Buzzy: the man who came to brunch

Brunch is not as much of an institution in Israel as it is in many other countries – mostly because of the Jewish state’s different weekend construct, and the uniqueness of Shabbat – but this is changing. More and more restaurants are offering brunches, adopting the English term and devising separate menus under the heading 'ץנארב 

All the restaurants in this list either have dedicated brunch menus, or serve what are commonly considered typical brunch dishes not just for breakfast but also into the afternoon hours, for those lazy weekend days. They also all have English menus, most of which may also be referenced online.

Deliberately left off this list are restaurants in hotels, which we will undoubtedly revisit in a future issue. Even so, this list can hardly be considered exhaustive; there are a number of worthy candidates that had to be left off due to limitations of space and time.   

Finally, no attempt has been made to engage in a ranking exercise; all too often, employing the overworked sobriquets “Top 10” or “Ten Best” generates controversy that detracts from the article’s true purpose: to recommend and inform. For that reason as well, the entries are simply listed in alphabetical order.   

B’te’avon!

Benedict

For 10 years, the Benedict brand has been carving out a niche in the greater Tel Aviv area, starting in the heart of the city and then expanding to the suburbs. Its winning formula is based on tempting dishes suitable for eating morning, noon or night – in other words, the 24/7 brunch. 

The restaurants’ creativity begins with its cocktails, which are priced very reasonably; a complimentary mimosa is even included with some orders. Many of the main dishes also come with Benedict’s unlimited basket of breads – actually soft rolls – comprising sweet and savory varieties. It takes a great deal of restraint not to fill up on these.

There is a Small Plates section on the menu; but if you’re in the mood for more than one course, you might want to check the dessert menu before deciding on including appetizers as well.

Benedict serves all the usual brunch dishes – like eggs benedict – but often with its own twist, like the Amatriciana, an Italian version of shakshouka. A Benedict original is egg balls – scrambled eggs formed into round dumplings, and served in a choice of several different enticing sauces.

The dessert menu contains options that also exist as main courses: pancakes (or mini-pancakes) and French toast. The extraordinary pancakes with white chocolate and espresso even command their own ceremony. The brioche roses are yeasty pastries that go well with the chain’s excellent coffee.

Benedict’s slogan is “all about breakfast” – and clearly all about quality, at all hours of the day and night.  

Benedict

Not kosher

Tel Aviv (2), Herzliya, Kfar Saba, 

Rishon Lezion

Tel: 03 686 8657,

extensions vary by branch

Brasserie M&R

Brasserie M&R is the flagship restaurant of the prestigious R2M Group, which boasts no fewer than five restaurants offering brunches; the others are Coffeebar, Delicatessen, Hotel Montefiore and Rothchild 12. The Brasserie also has the distinction of being the only restaurant in this list to serve breakfast 24 hours a day, yet also have a dedicated brunch menu, which is served Fridays from 07.00 to 17.00 (overlapping with the usual lunch menu), and Saturdays from 07.00 to 13.00.

When ordering a main course from the brunch menu, the price of the dish includes a basket of baked goods, a cocktail and a hot drink. The rolls and muffins come with Brasserie’s superb house jam and French butter. 

All the standard brunch offerings are here: classic eggs benedict plus several variations thereof; a shakshuka creation called oeufs creole; pancakes; and smoked salmon as the star of several dishes, including gravlax with blini.

There is a healthy option of yogurt with fruit salad and granola, as well as continental breakfasts. There is a limited selection of desserts on the brunch menu; if you’re in the mood for sweets, you can request an expanded one. In fact, it is worth perusing the restaurant’s regular menu, because just looking at my neighbors’ tables gave me the urge to return.

The service at Brasserie M&R is quick, efficient and professional; the menus and staff are bilingual. There is never an off-hour during the times brunch is served, so reservations are de rigeur. 

Brasserie M&R

Not kosher

Ibn Gabirol St. 70, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 696 7111

 

Even though this bakery-cum-restaurant is located on a busy intersection one block south of Dizengoff Square, Bread Story has the vibe of a neighborhood cafe, with an air-conditioned interior and plenty of sidewalk seating.

The philosophy behind the food here is the “Integration of the bakery with the kitchen; every bread customized and baked specifically for each dish, so that the dish created tells the story of the bread.” With a welcome nod toward health, Bread Story serves no fried food whatsoever. Moreover, there are vegan options, and sandwich breads are available in whole wheat and gluten-free.

Brunch here is served from 10.00 to 16.00 daily, not just on weekends. The component of the regular menu labeled brunch is actually quite small, but finding similar dishes listed elsewhere on the menu is easy enough. For example, the rich smoked goose bread pudding on the regular menu has a sister version on the brunch menu for croissant fans, so by all means let your eyes rove all over the menu. Goose is actually a favorite ingredient here, according to the restaurant manager.

Brunch standbys like shakshuka and French toast are made special here, in the case of the latter because of the use of cranberry bread. There is a kids menu, as well as an alcohol menu, with sangria and margaritas available by the glass or carafe. And, of course, there are plenty of breads to take home. 

