Jun 25, 2012

Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv

Cafe Zorik, Milano Square ( 4 Yehuda Maccabi Street) North Tel Aviv

Indoor/Shaded area:
Highchair availability: Yes
Price: Moderate
Kosher: Not Kosher

North Tel Aviv is babytown. Literally. At any given time of day, you'll either see parents pushing strollers, kids coming to and from gan and school, mitaplot pushing those massive baby cages on wheels (it's called a lul) and all sorts of assorted other forms of baby transportation (smart trikes, baby bjorns, leashes, what have you). As you might imagine, there's quite a need for coffee and a bite for these parents who spend a lot of their day transporting baby around in one form or another. As such, there's no shortage of cafes available to the caffeine-worthy sleep deprived. A very popular haunt for parents with little ones is Cafe Zorik, situated right on Kikar Milano at the very beginning of Yehuda Maccabi Street, visible from Ibn Gvirol. 

The cafe itself has a very young, lounge-feel to it; great for those of us baby-movers wishing to reclaim what feels like a distant youth. An eclectic mix of tables, high bar tables with stools, vintage couches and even a wood carved "waiting bench" just outside the cafe furnish the joint. The walls are decorated with a series of old ads, some artwork, mirrors and a computer circa 1998 waiting for anyone wishing to check their hotmail account. Pre-parenthood, we frequented this place a lot because it's like a leafy garden oasis in the middle of the cement desert known as Tel Aviv. Zorik boasts a warm, kibbutz-style atmosphere, water bowls for your dog, treats and smiles for the kids and great coffee for everyone else, giving it a really trendy feel without being pretentious, all at once. 

On my most recent visit there I was meeting with an old friend whom I hadn't caught up with in ages. I entered with my stroller and though it was a little bit of a climb around, it wasn't anything the staff wasn't used to, considering the three other parents with strollers and babies of varying ages sitting right nearby. The staff immediately asked if we needed coffee (duh) and brought water and glasses as well, which often is NOT a given in Israel - the amount of times I have found myself asking for water in a restaurant is ridiculous, but makes sense in a drought stricken region, where water is equivalent to gold and the base water level of Lake Kinneret is often lowered so we don't feel as bad about ourselves. Politics aside, I was impressed with their immediate attention to detail. My son remained asleep throughout the entire experience, angel that he is, so we went about getting ourselves some breakfast, at 2pm. I was still breastfeeding at the time and had to be careful about a few things, such as runny yolks in my eggs, so when they arrived like that, the staff was more than happy to take them back and redo them "kmo shetsarich" (as required) without a fuss. I also was avoiding dairy the time so as not to give my little prince any other gas issues, so the staff happily brought me an extra side of avocado and tuna at my request rather than than the cheeses that usually accompany the breakfast deal. I say this with the utmost seriousness - any place that's willing to alter their breakfast menu on request is solid. Many places won't, which is really a thorn in the side of people who have grown up understanding the service theory of "the customer is always right." I don't always have to be right; I just want what I ask for. If its on the menu and in the kitchen anyway, there's no godly reason why they can't serve it, unless they can't be bothered, which is their right but equally asserts my right to choose not to eat there. In short, Zorik is not one of these lazy places at all, and should be acknowledged and praised for it highly.

Foodwise as a whole, Zorik offers lots of traditional Tel Aviv treats, like an excellent breakfast, mini sandwiches, gorgeous salads, a lovely vegetarian lasagne, fresh juices and for those with a real appetite, an excellent root vegetable and beef goulash, so I have been told by my husband. Their coffee is fantastic and fresh and they have a wide range of delicious cakes and baked goods on offer I am yet to try.  Though a little bit of maze, the staff is more than happy to help you get your stroller through or to bring you a highchair if need be. They will also find your little one ultimately charming as they cry for a breastfeed (not an uncommon sight there) or ask for some shoko and cheese toast. All in all, its a real Tel Aviv gem for a drink or meal, but not the "roomiest" of places if you're coming with several adults or children. Note that it gets really, really busy Friday and Saturday so perhaps go during the week for a more relaxed atmosphere, but no matter what, you'll have a enjoyable time all the same.

