In relaunch, Schenectady’s DillyBean turns to family traditions for Jewish-influenced menu

DillyBean owner Abby Rockmacher in her newly renovated store at 133 Jay St. in Schenectady on Friday.

DillyBean owner Abby Rockmacher in her newly renovated store at 133 Jay St. in Schenectady on Friday.

As a local business owner planned her new restaurant menu, she turned squarely toward her family and their rich food culture.

Ever since she was little, DillyBean owner Abby Rockmacher helped her mother in the kitchen.

“Family meals are really important to us,” Rockmacher said. “Every Sunday we have dinner together. Food has always brought our family together.”

DillyBean, located on downtown Schenectady’s Jay Street Marketplace, recently completed renovations and will now start offering hot food.

The menu is a nod to traditional culinary Ashkenazi Jewish culture and draws heavily on family recipes, which Rockmacher described as “homestyle cooking.”

That includes kugel, a traditional casserole-style egg noodle dish.

There’s corn pudding, long a personal favorite.

And still in development is the braised brisket developed by Rockmacher’s grandmother that is traditional for Jewish holidays, which are right around the corner with Hanukkah beginning Dec. 10.

It’s comfort food that Rockmacher believes serves as somewhat of a balm in dark times.

“They’re easy, to-go meals, family meals,” Rockmacher said. “[People] don’t want to be in a store for long.”

DillyBean temporarily closed in the spring, which gave Rockmacher an opportunity to evaluate how she could change the course of her business, which she launched in 2018 with a focus on gourmet food and pickled goods, including the eponymous product, which is a green bean pickled using an old-school lacto-fermentation process (and again, one rooted in family tradition).

“I took COVID to make this business more personalized for me,” Rockmacher said.

DillyBean rolled out the menu on Nov. 17.

The relaunch required some internal renovations. Rockmacher knocked down a closet, built a buffet-style counter using reclaimed wood and cribbed together kitchen equipment from other restaurants that fell along the way — including nearby Katz Kafe, which closed earlier this year.

DillyBean becomes the latest downtown venue to relaunch or open amid the pandemic, joining the Nest, which opened last month; Square One Cafe, which rolled out a vegan menu in May; and Annabel’s Pizza Company, which opened its doors in June as part of the Mill Artisan District project. 

Opening a new business can be stressful even in the best of times, Rockmacher said.

“But I do have a following and kept my name out there throughout the pandemic.”

Despite the relaunch, DillyBean won’t entirely abandon its original mission and Rockmacher will continue to work with local vendors on collaborative efforts, most recently a dip crafted with Wolf Hollow Brewing Co.

Over time, she plans on tweaking the menu, including possibly adding a brunch menu.

But the goal is to start small.

“You’ll always be able to get something similar, but it may not be exactly the same as last time,” Rockmacher said.

Any new offerings must be vetted by — you guessed it — the family, largely Rockmacher’s mother.

“If you ask her, she’d say she’s the head recipe developer,” Rockmacher said. “Every recipe has to get approved by my Mom.”

And there are family gems yet undiscovered.

One of her grandmother’s recipe books is out there somewhere, including instructions for chicken soup with barley, which is among Rockmacher’s favorite childhood memories.

“I’m at a good starting point,” Rockmacher said.

DillyBean: 133 Jay St. Open Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 10 to noon on Sunday. To order, call 518-894-7911 or find them on Facebook.

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, News, Schenectady County

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