Bread Story

Not kosher

Dizengoff St. 88, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 528 3888

Caffe Yafo

This sizable cafe in the heart of Jaffa’s flea market is the sole kosher establishment on our list, and also the only one offering a buffet for brunch, served every Friday from 09.00 to several hours before Shabbat. The generous self-service buffet, reasonably priced at NIS 79, attracts a steady streams of patrons who clearly enjoy the food and informal atmosphere.

There are several egg dishes, including a mildly seasoned shakshuka, and an ample selection of whole wheat and white breads. The pancakes, available with maple syrup and/or chocolate sauce, are surprisingly good for having been kept warm on the buffet.

Among the cheeses is an interesting sweet ricotta cheese with cranberries, nuts and maple syrup, alongside a savory ricotta with pesto spread. Fish is commendably represented by ikra and salmon salad.

Healthy options abound, largely in the form of colorful salads featuring vegetables, legumes and grains. There is also homemade granola with yogurt, and a nice Greek tzatziki. Vegans or people with allergies will still find plenty to eat.

Finally, there were a number of tempting desserts and pastries, including an outstanding chocolate cake with a halva-like topping, as well as maple cake with almonds. Coffees, teas and orange juice are included in the price of the buffet, while other drinks, such as smoothies and/or alcoholic beverages, may be purchased. The wait staff is attentive and helpful.

This family-owned and run establishment has branded itself a “home for food and culture,” hosting frequent live performances and lectures. Caffe Yafo also caters to groups, and part of the cafe can be closed off for private functions.

■Judy Frankel contributed to this review.

Caffe Yafo

Kosher

Olei Tziyon St. 11, Jaffa

Tel: 03 518 1988

Cerveceria

The “drunken brunch” at this popular watering hole has gotten a lot of buzz, and rightly so. Centrally located near the corner of Ben Yehudah and Bograshov Streets, Cerveceria (the name derives from the Spanish word for beer) serves brunch on Saturdays only, from 11.00 until 17.00

As the name implies, the menu reflects tapas with a Spanish influence, and drinks  are a part of the attraction here. Waiters will occasionally circulate with samples of the very good sangria, while the rebujito – sort of a vermouth-infused limonana – is a refreshing change of pace. And the bucket of five imported beers for NIS 85 is good value for a group.

The brunch beverage menu in English appears on the printed menu, while the English brunch specials menu is on the blackboard.  Our waitress also spoke excellent English.

Many of the brunch tapas are similar to those on the daily menu, in categories of vegetarian, meat, fish and seafood. Most favor the lunch end of the brunch spectrum, but there is also a classy “egg mcmuffin” with a real English muffin baked on the premises, as well as pancakes drenched with melted butter and swimming in maple syrup (you can ask them to hold the pile of real bacon).

Cerveceria’s 60 seats fill up quickly starting at noon, so reservations are strongly recommended – especially if you want to specify indoor seating, at the bar, or al fresco.

Cerveceria

Not kosher

Ben Yehudah 48, Tel Aviv

Tel:  03 647 7751

Claro

Chef Ran Shmueli’s Claro is consistently ranked as one of the top five restaurants in Tel Aviv period, let alone for brunch. One of the anchors of the Sarona compound, this “farm-to-table” establishment takes the concept of “open kitchen” to the extreme: the entire kitchen, which takes up half of the restaurant’s space, is completely visible, especially from a seat at the bar that wends its way around the working area. Fans of TV shows like MasterChef will undoubtedly enjoy the view.

The brunch menu, served on Saturdays only, features a “breakfast for two” with a tempting basket of baked goods that alone might be enough to tip the balance in favor of this option. The brunch cocktails – the Bellini with spiced pear syrup, and the yellow Bloody Mary (a bit more tart than the classic red) – are certainly creative.

Besides Mediterranean eggs Benedict and two kinds of shakshuka (seafood and green), the brunch menu boasts nothing less than "the most scrumptious toast in Tel Aviv" –  grilled ham and cheese on white with a cornflake crust.

The waiters are true professionals: they will advise if a dish is spicy, as well as make sure you understand all the ingredients if one is at all unusual (such as ham). When they bring the “sweet endings” menu, ask to see the display case of desserts – and make sure you have saved room for at least one. The choice will not be easy.

Reservations – which are a must – are accepted for brunch from 9.00 until 12.30, and orders from the brunch menu are taken until 13.00, when the kitchen switches over to lunch. Fortunately, you can still order dessert after the deadline.

Claro

Not kosher

Ha’arba’a St. 23, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 601 7777

 

                                                                                                 

Dallal, which means pampering in Arabic, is our recommendation for brunch in the picturesque neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. The sprawling establishment comprises a  restaurant and bakery, while the sophisticated continental décor encompasses a long, fully stocked bar, indoor and outdoor seating, booths, and a room for private functions.

