Until last year, Ormond Beach and its robust Jewish community were able to enjoy three different kosher restaurants in town.
Then, they all closed.
That’s when restaurant owner Ricki Ben Simon was called. She and her husband’s cousin, chef Gili Ben Simon, have been running a kosher restaurant in Jacksonville since 2017.
“With the Jewish community, if you have a restaurant, it means that you are established,” Ricki Ben Simon said. “So it was very important for the community to have the restaurant back. They’re an amazing community.”
Ben Simon was contacted by a local and asked to consider bringing her restaurant to Ormond Beach. She opened the second location of Gili’s Kitchen at the former Eden Fresh Cafe location at 188 E. Granada Blvd. in July. Since then, the community’s support has been great, she said, from both those who eat kosher and those who don’t.
“We thought that here, like in Jacksonville, we can do both,” Ben Simon said. “... We found out that it was going to be a good fit for us, and that’s it. We came to Ormond Beach, and I really love this restaurant.”
Being a kosher restaurant, Gili’s Kitchen is dairy-free, doesn’t serve pork, and only serves dishes prepared with certified-kosher ingredients.
Chef Gili Ben Simon began his culinary training over two decades ago, having trained in Israel. He studied in culinary schools in different countries, including France, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The restaurant’s menu puts a modern twist on some Israeli traditional dishes, Mediterranean options and Asian daily specials. On the menu are dishes such as New York-style corned beef sandwiches, matzo ball soup, shawarma and Ricki Ben Simon’s favorite, hummus with mushrooms.
Customers also love their burgers, which are made from in-house ground meat, Ricki Ben Simon said.
“It’s the most complimented item we have, and I take it as a big compliment because a burger is an American item and Gili is Israeli,” she said. “Many customers, American, come in and say, ‘Wow, that’s the best burger ever.’”
Gili’s Kitchen is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from 12-8 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.