus, apologized for them, explained that the new proper menus were coming soon, apologized for the one typo on those new menus that were coming soon, told us the specials, and asked us how we were and what we wanted to eat all in the same breath.
The veggie burger looked good, but when I asked for cheese, she apologized and said they couldnt serve cheeseburgers.
We ordered, then Sarlo and I sat outside on a fine Malibu night, the heavy metal thunder of PCH interfering with the sound of crashing waves and our view across the bay to the lights of Palos Verdes.
I told you, its kosher, Sarlo said. This place, the food, the kitchen. Big-time kosher. No BLTs here. No lobster burritos. But kosher means good. It means healthy. The gnarliest Orthodox rabbi on the planet could come in here and eat whatever and not fear the wrath.
The woman in dreads was Joyce Brooks Bogartz. She was simpatico. She was savlanut, and for the next two hours, as the moon rose over Carson, she introduced me to this secret society of kosher.
Turned out the copyright icon was a logo for Central California Kosher, a certifier from Fresno: Glatt is the highest level of kosher, Joyce said. The rabbi puts his hand inside the animals lung and feels the lining. Glatt means smooth. Smooth is good.
By now it was clear the restaurant formerly known as Malibu Chicken was under new management, and the manager was He Who Cannot Be Named.
Joyce explained that Chabad of Malibu owns the building, and the current rabbi/landlord, Levi Cunin, had wanted to open a kosher restaurant of the highest standards for some time. After a brief struggle, Malibu Chicken was gone, and Joyce, her husband Gary and sister Jacqueline came in to meet a Higher Standard: We had to strip the kitchen and rebuild it, Joyce said. When observant Jewish people eat bread they wash their hands first, and we had to have a sink for that. When the Health Department saw that hand-washing sink too close to a cleaning sink, we got a B. I was mortified we fixed it, and now we have an A.
I asked who was tougher, the County of L.A. Health Department or the Torah, and Joyce smiled quietly to herself: Ill get back to you.
I sat outside under the heat lamp with a laptop (they have WiFi), Googling the All Knowing Internet for kosher laws and watching a steady stream of Malibu hipsters, goyim and gangstas come and go.
Some of the crowd looked Jewish, some didnt. There was a continuous flow of garumphy men wearing yarmulkes and loose clothes. You look at some of these shape-challenged chaps and wonder, How does Israel survive? But then there were others: lean, sharp-dressed, aware, coiffed and bad-ass-looking, like Mossad officers. And then you think, Okay, I get it. They rolled up, ordered their food, then peeled down PCH in their German cars, with their fine-dime shiksizzles by their sides.
The Malibu Beach Grill is open 16 hours, from 7 in the morning until 11 at night, and I stayed until the last customer had left. Joyce ran her legs off, smiling and kibitzing the whole time, bringing endless nosh: chicken wings, tofu chili and chocolate-covered strawberries. It was, as the sign said, all good, because kosher is all about attention to detail: I clean the lettuce on a light table, Joyce said, and she wasnt shticking.
I stuck around until Joyce said good night with a chocolate-chip cookie the size of a land mine. As she and her crew cleaned the place with God watching, I joked that He Who Cannot Be Named ordered the Sabbath so the Jewish people would not work themselves to death. The restaurant, in accordance with the Torah, is closed Saturdays, a potential gold-mine day: We close before sunset on Friday and open again Sunday morning, but we do cater on Saturday nights, Joyce said, and smiled an eternal smile. God will provide.
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