Jul 2, 2012

Baby Bites: Child friendly places to eat in Tel Aviv

Cafe Sonya
Simtat Almonit (off King George) Tel Aviv

Highchair availability: Yes
Price: Moderate
Kosher: Not Kosher

Ahhh, Summer in Tel Aviv. Whether you are a native or an import, it means one thing for sure: guests. There are always weddings and occasions in Israel over the Summer that means overseas guests will be around and about and of course, need to sample the local fare, but not in a falafel/shwarma sort of way - more in an ice coffee, limonana barad sort of way. For anyone who has made an international trek with a toddler on board, they deserve the very best, most relaxing experience possible. 

Now, everyone always wants to go to the landmark places; Dizengoff, Sheinkin, Shuk HaCarmel. That's fine. But when you need a bit relief from the sun and craziness, Cafe Sonya offers quite a treat. It's a beautiful, very family friendly little oasis just down the road from all of these ventures. Located on a tiny alleyway called Simtat Almonit, just off always-manic King George Street, Sonya offers a huge, shaded courtyard out the back of a small storefront where you can enjoy a wide range of goodies, with an excellent kids menu too. 

On my most recent visit a few weeks ago, I was with my son and had met with friends of mine visiting from Australia with their 1.5 year old in tow, or "Hurricane Tal" as they liked to refer to him. We had just been at the shuk and were looking for some cool, quiet, tasty relief. The staff immediately showed us to a table out the back with ample space for both strollers. Though it was a little difficult to move them around the stone covered courtyard, we could be sure they weren't going anywhere. They brought us menus in both Hebrew and English and again, like any good place should, brought water straight away. A particularly lovely element of Sonya is their kids menu, which is part of the larger menu and has some really cute drawings in it. Often, kids menus can mean staple crap - plain noodles, shnitzel (or nuggets) and chips - Sonya instead offers the kind of food you would rather see your kids eat -  sliced veggies and a hardboiled egg or omlet, toasted cheese sandwiches on whole wheat (which my little one devoured), sliced fruit, and shoko (chocolate milk) in those awesome plastic cups everyone had when they were little with the inbuilt straws. So three iced coffees, a toastie and a shoko later, we were set. 

I have the privilege of a kid who likes to sit on my lap and eat. Most likely just because he isn't quite walking yet so eating is the next most fun thing to do. My friends' son, however, IS already walking and is super curious and excited, so he was enjoying the garden and his shoko on-the-go. No problem; the staff helped him navigate his way around and gave him a napkin to wipe off his milk moustache. When the little explorer came and joined us for a cuddle and some toastie, we managed to have a little accident with the shoko. My son loved it, licking the sweet treat off his hands and sucking on his shirt. I was just drenched. The staff was great; they came to help clean me and my handbag off and even refilled the little monkey's shoko because he lost a bit of it. The way it should be. Truly family friendly with a smile!

Sonya's menu is diverse and delicious; their shakshuka, lasagne and salads, from my experience, are always fresh and beautifully presented, and they offer several kinds of each, as well as vast array of huge sandwiches, gorgeous cakes and a variety of other baked goods. They also have a great breakfast and strong, fresh coffee, all set upon a bright and colorful stage with stylish Tel-Aviv vintage architecture in the background. As a mum, this a quite a nice place to be able to eat and relax and take a quick breather from the madness of the city just outside of the shaded walls of the courtyard. Although not the most immediately accessible place for a bite, its a great "hidden secret" amongst the many little laneways and side streets that so often get missed by tourists in the grander scheme of enjoying the city for a few days. Highly recommended with or without guests or kids, but totally worthwhile for both as well.

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