Phil Rosenthal Is Opening a Diner Named After His Jewish Parents – Kveller
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Phil Rosenthal Is Opening a Diner Named After His Jewish Parents

The Netflix star is hoping to keep diner culture alive with Max and Helen's.


Via Netflix

Phil Rosenthal is keeping busy. The seventh season of his addictively delicious show “Somebody Feed Phil” is premiering on Netflix today, and it’s the longest one to date, with eight appetizing new episodes. Later this month he’ll be publishing his first children’s book, “Just Try It,” which he co-wrote with his daughter Lily Rosenthal.

And this week, Rosenthal also announced that he’s about to open his first restaurant — more specifically, a diner called Max and Helen’s, which viewers of his show know are the names of his late, great Jewish parents, whose memory he keeps alive in every episode by asking a comedian to tell a joke for Max.

“It’s been a passionate dream of mine for a long time,” Rosenthal, a New York native and frequenter of diners, told Kveller in an interview this week. The Los Angeles diner will open in the location of the former Le Petit Greek, a 35-year-old Greek restaurant that closed this past December, in the neighborhood of Larchmont Village, where both Rosenthal and the future chef of Max and Helen’s, the James Beard Award-winning Nancy Silverton, reside.

Silverton and Rosenthal go way back — she was in the second episode of “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having,” the PBS precursor to his Netflix hit show, and in the second season of “Somebody Feed Phil,” she dined with Rosenthal at Peter Luger steak house in New York.

“I love my little neighborhood in Los Angeles,” Rosenthal shared, “and I don’t want to see it gentrify completely. I want to have something old school. I believe that diners are really important in our world. Because they’re the centers of the community and they’re kind of disappearing. I think it’s something to be preserved. Plus, I love them.”

Rosenthal shared that “Helen’s matzah ball soup” will be on the menu, the same soup appreciated and enjoyed by the likes of French chef Daniel Boulud, as well as “Max’s fluffy eggs,” referring to the question Max asked every morning that made it onto the epigraph of his grave: “Are my eggs fluffy?”

Max and Helen in their home, eating Helen’s chicken soup with Phil and Daniel Boulud (via Netflix)

It’s the perfect first restaurant for Rosenthal, whose show is all about the connection between food and community — he always makes sure to marry the highbrow and the lowbrow, feature accessible yet delicious foods alongside the more fancy and tony places, and find the places that really give a feel for what local communities are like.

There’s even a little element of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of healing the world, in his attempt to keep diner culture alive, as more and more diners and classic Jewish delis are closing across the U.S. Rosenthal told Eater that he thinks the country might be a better place “if we had more of these democratic centers of our communities (and I mean democratic with a small D), a place that is affordable to everyone and the coffee isn’t $6, you can sit and chat with your neighbors and get to know them.”

Diners are indeed all about community and family — I know whenever I move to or visit a new place, I love to find the best local diner — and there’s nothing quite like the gossip you might hear at the counter while warming your hands with a coffee refill in a perfectly sized porcelain mug. There’s no better place to cure a heartbreak, or to fall into a conversation with a stranger at the table behind you. And there’s nothing like knowing that you will always find that safe comfort food when you need it on the menu — like a fluffy egg or a hearty soup.

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