Jun 14, 2012

You Know You're In Israel When...

By: Jessica Hochstadt, MS

In 2004, Yoni Bloch released his single “Makir Oto”, “I Know Him”. The song essentially discusses how everyone knows everyone in Israel. This song could just as easily be the Israeli anthem as “Ha Tikva”. (Well, maybe not just as easily. Let me elaborate.)

I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for seven and a half years. I walked to work and school every day. I rarely, if ever, walked by anyone I knew en route to my destinations. When I did, it was worthy of a phone call home. “Mom! Guess who I just ran into? You’ll never believe it! John! You remember. John? The guy who served the drinks at Grandma Susie’s birthday party? No? The one with the salt-and-pepper hair? He had a tattoo? No? Well, I ran into him. He says hi.” 

You would think that having lived in a place for so many years, I would run into people more often, and people who actually mattered in my life. Running into friends on the streets was so rare, that I stopped wearing make-up when I went to the convenience store for a soda. That quickly changed once I got to Israel. 

Israel is a small country. And Israel is a unique country. The same woman who pushes you in line will just as easily ask you to join her family for Shabbat dinner… during the same argument. Everyone essentially acts like family. And in families, people know each other. Such is the case for Israel. 

In Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv, everyone knows everyone. You can’t walk down the street without watching people running into friends, or you yourself running into someone! At first this sounds marvelous! Quaint, even! But the fact that everyone knows everyone is both a blessing and a curse. 

When knowing everyone is a blessing: 

- You are having a bad day and in the Old City you bump into your best friend’s mom, who used to give you sliced oranges after soccer games. What is she doing here? Doesn’t matter. You just went from ready to drink into oblivion, to reminiscing about high school and throwing up after soccer games. Instant good mood! 

- You’ve been looking for a job in America for months. There just aren’t any. So you take a stab at your luck in Israel. It would seem there are no jobs here too. But the second you tell your friend you are searching, she sends your resume to at least 8 family friends, and you have an interview by the end of the day. Achla! 

- When you were 21 years old and in Israel for the summer, you made out with a very handsome boy. He was tall, had blue eyes, and the body of a fire-fighter. Five years later, you walk into a bar, innocently looking for a drink and a few laughs. Funny enough, your old flame is sitting on the barstool next to you. Well that was easy. 

Look who I ran into! Best "soccer mom" ever! This made
my day!

When knowing everyone is a curse: 

- You go to a bar alone, because you are expecting to meet up with a friend there. You friend is going to be a few minutes late, and tells you to go ahead and order a drink while you wait. Now you’re drinking at the bar alone, and in comes the boy whose home you left at 5 AM this morning, before walk-of-shaming it back to your place. Who knew you’d see him again? Oops. 

- Because this is Israel, and it’s Shabbat, you decide to extend an invitation to anyone who needs a meal. Weirdos show up. You figure, that’s okay, I’ll only have to see them this one night. Not so, my friend. From now on, you will see these people everywhere- the shuk, the bars, heck, even Masada. Because it’s Israel. And they’ll ask you when the next Shabbat dinner is, every time.

- You make a new friend who after some conversation realizes that he knows your ex-boyfriend. The friend proceeds to tell you all about your ex-boyfriends current state of affairs and how well he is doing and how beautiful his new girlfriend is and how he is succeeding in school and career. I could wring your neck, new friend! Shut! Up!

- You finally sealed the deal with the boy you’ve waited five years to be with, after accidentally running into him at a bar (see above). You haven’t spoken since your one night of passion, but you see him everywhere. Funny enough… he lives across the street from you.  

A special moment is captured here. I awkwardly dance away
as a previous lover I ran into hits on a beautiful girl.
Incredibly uncomfortable!

