BROOKLINE — For a large part of the Jewish community in Greater Boston, the name Rami is synonymous with falafel.
Rami is Rami Cohen, 57, who opened Rami’s restaurant in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner in 1990. The third generation to offer the Middle Eastern fried chickpea fritters, Cohen moved to Las Vegas a decade ago, where he went into the restaurant business again. But recently he sold that spot, called Sababa, a kosher Mediterranean grill, to return here. Now the original Rami is coming home to help his son stake his own claim in the food world. As the falafel place celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, Cohen’s son, Haim, just opened Pure Cold Press, a sleek, modern juice bar and salad cafe next door.
“I know falafel. I don’t know juice,” says the elder Cohen, admiring the walls of reclaimed wood, birdcage light fixtures, and green seats in the new place. The stylish decor is a far cry from the modest Rami’s, where spice-yellow painted walls and white floor tiles haven’t changed in 15 years. Neither has the falafel recipe that Cohen brought from Jerusalem, where his father and grandfather had restaurants. “We have a very good recipe,” he says.
Cohen originally moved from Israel to Framingham to help his brother with a jewelry business. One of his brother’s customers was a landlord on Harvard Street and Cohen agreed to rent the space without even seeing it. “I was booming from the beginning,” he says. “Initially, I was open on Saturdays [the Jewish Sabbath]. One day some of the religious Jews in the neighborhood said I should make it kosher.” Now there’s strict rabbinical supervision over the food preparation. “That’s how we have our niche,” he says.
In 2005, Cohen followed his brother out to Vegas, leaving Rami’s in the hands of then-19-year-old Haim. “The first three years, I didn’t care,” says the younger Cohen. “I partied. I had a lot of fun.” But Haim, who is often mistaken for his father, eventually got serious about the business. He set up a catering branch, serving turkey shawarma, chicken kebabs, and hummus at corporate functions for the Red Sox, Google, TripAdvisor, and movie sets.
Today, the father-son dynamic is, well, dynamic. “We bump heads a little bit,” says Haim. But when the space next door was available, Haim called his dad. “I said, ‘Go grab it,’ ” says Cohen.
The 35-seat Pure Cold Press is also kosher, as well as vegetarian (with vegan and gluten-free options). Diners can choose from a menu of 15 juices; one includes cucumber, kale, dandelion, apple, lemon, and ginger. There are almond and hemp milks, and a salad bar with offerings that range from Thai zucchini with red cabbage, to a Moroccan-spiced buckwheat mixture with preserved lemon and toasted almonds.
Rami Cohen believes the contemporary kosher concept will be just as successful as his traditional one. The new place will open at 7 a.m. because not much is available that time of day.
Haim describes Pure Cold Press as a cross between Canadian chain Jugo Juice and the salad chain Sweetgreen. Customers such as Rabbi Mendy Uminer can’t wait. Stopping by Rami’s for a turkey shawarma recently, he says he represents both types of customers Haim Cohen is trying to reach. “I’ve been on the Paleo diet for three years,” says the rabbi. “This blends the kosher community and the health community together.”
The relaxed vibe at Pure Cold Press, with its reggae music, also contrasts with Rami’s all-male staff, meat-heavy menu, and no-frills service. And the juices and salads are new territory, which meant hiring a chef. “We never worked with chefs before. Daddy was always the chef,” says the younger Cohen, who will spend most days at Pure Cold Press while his father mans his namesake spot.
Still, Haim is confident that he can follow his father’s path to success. “I grew up with falafel, but I think we can produce really cool vegetarian food. I’ve learned to be patient. I know what I’m doing is the right steps,” he says.
RAMI’S 324 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-738-3577, www.ramisboston.com
PURE COLD PRESS 326 Harvard St., Brookline. 508-965-7122, firstname.lastname@example.org.