News flash! Izzy’s five locations are performing better in 2020 than those same locations did in 2019! This, according to owner John Geisen, who said: “Sales are up over last year, so we can’t complain. Our stores are limited to 25 percent (capacity), so it seems busy from that standpoint. But people are just buying a lot of Rueben sandwiches (and other food items) at our stores,” he said, including a robust carryout business in his calculation of sales.
How can this be? Geisen believes his Izzy’s eateries are in a “sweet spot” within the total restaurant market in Greater Cincinnati. “I think what’s happened is that fine dining has scaled down a little bit, because of the pandemic. People either can’t dine in (at those restaurants) or they just are not going out to eat in the way they used to. And those same people who may not be dining out at the upscale places are not going to go to fast food necessarily. And so, we are in between those two, in a sweet spot, and fortunately it has worked out for us.”
Another reason for Izzy’s improved performance, Geisen believes is that his food travels well. “We know this from what people tell us. The sandwiches and the other items, the soups and everything, they just do well in a carryout situation. You know, catering naturally is off now, because people aren’t gathering in meetings and stuff like that. So, we are not doing the kind of spread where the food is out on display and people can come up and pick up whatever they want. But what this has led to is an increase in the box lunches we do. That part of our business has picked up for us. People have a get-together, a business or a family celebration or something like that, and they order individual box lunches. That segment of (our) catering has picked up quite a bit.” So, Izzy’s business is doing well at this turn of the seasons, and Geisen wanted to talk food—mainly soup. “This week we are starting up with our classic vegetable (beef) soup, which is a real crowd-pleaser we put on the menu for a limited time, starting in the fall. It’s packed with flavor and we slow-cook it, so it’s just very good. Our vegetable soup has the chunks of beef, along with the roasted corn, diced potatoes, sliced carrots, fresh green beans and then the barley, which makes it a really hearty soup for these cooler days and nights of autumn.
“The vegetable soup joins our other soups that are available every day. We always have the award-winning chicken noodle soup (Chicken Soup Cookoff first place winner!). It’s the most popular of the Izzy’s soups we offer. But our beef barley soup is almost just as popular, almost bowl for bowl. And the other soup that is always available is our sweet and sour cabbage soup, which is an East European favorite and has proven to be a favorite for us too,” Geisen said.
According to the Jewish Food Experience website and other Jewish food writers, sweet and sour cabbage soup finds its roots among the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions of Eastern Europe. Exactly when this soup came on the scene is uncertain, but the tradition of its sweet/sour recipe dates back centuries. The soup was a staple of poor Jewish enclaves, where cabbage was widely available and inexpensive. Regardless of its origin, Geisen says his customers love the soup “and they don’t have to go to Eastern Europe to enjoy it, either—just come to Izzy’s for a bowl of our delicious, hearty sweet and sour cabbage soup.”
Another item on the menu now and for a limited time (vegetable soup is the other) is the
Angus beef melt. “Melt” implies cheese, and it is true in the case of this sandwich, Geisen said. “But Jewish diners eating kosher style can simply ask us to hold the cheese if they want the sandwich, and we will be happy to do that for them. We do that all the time for people. They don’t want this or that, we hold it.” The Angus melt features roasted beef that is sliced and then grilled to heat it up, and topped with sautéed onions and banana peppers, then a melt of provolone cheese (hold that, please), and served on a grilled telera roll with mayonnaise on the side. Sounds delicious!
“One thing I want our customers to know is that we had to close our long-time Main Street store. The building was purchased (by an outside group) and it is being turned into a hotel, so everybody had to be out by July 1 of this year,” he said.
Asked if Izzy’s is looking for another place in the downtown area, Geisen said his staff looking at options, but that downtown patrons can go to the Elm Street store for now. Options might include OTR, but Geisen said for now, he is in a wait-and-see mindset, at least until the pandemic situation sorts itself out in the coming year or so.
See you at Izzy’s!
800 Elm St
1198 Smiley Ave
4766 Red Bank Expy
5098B Glencrossing Way
7905 Mall Road