Pleasantville’s Falafel Taco Is Officially Kosher

Jonathan and Rosie Langsam's fusion cuisine at Falafel Taco now boasts kosher certification at the Pleasantville and Greenwich locations.

Almost six years after opening Falafel Taco, a restaurant serving a fusion of Middle Eastern and Latin American cuisine, husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Rosie Langsam have earned kosher certification — at both of their Pleasantville and Greenwich locations.

That cuisine, family, an inclusive community, and tradition are most important to them.

For Jonathan, this decision was rooted in his heritage and culture. Making the restaurant kosher meant cooking food in the ways of his grandmother, who he calls the “religious backbone” of his family. His parents also had kosher restaurants in the Lower East Side of NYC in the early 1900s.

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“…it became an ‘aha’ moment that said, ‘Ok, this could be potentially a good thing for the Jewish community, for us to get closer to our roots, for us to get closer to the traditions that my grandmother espoused, who kept kosher,’” he explains.

Kosher involves Jewish dietary law as laid out in the Torah. This includes the prohibition of pork and shellfish, as well as mixing meat and dairy. For meat, animals must be slaughtered according to religious custom. To be certified, the Langsams were supervised by Rabbi Adam Baldochin from Shaarie Tikbah in Scarsdale.

falafel taco
Photo courtesy of Falafel Taco

The idea for the restaurant itself came when Jonathan’s daughter became vegan and he was trying out more vegetable-based recipes. Falafel — meatball-shaped orbs made from chickpeas and fresh herbs popular in the Middle East — was an obvious choice. Soon, the shared love of cooking and a blend of the couple’s cultures resulted in Rosie’s idea for a restaurant; unable to choose between falafel or tacos, one of the Langsam children proposed that they have both.

Since opening in 2018, Falafel Taco has maintained a following among the gluten-free and vegan community due to its food options.

The main challenge in earning the recent kosher certification was maintaining the original customer base that doesn’t keep kosher while inviting a new community. While some items, such as shrimp, chicken, and cheese quesadillas, had to be omitted, 99% of the menu was unchanged, Jonathan says. Now, all cheese is plant-based, and meat is acquired from kosher meat packers and Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx.

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By being kosher, Falafel Taco was also able to expand its reach. Only a handful of establishments in Westchester provide kosher food, and even fewer include kosher meat, he says. The rabbis who helped Falafel Taco go kosher also spread the news via word-of-mouth to their congregations, resulting in new customers.

“In these days, especially since the pandemic, it’s become more and more difficult to stand out. There are so many takeout restaurants,” Jonathan observes. “Every place I see has a compelling reason why to go there. It just became such a win-win moment for us to provide this service to our community, and at the same time, find a way for us to stand out.

Not everybody who comes in knows that Falafel Taco is kosher, he says. But now customers come in and say “You know what? I have a connection with you. I have a spiritual, cultural connection, and now I’m going to come in and buy something.’”

falafel taco
Citrus Grilled Chicken Roasted Tomato Salsa Pickled Mango Chipotle Mayo

The most popular dish is falafel, which is cooked traditionally and served as the customer prefers — with the traditional pita bread, as a taco, or with laffa, a Middle Eastern flatbread introduced by Jewish Iraqis in Israel.

Falafel Taco continues this practice of blending cultures by combining Jewish and Mexican food. Some examples are avocado hummus and Mexican latkes — the potato pancake typically eaten during Hannukah, mixed with roasted corn, garlic, and cilantro, with avocado hummus on top.

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For customers with a personal connection to either cuisine, Falafel Taco provides nostalgia as well as originality: They can try something familiar in a new way. Other customers who enjoy both Mexican and Middle Eastern foods love being able to experience both at the same time, he says.

Jonathan gives credit to his grandmother for inspiration, as well as to his wife for being “one of, if not the major, forces in helping make this dream a reality,” he says. His current focus is to create a sense of community in his restaurant, connecting Jewish and non-Jewish, kosher and non-kosher, so they can learn from one another.

“That’s something that’s really satisfying to me,” Jonathan says. “You cannot just feed their stomach but feed their soul.”

Falafel Taco
30 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville
28 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich

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