I wish I could say that walking down the streets of Tel Aviv feels like walking into the bar Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.” To be honest, it’s usually pleasant. It’s wonderful to see people bumping into one another, hugging one another, and then walking away with vibrant smiles. Even though I don’t know either of the parties, I find myself in a better mood when I can witness these transactions! 

But all too often, knowing everyone turns out to be a mess. Know this, Israelis and travelers… be prepared. Hoping not to see your ex? Oh, you’ll see him. Just got into a fight with your friend? She’ll be at the same party as you tonight. So put on your best smile. Make sure you look stunning. And remember, you’ll run into someone. Why? Because you’re in Israel. 

Jun 13, 2012

Introducing Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv

A year ago to the day, I became a mom to a beautiful bouncing baby boy. For some, this experience means, at least for the first month, house arrest. I'm not quite the "staying in" sort, so after being released from hospital on a Thursday, I found myself out with family and the baby carriage Friday morning for breakfast on Dizengoff. At the tender age of two weeks he was breastfeeding happily while I chowed down on Fu Sushi (after what felt like an interminable wait) and his first foray into solid food included scrambled eggs from Benedict. What can I say; we're proud Tel Avivians who don't see life with baby as a reason to give up on the feast of excellence the streets of the Hebrew City have to offer.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce a new column called "Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv" to the wide-ranging TasteTLV portfolio of reviews. It will look at the best (and perhaps "lesser than") places to eat out with your child in Tel Aviv. It will have a rating key which includes important facts for hungry mothers with strollers in tow, such as access, high chair availability, noise, space and sound issues, food appropriateness, service recommendations and more. You make a lot of compromises when you become a parent; you at least deserve a decent feed once in a while.

Looking forward to sharing a good meal with you,

Jamie Zimmer

Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv 

Reviva and Celia, Yoo Buildings, Tel Aviv

Service: 5 strollers + ( )
Food: 5 strollers ()
Stroller Access: 4 strollers (
Noise Factor: 3 strollers ()
Shade/Indoor: Yes
Highchair availability: Yes
Price: Moderate to expensive

Friday morning is a sweet blessing for parents. For those with kids over the age of three, its a few quiet hours in which they can enjoy each other, or friends, or have the headspace and hands to get everything that needs to be done, done before the kids get home from school. For parents with babies, its a nice time to relax together and, if you're like us, enjoy a nice breakfast out. A few weeks ago we (my husband, one year old son and I) decided to do exactly that together with family (his sister, her husband and their youngest, who is 9 months old). A motley crew in some regards, but not entirely impossible to serve. They were coming in from Ramat Aviv Gimmel, over the river, and we're in Kikar Milano, so the parking issue was in play but we found a compromise by meeting at the Yoo Buildings, which boasts a lovely cafe in their shopping complex called Reviva and Celia. They have another branch on Rechov Ha'Arba'a near the cinematheque in Tel Aviv, with the original bakery in Ramat Hasharon having risen to superstar status after Reviva's pastry appeared on MasterChef. In short, we knew we would be in for a nice meal. 

So upon the Yoo Buildings we descended; four adults and two babies in strollers. We were immediately welcomed up the ramp into the restaurant and asked if we needed high chairs, if we wanted to be indoors or under the shaded outdoor area, and if we had anyone else joining us. We were shown to the biggest table indoors which later sat another group with a baby as well, with enough space for us all to eat in peace but coo at each others children from a socially acceptable distance.  We ordered the Israeli breakfast between my husband and I, with an extra serve of scrambled eggs and bread for the babies. My sister in law had the healthy breakfast and her husband the muesli with fruit and yogurt. All beautifully presented, packaged and brought in good time with a smile. And of course, delicious. The kids thought so too. My son had already eaten breakfast at his usual hour of 6.30am but was, as usual, happy for more. My niece chewed hungrily on fresh baked bread while my offspring shoved the eggs into his mouth at lightning speed. When my sister in law and I both pulled out pureed fruit snacks for the kids, the management offered us spoons to feed them with, rather than making a fuss about bringing outside provisions that some places tend to do. Ten thumbs up for that.

