Whether you live in New York City or are planning to visit, one of the most enjoyable things about this great metropolis is the 30,000+ restaurants from which to choose. And in this most diverse city on the planet, there are many more cuisines to consider than just pizza, Chinese, Italian, French, Korean, or even a Jewish deli. How about some bonafide Israeli food, created and prepared by Israeli chefs who now call New York home?
It should come as no surprise that The Big Apple offers some great Israeli dining establishments. In this city of 8.5 million residents, it is estimated that 1.1 million are Jewish. That’s twice the number of Jews who reside in Jerusalem (546,000), or Tel Aviv (401,000). Of course, Israel is a small country of just 6.8 million people, so the Jewish population is a very high percentage of the total. In the U.S. there are just 5.7 million people who consider themselves Jewish, and this is in a country of 325 million.
So, what exactly is Israeli food? Without question, it includes such staples as hummus, pita bread and falafel, though the latter is claimed as a traditional food by many Middle Eastern nationalities. Other distinctly Israeli foods include tahini, eggplant (often called Aubergine in recipes and on menus), as well as Lechem bread, meatballs with sweet potatoes, and pearl couscous. Israeli cuisine is comprised of local dishes as well as those that immigrants brought back to the country from the Diaspora. There is little meat in the Israeli diet beyond some lamb and maybe occasional beef, but plenty of fresh, wonderful seafood from the adjacent Mediterranean.
Here are some popular Israeli restaurants worth visiting in New York, whether you are a resident or visitor:
Nur describes its menu as “Modern Middle Eastern Cuisine”, with clear attention to many Israeli and Jewish foods. Chef Meir Adoni has created dishes that encourage sharing, and the upscale environment lends itself to a fine dining experience. The extensive and unique menu includes smoked eggplant carpaccio with feta, tahini, dates and pistachios; grilled lamb kabobs in pita; as well as Jaffa souvlaki of seared sea bass and calamari with tahini cream and Middle Eastern spices. Open for dinner daily; weekend brunch also served. Yelp rated 4-stars.
Nur, 34 E. 20th (between Broadway & Park Ave. S.) in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan. (212) 505-3420, www.nurnyc.com.
212 Chairs Café
This laid-back, casual restaurant serves authentic Israeli cuisine for breakfast (all-day), lunch, dinner, plus weekend brunch. Striving to create a place where those who miss Israel want to come, or for those who want to feel like they are actually there, 12 Chairs features pita, tahini, labneh cheese, and boutique wines that are all directly imported from Israel. Popular dishes include their Israeli breakfast, chicken schnitzel, Israeli guacamole with pita, stuffed cabbage, salads, hummus and a great variety of sandwiches. Yelp rated 4-stars.
12 Chairs Café, in SOHO at 56 Macdougal St., (212) 254-8640, and in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at 342 Wythe Ave at the corner of 2nd (347) 227-7077, www.12chairscafe.com.
While Nish Nush calls themselves a Mediterranean Vegetarian restaurant, their menu could easily be found in a café in Tel Aviv. The casual counter-service spot offers a great menu chock full of pita sandwiches, salads, platters and soups. A wide array of add-ons include hummus, falafel, eggplant, tahini, roasted beets, cauliflower, chickpeas, and so much more. Yelp rated 4.5-stars.
Nish Nush, 88 Reade St. (corner of Church St.) in Tribeca, (212) 964-1318, and at 41 John St., (between Nassau & Dutch streets) in the Fulton/Seaport neighborhood, (212) 577-6474. nishnushnyc.com.
Miznon’s first location opened in 2011 in Tel Aviv, with subsequent locations including Paris, Vienna, Melbourne and New York. With the goal of taking each city’s street food vibe and expressing it in a pita, or not, Miznon is certainly a one-of-a-kind dining spot. While casual in design, both locations accept reservations for the most highly coveted tables. The incredibly creative menu ranges from vegetarian pitas with tahini or sweet potato, they also have falafel burgers twice weekly. Or try one of their delectable lamb or beef pitas. For the non-pita crowd, there are roasted burnt beets, a bag of green beans and their “world-famous” baby cauliflower. The dinner menu expands to offer a beef and roots stew, lamb kabobs, and a skillet cooked fish in tomato sauce. Yelp-rated 4-stars.
Miznon, at Chelsea Market, 435 W. 15th (between 9th & 10th avenues), and at 161 W. 72nd St. on the Upper West Side (between Columbus & Amsterdam Avenues). (646) 490-5871 for both locations. www.miznonnyc.com.
I’ll let Miriam describe themselves since they clearly do it best. “At Miriam Restaurant, the cuisine is uniquely, distinctly Israeli”. The upscale menu combines the true world of dishes that have been brought to Israel by Jews who arrived from around the globe, so they have characteristics that are unlike from any specific country or region. Chef Shrim Kaddaif’s starters include house-made hummus, chickpea or eggplant salad, falafel or meatballs with Labaneh cheese. Main dishes range from vegetarian couscous to lamb shawarma and seeded red snapper. Wine choices include many imported from Israel. Daily brunch and dinner are available. Yelp rated 4-stars.
Miriam, 79 5th (corner of Prospect Place), in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, (718) 622-2250. www.miriamrestaurant.com.
Tel Aviv-trained chef Shai Zvibak has developed an incredible menu of Israeli/Mediterranean foods that include house-made hummus, stuffed grape leaves and handmade meatballs served as tapas. The falafel platter and Spanish octopus are two of the appetizer favorites, with salads and grain bowls also available. Entrees range from shakshuka (poached eggs in a tomato sauce with chili peppers and onion), chicken with apricots, Mom’s schnitzel and Israeli salmon. Local 92 is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., so it’s great for lunch dinner and late-night dining. Yelp rated 4-stars.
Local 92, 92 2nd (between 5th & 6th streets) in the East Village. (212) 432-2232. www.local92nyc.com.
Meaning “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew (also in Arabic and ancient Aramaic), Bustan is the creation of owner Tuvia Feldman, who strives to bring the hospitality and diverse cuisine of Israel to New York. Eggplant carpaccio, Israeli salad and Taboon roasted cauliflower are three of Bustan’s most popular appetizers, but the roasted octopus may just catch your attention, too. House-made taboon bread is a popular “for the table” plate and includes hummus, falafel, chickpeas and Greek yogurt. Main courses range from lamb kabobs to house-made Moroccan couscous, as well as Branzini and a superb filet mignon. Bustan has a select wine list which includes offerings from the kosher Golan Heights Winery in Galilee. Yelp rated 4-stars.
Bustan, 487 Amsterdam Ave. (between 83rd & 84th streets), on the Upper West Side. (212) 595-5050. bustannyc.com.