Jewish students at Arizona State University finally have a kosher meat restaurant on the Tempe campus they can enjoy.
Chick-In opened at Wilson Hall, 240 Orange Mall, about a month ago. The restaurant sells kosher chicken, Israeli salads, falafel, hummus and more. There’s even a Thai chicken sandwich made of sweet chicken, crunchy Asian slaw and spicy sauce.
“Students who keep kosher have an option to eat on campus now and grab a bite to eat between classes,” said Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, founding director of Chabad at ASU. “It’s providing a very, very important need.”
Chabad at ASU has certified the restaurant as kosher.
Chick-In has been more than a decade in the planning. When Tiechtel and his wife first moved to Arizona as he began at Chabad, the rabbi was concerned about the lack of kosher food options for the thousands of Jewish students and faculty attending and working at the university.
Tiechtel’s ultimate goal is to have ASU create a kosher meal plan for students, but while that remains in the works, the rabbi’s first success was getting kosher foods placed into the university’s many campus stores that sold groceries.
Then, a few years ago, ASU opened a kosher dairy restaurant, Mozart Cafe, that stayed in business for about a year-and-a-half, Tiechtel said. Still, kosher meat options remained elusive. Between the kosher dairy restaurant and Chick-In, a vendor started selling kosher sandwiches and Chabad made sure there was at least matzah available in the student dining halls during Passover.
Chick-In, a venture made possible through a partnership with ASU; the university’s contracted food services operator, Aramark; Chick-In’s owner, Yariv Elazar; and Chabad has become a game changer on campus.
“The response has been spectacular,” Tiechtel said. “I personally know that there are students who only eat kosher meat, so Friday night and Saturday they come to us (Chabad), but for the rest of the week they didn’t have the option. The students are excited about it. Jewish faculty members have come to it. Also, it’s not only Jewish customers. Members of the non-Jewish community who like Mediterranean food are coming. At lunchtime, there is a line out the door, literally.”
Tiechtel said he has even heard of diners coming in from Phoenix, Scottsdale and areas in Tempe that surround the campus to enjoy the food.
“The food is really good,” he said. “It’s made fresh right in front of your eyes. They grill the chicken right in front of you and it’s not fast-food style. They make the sandwiches right there. It’s very clean and very fresh and very delicious.”
It may also prove a boon to ASU recruiting efforts, Tiechtel said, adding that he gets a few calls every week from the out-of-state parents of potential students who are concerned about kosher food choices at ASU.
“This has opened up the door for many other students to look at ASU as an option,” he said.
With that said, Tiechtel is still working hard with administrators at ASU to create a kosher meal plan for students, particularly freshmen who are required to buy the plan unless exempted by a letter from their rabbis.
“I believe it’s going to happen because ASU is very supportive of the needs of the Jewish community,” he said.