Nov 17, 2010

Tel Aviv for Veggies

A Tribute to my Vegetarian Friends in the White City

By Laura Goldstein 

   Many of my friends here in Tel Aviv are vegetarians and I have dedicated this blog post to them as a pursuit of tasty meat-free meals. Fortunately it has not proven hard to find great veggie food in this city. This may be due to the popularity of vegetarianism in Israel. The European Vegetarian Union sites a study by the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2001 that concluded that a whopping 8.5% of Israelis are vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants also cater to the religious crowd as well because they are usually kosher by default. I myself am not a vegetarian or nor do I strictly keep kosher but I appreciate good meatless meals as they usually leave me feeling healthy and refreshed. 

     The first place I looked to find some veggie places was on the Taste TLV website. The strictly vegetarian restaurants listed there are Café Birnbaum and Buddha Burger, which is vegan. I have heard wonderful things about both places from vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

      There are many other vegetarian options available in Tel Aviv as well. In the mood for soup, I made my way to Soupizza (formerly Hamarakiya) at 56 Yehuda HaLevi. Soupizza is vegetarian and, as the name suggests, specializes in soup and Italian fare. It is a small restaurant with classic round tables topped with checkered tableclothes and simply decorated with Italian accents. Soupizza offers a host of mouthwatering soups everyday, around 4 in the summer months and 6-8 different soups during the winter. They also offer salad, pasta, and pizza fresh from the oven.

Pea Soup at Soupizza
     When I made a visit, the soups of the day included minestrone, pumpkin, pea, and tomato. Yearning for my mom’s comforting concoction, I opted for the pea soup. The soup was just what I needed, spiced right and full of tender chucks of carrot. I also enjoyed the breadstick fresh from the oven that comes with every order of soup. As the weather gets colder, I will absolutely be returning to Soupizza to get some of their warm and delicious soup. I would also recommend using their delivery service and getting the soup or pizza delivered directly to your place!

     Another great place with vegetarian options is a little place in Florentine called Cafe Kasbah. It is situated just off of Vital Street, the hub of nightlife in the neighborhood, at 3 Florentine. I chose to sit on the beautiful porch covered in greenery and bathed in soft sunlight. Cafe Kasbah is not exclusively vegetarian but they offer an array of veggie friendly dishes. The vegetarian dishes include tofu and sweet potato curry, fried rice with tofu and vegetables, and various other salads and sides including sweet potato fries (yum!) You can also substitute tofu in many of the chicken dishes.
Cafe Kasbah's Quinoa Salad

     Recently I have had an obsession with quinoa, a couscous like staple originally from the Andes, so I was overjoyed to see quinoa salad on the menu. My love of quinoa started this summer with a recipe for corn and quinoa salad from Lucie Snodgrass’s cookbook that utilizes local ingredients from my home state called Dishing Up Maryland. I made that salad so much that my family nearly got quinoa-ed out.

The Porch at Cafe Kasbah
     The quinoa salad at Cafe Kasbah had a similar flavor to the Maryland recipe and it satisfied my long going craving. The salad is made of quinoa in combination with various veggies, raisins, dried cranberries, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. It was delectable with a subtle acidity, sweetness from the dried berries, and a good crunch from the cucumbers and seeds.
     All of the salads come with warm bread, oil and vinegar, and pesto on the side. The bread was tender and beautifully soaked up the oil in the pesto. All in all Kasbah is a great place to have a vegetarian meal and enjoy the funky atmosphere of the Florentine neighborhood.

     So, my veggie friends, and friends with vegetarian tendencies, Soupizza and Cafe Kasbah are just two out of a wide range of options for meat-free food. For other vegetarian and vegan restaurants go to Veg Tel Aviv, where they list everything from radical leftist vegan collectives to traditional Indian buffets.

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