A few months ago, we did our first Property Profile with David Magerman, who moved to Philadelphia in 2004 and became a transformative force in the area’s Jewish community. When we spoke, he called himself “a systems guy” who, when he sees a need, does his best to fill it. One need he identified was an area kosher restaurant, and in a fortuitous turn of events, chef Michael Solomonov was looking to do kosher at the same time. The resulting Citron & Rose garnered rave reviews and quickly developed a devoted following. But the disparate reasons for such devotion explains why the two have parted ways.
Some devotees came for what Magerman calls the “incredibly creative and delicious” cuisine. Other devotees came because it was the only kosher restaurant around. As time passed, it came down to a question of which community the business would focus on as it evolved.
“What I think a lot of people outside the kosher world don’t understand,” says Magerman via email, “is while many of the diners at Citron & Rose are there because they love the food, many others are there also because it’s the only place they can eat!” That pragmatic reality is what drives Magerman now in a direction that doesn’t much interest Solomonov.
“To complement C&R, we needed to do more family-friendly projects, both in terms of off-premises catering and more casual dining,” Magerman explains. “We need to serve people breakfast, so they can go out in the morning for business. We need to do a $5,000 kiddush, in addition to the $75,000 wedding. And we need to provide take-out lunches and dinners when people need them.”
They were doing a little of this kind of thing at C&R, and Magerman acknowledges it’s not exactly in Solomonov’s wheelhouse.
“These kinds of projects can’t be (and probably shouldn’t be) interesting to an artist like Michael Solomonov,” Magerman says. “It’s almost like asking him to open a supermarket. But it’s essential for the observant Jewish community, and it’s essential for to fulfill my mission and my reasons for getting into the restaurant business.”
So the two have decided to part ways–“perhaps a little earlier than we thought we would”–rather than try to make their two different styles mesh.
“We just realized that we had accomplished the bulk of what we were going to do together. All of the directions I wanted to take the restaurant (including the casual dairy), he wasn’t so interested in, and the directions he wanted to take C&R and the other projects I was proposing weren’t satisfying to me.”
Which isn’t to say Magerman won’t miss Solomonov’s influence: “Sure, C&R would be better off if Michael were still involved. But I don’t want to keep him from his next artistic project. And I don’t think he wants to get in the way of my community-building.”
The good news is that the two split “at a time when we have accomplished great things together,” says Magerman, and no one who has been to C&R would disagree. “From my point of view,” he adds, “we both have great respect for each other’s missions and accomplishments, and I for one am grateful that for a period of time our missions overlapped.”
• UPDATED: Solomonov and Cook Out At Citron & Rose? [Foobooz]