The brunch menu at Dallal is the longest of all. Since it is served Fridays and Saturday until 18.00, it has two columns, one running the gamut of typical brunch dishes, and the other featuring entrées more suited to lunch and dinner. On both sides of the menu, you will find sophisticated dishes created by Chef Golan Gorfinkle, who trained under celebrity chef Haim Cohen and was selected by the French embassy to be one of the local hosts of French food week.

The talented kitchen also uses only select ingredients, such as organic eggs, the centerpiece of the extraordinary eggs Benedict croissant with gravlax, spinach, citrus hollandaise and black tobiko. The creativity extends as well to mixology: Dallal takes pride in practicing “the art of the cocktail.”

This is another place where dessert is not to be missed. The exquisite French toast sandwich from the brunch menu can be a main course or dessert, but it is also worth requesting the separate dessert menu. And washing our choice down with freshly brewed coffee, a dessert wine or digestif. 

Dallal

Not kosher

Shabazi St. 10, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 510 9292

Emelia Romagna

This trattoria at the key intersection of Lilienblum and Nahalat Binyamin Streets made quite a splash on the brunch scene this summer with a novel offering: unlimited glasses of wine (from a different winery each week) for NIS 50, during Friday brunch, served until 17.00. It quickly became a hit, with diners and imbibers filling the sidewalk seating and enjoying the rhythmic music. (The chairs indoors are a bit more comfortable.)

The wine is far from the only attraction here, however. The kitchen serves superb brunch dishes with an Italian accent: frittatas, bruschettas, a plate of imported cheeses, and a mouthwatering soft polenta with spinach and asparagus served in skillet. Other tempting choices come out of the pizza oven, including one with a perfect egg yolk.

The croissants are not made in-house, but they sure know where to source them: these buttery treats certainly rank with the best I have had in the city.

Desserts, though, are definitely proprietary, including the creamy homemade gelato. And don’t forget the coffee if you’ve been drinking wine all afternoon. 

Emilia Romagna

Not kosher

Lilienblum St. 21, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 510 4391

NOLA American Bakery

NOLA is the place to go when you’ve got a hankering for some good old American favorites: authentic New York bagels, buttermilk biscuits made from scratch, and sweet treats.

The brainchild of New Orleans native Talya Rasner, who has recruited a pastry chef whose pedigree includes stints at top Israeli restaurants Herbert Samuel and Catit, NOLA American Bakery serves breakfasts and brunch items at all times it is open. On weekends, this translates to Fridays from 07.30-16.00 and Saturdays from 09.00-21.00. Reservations are not accepted; but if there is a wait, you can leave your name and receive a text message when your turn comes. 

NOLA serves cocktails reminiscent of the American South, such as a Hurricane made with “moonshine” (distilled in the Golan Heights), and its own variation of a mint julep.

As main courses, it is hard to beat the Blackstone Biscuit –  biscuit halves topped with poached eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce – or the House Special: two eggs with a side of hash browns topped with caramelized onions and smothered in a rich combination of melted cheddar and Emmental cheese. You can upgrade the accompanying buttered toast to toasted bagel with cream cheese –  the best bagel I have tasted in Tel Aviv. 

Window-shopping at the display cases will get your mouth watering. There are temptations such as Mississippi mud pie, blueberry streusel muffins, peanut butter and jelly brownies, and giant-sized chocolate chip cookies. 

NOLA American Bakery

Not kosher

Dizengoff St. 197, Tel Aviv

Tel: 03 523 0527

Retro Pancake & Bar

Retro makes our list by virtue of its homage to an important staple of any self-respecting brunch: pancakes. At Retro, they are thick, fluffy and surprisingly versatile; in fact the menu is built around authentic, American-style pancakes as building blocks of innovative dishes, of both the savory and sweet variety.

The name of the two-restaurant chain derives from its distinctive decor, resembling an old-fashioned American diner, complete with chairs upholstered in red vinyl, antique signs and period black-and-white photos.

The newer branch, in Kfar Saba, has a large open area outdoors that serves as a venue for live-music concerts (and otherwise as a place where kids can run around).

A basic stack of two flapjacks starts at a very reasonable NIS 22, and is actually quite filling. Retro’s specialty, however, is turning out dozens of towering creations, imaginatively reflecting North American, Middle Eastern and continental European cuisines, bearing intriguingly cosmopolitan names, like Florence, Provence and Saloniki.

Retro is open virtually around the clock – seven days a week, from morning until after midnight; in addition to the pancake-based entrées, there is more standard fare, as well as salads and toasted sandwiches.

Moreover, there are ample vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, plus a kids’ menu. 

Eating pancakes is thirsty business; there are soft drinks, thick milk shakes and alcoholic beverages to take care of that problem.

Retro Pancakes & Bar

Not kosher

Kfar Saba Hayeruka Shopping  

Center, Rapoport St.

3, Kfar Saba

Tel: 09 772 2688

 

 

 

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About the author

Buzzy Gordon

Award-winning journalist Buzzy Gordon is a prolific restaurant reviewer, writing for The Jerusalem Post, Ynetnews, and the premier website for Israels diplomatic community.

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