The University of Minnesota opened its first fully kosher restaurant in Coffman Union this month.
House of Hummus opened on Sept. 3 in Minnesota Marketplace, a food court located on the ground level of Coffman. The new restaurant was created in response to what many say is a lack of kosher options available to University students.
“Our goal is to have [House of Hummus] here as long as possible, providing students, staff and faculty with a kosher dining option,” said University Dining Services Director Kelly Milledge in an email to the Minnesota Daily.
House of Hummus is owned by Chabad, an international Jewish group with 5,000 centers total. Rabbi Yitzi Steiner and Chavi Steiner, co-directors of Chabad’s University branch, initiated the opening of House of Hummus on campus. The couple has been advocating for more kosher options on campus for over a decade.
“Ever since we’ve come here, we’ve dedicated our lives to growing the Jewish community and beyond, and that's why bringing kosher food to campus was so important: because I believe this will not only enhance the current Jewish student body, but potential students as well,” Yitzi Steiner said.
In previous years, some kosher options have been available to students. This consisted of a few prepackaged items, such as sandwiches which were made available in Coffman in 2017 and a frozen kosher meal available in Coffman and the dining halls.
“It was not hot food, it was not fresh food … and I think because of that it just didn’t last,” Yitzi Steiner said. “It is very hard to survive or thrive as a student if you don’t have any place to eat.”
Natan Paradise, the University’s associate director of the Center for Jewish Studies, has worked at the University for more than 15 years and also attended the University as an undergraduate.
“Four generations of my family have earned degrees at the University of Minnesota, and four generations of my family have found employment at the University of Minnesota, so I kind of think of it like the family business. And yet, when the House of Hummus opened, providing a space to eat kosher on campus — and I do keep kosher — I felt like I belonged here, and I was welcome here in a new and important way,” Paradise said.
The lack of kosher food on campus in the past has been a barrier for the recruitment of Jewish students to the University, he said.
“The consequence of that is that students for whom keeping kosher is an integral part ... and who were very strict about it — they didn’t come here. The University of Minnesota was an impossible choice, they were completely excluded from our community,” Paradise said.
In a University press release, University Dining Market Manager Chris Elrod said, “We are thrilled about this addition to our dining program, and the ability to serve students eating kosher without the need to travel off campus.”
While everything is made fresh, House of Hummus’ kitchen is currently located in St. Paul. The restaurant’s owners said they hope to open a kitchen in Coffman, which would ensure the food is fresh. Yitzi Steiner said he is also hoping to have House of Hummus become Halal certified to accommodate Muslim students. However, Yitzi Steiner said he has no set timeline for these goals.
“It's still a work in progress," he said.