The time has come. There’s been some rain, finally, most of it in the center, with just a quick downpour in Jerusalem, but word has it that the weekend is going to be one long rainfest — a welcome wettening that is, rather than the Hurricane Sandy-then-snowstorm nightmare in the northeastern stretch of the US.
With rain and wind comes the desire for home-cooked food, soups and slow-cooked dishes made with fresh vegetables and herbs, offering all sorts of cozy delights. You can go ahead and make them yourself, or, given the number of excellent restaurants and cafes offering home-cooked dishes, it may just be worth putting up the umbrella and walking over. What’s particularly delightful about this selection of home-cooking purveyors is that they are all family businesses of a sort, following the recipes and traditions of someone who knew about good food.
1) I have one friend who makes sure to eat at Azura in the Iraqi section of Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda at least once a week, particularly in the winter, when she can avail herself of a bowl full of rich, beet-enriched Kubbeh soup. True, there are many other hole-in-the-wall establishments that serve a decent bowl of Kubbeh soup, but most of the others don’t have 75-year-old Ezra Shreffler at the helm. Luckily, Shreffler passed his secrets down to his nine children, including one of his youngest sons who’s been hanging around the kitchen since he was in diapers. Be sure to try the hot chickpeas when you’re there, and don’t skimp on the salads.
Azura, 8 Mahaneh Yehuda Street in the Iraqi shuk, kosher
2) Levana Cohen knows she’s onto something at Adon Cohen — which translates into English as “Mr. Cohen” — her brand-new, home-style eatery, sandwiched between a driving-school storefront and car-stereo shop on a gravel-strewn lot in Jerusalem’s Talpiot industrial zone. But don’t be misled by the decidedly unglamorous setting. Named for her father, who once owned a small grocery store in this space, diners are served a dozen carefully spiced and diced salads before choosing from at least 10 types of beef and fish patties, chicken and slow-cooked meat stews. The food is meticulously prepared by Cohen, who was co-owner and chef at Pini Be’Hatzer, the former Jerusalem establishment, but now treats this like her home kitchen.
Adon Cohen, corner of Derech Hevron and Hatnufa Street, open Sunday-Thursday from 12-4, takeout available. Kosher, no rabbinate certification
3) For some lighter fare, it’s always worth stopping by Cafe Kadosh in downtown Jerusalem, where Itzik Kadosh and his pastry-chef wife, Keren, are carrying on the traditions set in place in 1967 by his father, Meir Kadosh. It’s tough to choose from the selection the pastries that bedeck the bakery showcase in this downtown hangout; be sure, however, to taste the croissants, which are made with butter, unlike some lesser offerings in this city. Even better is the croissant stuffed with poached eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce, served with an excellent cup of coffee. These Kadoshes know what they’re doing.
Cafe Kadosh, 6 Shlomzion Hamalka, Jerusalem, kosher
4) It may appear that family restaurants require menus heavy on traditional fare, particularly if you’re considering Shmulik Cohen, a Tel Aviv establishment known as much for its kishke, kreplach and kugel as for the grandkids now running the place. Opened in 1936 by Rivka Cohen, mother of Shmulik Cohen, it was then run by Shmulik and his wife, and later by their daughter Tzipi, and by now Molly and Tomer, the fourth generation of Cohens. There are plenty of old-timers chowing down on their fish patties and goulash, but the younger set frequent Shmulik Cohen as well, saving room at the end for slices of sweet noodle kugel.
Shmulik Cohen, 146 Herzl Street, Tel Aviv, glatt kosher
5) Daughters know best, or at least they do at Cafe Birnbaum, the beloved Nahalat Binyamin, Tel Aviv lunch spot known for its all-you-can-eat vegetarian salad bar. Reinvented by sisters Sima and Pnina after their father passed along the cafe he opened in 1962, the many salads made daily by Pnina are complex and textured — featuring beans, grains and seasonal vegetables served on thick, white plates. You can choose from a selection of vegetable pies as well, all included in the NIS 50-per-plate price, although drinks and desserts are extra. Settle in with your salads and then gaze at the cafe’s walls and ceiling, which are covered with art, much of it by well-known Israeli artists and Birnbaum customers Menashe Kadishman and Motty Golan, who created pieces of, and for, the sisters.
31 Nahalat Binyamin Street, Tel Aviv, kosher