On my second day in Israel I had one of the best meals of the entire trip at Lola in the old city of Beer Sheva. The restaurant is on Smilansky Street, which my friend described as "where the cool kids and hipsters hang out."
The restaurant has a great outdoor patio, which was directly in the sun as we arrived. Jackpot!
I was enamored with the rows of red carnations they had planted all along the edge of the patio. How cute is the "Flower Power" sign?
We were able to get a table right away and the atmosphere was just divine. We were seated right beneath two huge windows with a cute little frog friend watching over us.
They were playing music, which was loud enough to drown out the conversations happening at neighboring tables, but not so loud that we couldn't hear each other.
A waitress popped over to greet us and hand us menus. How retro and fabulous does Lola look?
We started by looking over the drinks. One thing you should know about dining in Israel is that every person at the table has at least three drinks. Usually a glass of water, some form of coffee (iced, hot, espresso) and then a third drink, which is typically a fruit juice or a smoothie. You've never seen so many drinks on a table in your life!
The Lola drink list was particularly intriguing. My friend ordered their mojito ice tea (which she loved and is still talking about) and I got a smoothie that was watermelon, lychee, mint and cranberry juice. It tasted like the freshest slush in the world. In the summer, I could drink that every day.
For lunch we both ordered the same thing, the haloumi burger. Over the years I've become a huge fan of haloumi cheese. I actually had my first taste of it at Cafe Cafe in Beer Sheva back in 2013. Since then I've enjoyed the grilled haloumi at Jack's Wife Freda in New York City and the haloumi fries at Sarma, right here in Somerville.
Behold, the Lola haloumi burger!
Yes, people. That is a "burger" patty made entirely of fried cheese.
The burger comes with a cornucopia of garnishes and you assemble the burger to your liking. Each platter has lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, red pepper spread and garlic aioli.
I topped mine with lettuce, tomato, pickles and the garlic aioli. I took my first bite and was pleasantly surprised to discover the bun tasted like a pretzel roll!
When trying to think about how to describe how incredible this burger was, my friend suggested, "Each component is so simple, but absolutely perfect - the bun, the cheese, the sauces - even the freshness of the veggies. It's not a complicated dish, but they nail it."
We also ordered a side of French fries to share, which Israelis call chips. Our waitress warned us that they make all their dips in house, and as such, they don't have ketchup. Instead they bring you the same sauces that come with the burger.
The fries came in a huge basket. More than enough for two people! They were wonderfully crispy and tasted even better dunked in the red pepper dip.
When the burger trays were cleared, we sat chatting for a while, enjoying the weather and eventually we decided to ask to the see the dessert menu. Our waitress returned not with a printed menu, but a tray of all the desserts!
My eyes locked in on the Snickers brownie. Though my lunch date was tempted by some mascarpone-topped tart, I convinced her to go the chocolate route with me.
Look at this beauty!
The Snickers dessert turned out to be much more mousse / pie than brownie, but no complaints here! It had the exact same flavor profile as the candy bar. It looks like it would be sickeningly sweet, but it really wasn't too rich.
My dad loves Snickers bars and in that moment I so wished he was there to dig in with me.
We left Lola full and oh-so-happy. I truly felt like I discovered a hidden gem.
In addition to this restaurant, the old city of Beer Sheva also has a ton of public art - installations, statues, murals - there were so many photo opportunities! Here are just a few from our afternoon of posing:
I loved this flamingo. A little bit of Miami flair in Beer Sheva!
Of course we also had to snap a shot in front of the "We love BR7" sign. Sheva is the number seven in Hebrew.
If you find yourself in Beer Sheva, definitely make time to wander around the old city and be sure you have lunch or dinner at Lola so you can chow down on that haloumi burger!