Still, that isn't the kicker of why this place is excellent. Food, service, accessibility - some of the best I've ever seen. They made room for our strollers without complaint, asked if we were having a nice morning, and couldn't get over how cute the kids were holding hands in their high chairs. Here comes the best part, though; my son, after literally filling himself to maximum capacity, vomited all over the high chair and floor, conveniently missing my plate but sadly catching my handbag and my sister in law's shoes. Without missing a beat, the staff brought us napkins and a cloth to clean it up, helped clean it up ( even though its something you never, ever want someone else to do) asked if he was ok and then carried on like we were still their favorite customers. My son, now happily relieved of indigestion, reached for the cheese. The staff laughed and brought me a glass of water. 

If I ever build up the character to show my face there again, we'll certainly be back. 

Jun 5, 2012

You Know You're In Israel When...

By: Jessica Hochstadt, MS

I have already written about the joys of looking at Israeli men. Like I said, they are just a pleasure. Israeli parents everywhere, you did something right- mazal tov. However, somewhere between the looks and the speech function, something went terribly wrong. Let me paint a picture for you.
It’s Sunday night and you decide to go for a relaxing drink with friends. At the bar, you spot him… or he spots you… it’s unclear because let’s be honest, you’ve been looking at him all night, and he can’t help but pick up on the group of English speakers drinking loudly in the corner. So, you’ve seen one another. He approaches you like a regular “Rico Suave.” Clearly he’s done this before, and that’s okay.
He gets nice and close, because Israelis have no concept of personal space. But you don’t mind at all, not for this guy. He opens his mouth. You know whatever he says is going to sound like melted chocolate. It has to, right? I mean, he has that cute accent and he’s too pretty to not impress you. So here it is, ladies. Here’s the line that your Israeli stud opens with, accent and all: “Your night is to the face, yes?”
Pause. “To the face.” Your expression goes from giddy, to confused, to offended, and back to confused.

He goes in for the line....

...and it backfires completely!

For those of you who don’t speak Hebrew, “to the face” is a literal translation of the phrase “la panim”, which loosely translates into “a great time”. Your man was basically asking you if you were having a good time. If you weren’t, sit back and enjoy, ladies, because the lines get better.
The pick-up lines here in Israel always take me by surprise. They are funny and distracting. The poor fellow is just trying to get your digits, but you can’t quite seem to get passed his attempts at poorly translated expressions. Here are some pick-up lines that have made it to my blushing ears in Israel. Some have worked, others have been terrible failures.

(For maximum pleasure, please read the following statements with a thick Israeli accent.)

  • “Your body is like a coke bottle.”  This fine gentlemen then proceeded to show me with hand-gestures how my body and a coke bottle are so similar. No one wants to be that curvy. Move it, brother.
  • “Give me your number and I’ll call you. But I can only call you around 3 AM because I’m in a little relationship and I don’t want my girlfriend to know.” Let’s make a deal. I’ll give you my number, you give me your girlfriend’s number. Nope. 
  • “Girl, you are like the Mediterranean. So beautiful… and so deep.” Good sir, you are like the Charles River. So full of sh*t, and probably swimming with diseases. No chance.
  • Boy: “I feel lucky. Can I have your number?” Me: “But you don’t know my name.” Boy: “Obviously it comes with the number.” Clever. Here is my number. Use it wisely.
  • “I learned how to read palms in India. Your palm says that you are like fire on the inside, and water on the outside.” Maybe you would understand my palm better if it hit you in the face? Sorry, pal.
  • “When you kiss the mezuzah… this kills me.” I have to admit, this kills me. I’m blushing just writing this. Win.
  • Boy: “Come to my bar.” Me: “I don’t want to come to your bar.” Boy: “Come to my bar.” Me: “Okay, I’ll come to your bar.” What can I say? He’s persistent. Well played.
  • “Baby, touch my muscles… I’m in the army.” Baby, that means you are actually still a baby! Go back to mama.
  • “I am a human weapon and expert in krav maga.” Great, I would love a weapon right about now. Leave me alone.
  • Boy: “You know what I like about you? Your wrinkles.” Me: “My what!?” Boy: “Your frinkles.” Me: “My what?” Boy: “Your freckles.” Me: “Get away.”

