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.

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