By Nicholas Belzer
Sometimes you just need to keep it simple. On a Thursday evening, I came home to a salmon steak marinating in a bowl of olive oil and red wine, bound by fresh sprigs of rosemary; bathed in rock salt. After half an hour broiling in a broken oven, that fish is cooked, enjoyed, and all is well. But is it?
It is, after all, a Thursday evening, my liver is only mostly unsalvageable, and the bottle beckons. I have dined and now must snack, wherefore I sip (this is how I speak when my blood alcohol content approaches a civilized level – are we seeing the problem here?).
There is a gem downtown called Shoshana, which shares a wall with a local Chabad drinking association/front. Shoshana is what I call a bar hidden in plain sight: with windows positioned at the base of Shammai street, right in the smack of the city, it is accessible from a peaceful courtyard, just barely removed from the main streets, and sits above street level, overlooking the riffraff.
But the rabble does make its way in, of course. After all, this is an establishment that adorns its walls with large black and white portraits of Bob Dylan in sunglasses, silhouettes of Zeppelin, famous photographs of The Beatles, and posters that read “London’s Lyceum Ballroom Presents Harrison & Marley”. The menu displays a Rorschach inspired Bob Marley likeness on every page – this is something like the logo of the place. And still the tone is cozy, down to earth and anchored in forest greens and strong browns with black accents. More importantly, the crowd is by and large cool, and not hippie. Most importantly, they are one of three bars in Jerusalem with Sam Adams on tap, which is, obviously, itself the third greatest American brew after Yuengling and Rolling Rock.
But just as the alcohol list is extensive, the menu itself is specialized: choose fries, or chicken nuggets, or fries and chicken nuggets. Despite some overlap between the three specialty dishes, do not be fooled – the munchies are good. I like a place where the chef doesn’t put on any airs. These ain’t pommes de frites. They are salty, greasy, crunchy, 15 shekel (not French) fries, accompanied by three dips: mayonnaise, ketchup, and an orange freckled molasses. Possibly a sweet and sour sauce. This Israeli sensibility becomes more forgivable as happy hour draws on, which is to say until 9pm. Fries, chicken nuggets and beer, these are staples of any bar, sure. But here, they are the foundation of a grease and booze swilled atmosphere.
By the smokes dispenser a postcard rack is mounted on the wall, featuring postcards with any number of disparate themes, from Christina Aguilera to Effy the lost cat. Patrons of the bar seem to take these at will and fold them into their pockets. I never saw them pay for the postcards; then again, I never saw them sober. As the soundtrack of the 70’s blast on at a respectable volume, an 18 year old Brazilian Birthrighter has stumbled in our humble corner of town. Immediately, the bartender makes clear the minimum age requirements of the place, 20 for gals, 22 for gents, and the crestfallen Brazilian saunters on ,despite the protests of two or three sympathetic revelers.
I’ve heard good things about this bar in the past, but was hesitant to drink at a bar with such a fruity name. It’s true, and because of this I wasted a good amount of time at many unspectacular pubs in the area, at pubs coming off as poseurs, contrived and desperate for a niche. What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. Shoshana, a bar called rose, is exactly that post-meal, pre-game venue, where frequently dispensed shots of arak complement an epic Sultans of Swing guitar solo to fuel a staring contest with Rorschach Bob Marley. The eats are simple, and incredibly satisfying. And though the Sam Adams tap has been replaced by a Guinness one (the Boston lager has gone the way of Arrested Development), this stead represents a haven at week’s end, not to reflect or reminisce, but to regress, in the soft light and wicked tunes of a still charming nook of downtown Jerusalem.