After operating for weeks as a word-of-mouth business, Chef Cari Herskovitz Rosenbloom’s sit-down restaurant is now ready for prime time.
In the “fried chicken wars” (which Hour Detroit magazine says is a thing), the only local kosher entrant I know about is the crispy fried chicken served at Ess In co. in Oak Park. (“Ess” means “eat” in Yiddish.) After operating for weeks as a word-of-mouth business, Chef Cari Herskovitz Rosenbloom’s sit-down restaurant is now ready for prime time.
Chef Cari, in partnership with her husband, Yisroel “Israel” Rosenbloom, is known in the Jewish community as a caterer, operator of The Spot and Fish Bowl food trucks and owner of the 4-year-old Wok In Cari Out, a Chinese carryout. Its location on 10 Mile in Southfield is less than a mile from Ess In, which replaced a deli on the main floor of Crown Pointe Office Building.
The chef’s first restaurant with a dining room features incredible fried chicken, brined for a minimum 24 hours before frying. Another specialty is English-style fish and chips. By customer request, the menu also includes falafel and other staples of traditional Israeli cuisine.
“I’m thankful that Detroit has supported me,” said Chef Cari, a graduate of National Gourmet Institute in New York City. Growing up locally, she appreciated eating wholesome, homemade meals. “My two Hungarian bubbies always determined I’d be a cook,” she said. Cooking professionally could extend to the Rosenbloom daughters, ages 4 and 6. Mom said they love making challah with her in the family kitchen.
With Ess In, Chef Cari and Israel have created a cute, homey restaurant. On two walls enclosing the kitchen, Josh Young painted a farmhouse mural, complete with weathered red shingles, curtained windows and a white fence. Panels of pallet wood cover other walls.
The front counter, topped with bottles of hometown Faygo pop, has crisscross barnwood “doors” below. There is a wall menu for ordering, just as at Chef Cari’s Chinese place, but Ess In offers its guests the choice of dining in, as well as carryout or curbside pickup. Thirty guests can sit at high and low tables, or the bar made from a 10-foot piece of live wood.
A fulltime mashgiach from the Council of Orthodox Rabbis provides kashrut supervision at Ess In. “We do quality food that happens to be kosher,” Chef Cari said. For her, only fresh ingredients will do — from farm to table. The dining concept is “fast casual, not fast food.” Meals are brought to diners on metal trays lined with vintage-looking newsprint. Cardboard “boats” hold side dishes.
I recently ordered the quarter fried chicken, a breast and a wing (I could have had a thigh and a leg), with two small sides. Mine were mashed potatoes with gravy and creamed spinach. Other options include vegan mac and cheese, house-made onion rings, fried dill pickles and Israeli or purple cabbage salad.
The half chicken and an eight-piece whole chicken come with increasingly larger sides. Separate chicken parts can be added. The menu also lists chicken wings, chicken sandwiches and chicken tacos in varying treatments.
Assessing the meal: My large chicken breast had the crispy, properly seasoned coating I expected and wasn’t dry inside. Both pieces were delicious. From-scratch mashed potatoes, like these were, are always better. But if you’re the type that likes to control how much dressing goes on your salad, you ought to request your gravy on the side. I’ve never had better-tasting creamed spinach. My vegetable dish with fresh spinach was dropped off after the rest of my dinner. “Nobody wants creamed spinach that’s been sitting under a warmer,” Chef Cari explained.
The fried fish and chips here are good-sized, lightly battered cod filets with hand-cut chips (French fries). Initially fried at a low temperature, the chips are flash-fried when ordered. It’s another satisfying meal. But as for the Kishke Bombs I tried — let’s just say they might be an acquired taste.
Ess In opens at 3 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. on other days. But never on Shabbat Saturday, of course.
Ess In co.
25900 Greenfield, Oak Park
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