Whether it’s kosher eating at Newark Airport, a new sushi spot in Miami or a not-so-kosher alert for a Los Angeles deli, observant travelers around the globe wait for Dani Klein to weigh in.
And weigh in he does: With his trademark green sunglasses, popular blog (Yeah That’s Kosher) and round-the-clock Twitter presence, Klein has become a go-to resource for kosher travelers in search of a great meal. If there’s a new kosher steakhouse in Paris, Klein’s 11,000 Twitter followers and 40,000 Instagram followers will be among the first to hear about it.
The 34-year-old New Yorker has been familiar to Jewish Week readers since at least 2008, when he was profiled in the paper’s “36 Under 36” feature as an up-and-coming Israel advocate.
Today Klein enjoys the synergy between his day job, as a social media strategist for a Midtown company, and Yeah That’s Kosher, which can have 75,000 hungry visitors on an average month (traffic spikes into the six figures during April, when the blog releases its annual worldwide Passover dining guide).
After following Yeah That’s Kosher for years, I wanted to know more about the man behind the green glasses (he’s famous enough “that when I show up in certain neighborhoods, they all recognize me and tell me they read my site every week,” Klein said).
I figured the globe-trotting foodie, who tweets his lunchtime poke bowls and roams Brooklyn on the weekend to size up smokehouse barbecue, was probably weaned on organic kosher quinoa. But while Klein dreamed of foreign lands since his childhood stints at the New York State Geography Bee, his sophisticated palate came far later — after meeting his wife, Arielle, an adventurous eater and cook who introduced him to complex flavors and the Food Network.
It was a 2008 trip around Scandinavia with Arielle that inspired Yeah That’s Kosher. “There was nobody to give us advice on how to properly do it kosher,” Klein said, recalling a series of mishaps that defied his careful planning.
Their kosher-meat pit stop in Helsinki was closed on the day they visited. The Kleins spent an hour trying to locate their pre-arranged Shabbat in Stockholm, and then were nearly refused entry. In Talinn, Estonia, they were thrilled to eat in a kosher restaurant, but couldn’t tour the adjacent synagogue because they lacked advance security clearance.
“When we got back, I said, ‘I need to put down all of my travel online to give advice to other travelers,” Klein said, adding that he opened the blog to guest writers to make it more comprehensive.
Yeah That’s Kosher coincided with a flowering of kosher alternatives, most notably a crop of Chabad centers that have sprung up in tourist areas worldwide. Many Chabads now have full-fledged kosher restaurants, a major boon for observant travelers who previously had to subsist on fruit and canned goods.
“The people traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand, are more than willing to pay for a glatt kosher meal, and to pay extra for it, especially if it’s infused with local flavors, which a lot of them do,” said Klein.
Stateside, Klein has been tracking another trend: kosher options “in places you wouldn’t expect,” as he put it. He cited the successful effort of Jewish students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to bring kosher supervision to two popular off-campus eateries, including a Cold Stone Creamery.
Klein has been tracking kosher options in places you wouldn’t expect.
So how does a kosher coffee shop or a new steak-frites joint make it onto the blog? Klein has his radar up for any new place; with his social media habit, it’s a pretty sensitive radar. As the scene has evolved, Klein said, his content has shifted toward a newsier angle — kosher openings and restaurant news from around the world, with fewer first-person reviews.
Part of that evolution, Klein said, is the shift in his own life. With two young sons and a busy day job, the Long Island resident doesn’t travel as much as he’d like. His go-to family destination is Miami: “We know there are always lots of options, we know we’re gong to eat well, and there are a lot of things for the kids,” Klein said. In South Florida, the family makes a beeline for Zak The Baker, which Klein calls the country’s best kosher bakery, and 26 Sushi and Tapas, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion spot in Surfside.
Of all the places he’s been, Klein’s favorites include those in picturesque Iceland — “not for the kosher scene, it’s nonexistent” — and Paris, a mecca for gourmands of every persuasion. Israel, however, remains Klein’s top destination. “The foodie scene there has evolved even faster than here,” he said. “Especially for the kosher and Jewish traveler, it’s changing so quickly.”
Klein hopes to return to Israel with his sons, who are eager travelers if not yet adventurous eaters. “But I was 19 the first time I tried sushi,” he pointed out. “And now I’m obsessed with sushi. So I’m not worried.”
You can view this year’s Passover dining guide here.