Mr. Frinkles in action.
Notice how my head it turned away as I prepare to run. 
Ladies, these lines are extremes. Normally you will get a “Do you want to grab a drink with me?” But if you’re lucky enough to hear one of these gems, lighten up. Israelis’ English is far better than your Hebrew. And let’s be honest, these guys are just trying to show you some love. Help them out because it’s not every day someone will compare you to a large ocean. And when you hear these lines, regardless of whether or not they are successful, remember… you’re in Israel. Enjoy.

Jun 3, 2012

You Know You're In Israel When...

By: Jessica Hochstadt, MS

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this time to give a virtual standing ovation to the show stoppers here in Israel. The people who make us smile, just by looking at us. The ones who could say anything and make us blush. The ones who break our hearts left and right, and we just feel lucky to have known them. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate Israeli men (and I know you would like to also), whose thick accents make us giggle, and whose smoking bodies make us melt. Gentlemen, consider this a formal round of applause.

Hopefully without sounding too crazy, I’ll admit that I can spend an entire day looking at Israeli men the way that art critics spend their days in museums. They look sexy while they argue over cab fares from the sidewalk. They look sexy while they order another round of Goldstar. And they can’t help it, but even when they cut in front of you in line to get on the bus... they look sexy.

The beach is an inherently sexy place. Men and women soak up the sun while beads of sweat roll down their almost naked bodies. Musicians play the guitar, wearing next to nothing. Athletes play volleyball, wearing next to nothing. And the lifeguards yell at you from their thrones, wearing next to nothing. What can possibly ruin this image?

A discreet shot of men in their naughties. 
One thing, my friends, and one thing only: underwear. I don’t know why they do it, but Israeli men seem to think that underwear is a sufficient covering for the beach. In theory I guess it makes sense; they cover the same regions, and very little is actually covered at the beach anyway. So, why not? I’ll tell you why not.

Firstly, boxer briefs and swim trunks are just not the same. Wearing underwear to the beach is like wearing sneakers with a ball gown-- it’s obvious you forgot something. The beach, although incredibly casual, does have a dress code. That dress code calls for beachwear! Also, bathing suit material is slightly thicker than underwear material and clings to the body in a more structured way. Underwear material not only makes it look like you just relieved yourself in your pants, but it throws whatever was left to the imagination out the window. We see it all, gents. And in some cases, our imaginations were more enjoyable. Don’t ruin our fantasies. Finally, swim trunks just make men more approachable. Do you want us to talk to you or not?

I have traveled to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Miami Beach, Bahia, Tel Aviv. The underwear phenomenon is something that only surfaced in the waves of the Mediterranean. I have asked other ladies to elaborate on their thoughts regarding this fad. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird?

No. I am not alone in this. There are social constructs that we must keep in mind. Society decided that one piece of clothing is meant to protect you from your jeans. The other is to protect you against jellyfish and UV rays. (The latter point also has me concerned about your general health, boys.) While you can wear a bathing suit as underwear, reversing the roles if far less appropriate.

Israeli men, you are beautiful. Close to nothing can ruin this beauty. But one thing always will- wearing your underwear on the beach. Cover up, boys. And ladies, if all else fails, at least consider the situation and remember the next time you see a man in his undies on the sand... at least you know you’re in Israel.

There's one of them out there somewhere...