That salivation-triggering smell of slabs of sizzling beef wafted through the air on the last day of July as summer’s fleeting grilling season marched irreversibly toward fall. But it wasn’t coming from K Grill House.
To the naked eye, it would seem the North Riverdale restaurant — that bastion of glatt kosher chops, steaks, burgers, and even sushi, reputedly a midday haunt for voracious neighborhood students and a haven for local Jewish diners of all ages — has reached the end of a relatively quiet stint on an oft-sleepy corner of North Riverdale.
On Tuesday, a motley crew of helping hands heaved equipment, foodstuffs — raw meat, cans of olives, condiments, tomatoes, beets, capers — metal shelves, plants, the proverbial everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, into a small army of vehicles parked outside the restaurant.
None of those loading what appeared to be much of the restaurant’s contents into the vans would give their name, refusing to speak with reporters other than conceding, brusquely and in passing, that yes, the restaurant was closing.
The owner, Dmitriy Berezovskiy, emerged fleetingly from the shadows through a back door of his fallen empire, donning a black T-shirt and green hat before swiftly retreating back into the darkness. He refused to speak with a reporter, brushing off questions with a quick “Hey, what’s up?” before disappearing inside the restaurant. He turned down multiple follow-up requests for comment late Tuesday.
A young man who identified himself as Berezovskiy’s son said he had no details on the restaurant’s closure, shrugging his shoulders in response to questions.
K Grill was put up for sale last November, a restaurant Berezovskiy described as a labor of love from the beginning.
Yet he struggled with the glatt kosher requirements demanded by his landlord, religious food preparations that focused on lesions in the lungs of prepared meat. At first, Berezovskiy said he was fine with it — until, he claimed, the local Vaad started threatening to remove his kosher certification.
“Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, blackberries — they choked me on this side,” Berezovskiy said last November. “I cannot serve vegetarian people. I cannot give variety of food. And everybody in the neighborhood — like the Chinese restaurant — they can sell broccoli, cauliflower, and I cannot. I don’t want to break the kosher rules, but it’s very hard.”
The kosher fight came to a head in January when Berezovskiy filed suit against his landlord, Riverdale Holding Co., and Vaad Ha’Rabbonim, claiming both targeted him because his wife isn’t Jewish.
Moses Marx of Riverdale Holding and Rabbis Mordechai Willig and Asher Bush of the Vaad began trying to bankrupt the 5693 Riverdale Ave., restaurant at the same time they learned Berezovskiy didn’t marry Jewish, he claimed. Vaad threatened K Grill’s kosher certification if Berezovskiy refused to raise prices so that neighboring kosher eateries like fast-food Mexican joint Carlos & Gabby’s and the Riverdale Kosher Market could compete, according to the lawsuit.
It’s a position at least some of K Grill’s neighbors, at the time, didn’t quite believe.
“The guy is reaching,” said Elisha Block, owner of the Riverdale Kosher Market, as well as the neighboring Pizza Block in Skyview Shopping Center, last February. “He’s in a business he knows nothing about. He’s a dry cleaner by trade, and he bought a business that he knows nothing about, and I guess he’s reaching right now to try and save face.”
“The landlord is a professional outfit, the kosher supervision is a very professional outfit, and the only way the Vaad of Riverdale would give him a hard time is if he wasn’t adhering to the standards that they set forth.”
Inside the restaurant last Tuesday, things were far different than any other weeknight when couples, families or anyone hankering for hearty, comforting glatt kosher fare might’ve tucked in to a heaping plate of rib-eye, or grilled sea bass. The front dining area appeared to be in a state of mild chaos and disarray, with tools strewn about, plants resting on tables, the liquor gone from the bar, beer glasses half-full of what appeared to be watered-down cranberry juice.
Numan Ilyas, who works as a manager at Skyview Cafe and Delicatessen next door, said he believed Sunday was K Grill’s last act.
“They did not tell me anything” about why they were closing, Ilyas said. “We asked them, but they didn’t say why.”
Which, for Ilyas, thickens the shroud of mystery surrounding the eatery’s demise.
K Grill, he says, “was good, good service,” and certainly, “they had good food.”
Management, he added, appeared to be disappointed.
“They said they tried for, like, three years to make good business,” Ilyas said. “But it didn’t work out for them. Maybe it’s not a good location for the restaurant business. It gets busy only after 6,” but far less so during lunchtime when it’s often “very slow.”
Ilyas doesn’t anticipate K Grill House’s absence will affect business at the deli.
“We do not have competition with them,” Ilyas said. “We have different food.”
Nor does Ilyas fear Berezovskiy’s going out of business could affect foot traffic, meaning less customers for Skyview, summing up his reaction to the news in two words: “No worries.”