We need to talk about hummus.
Here in the States, hummus is mostly common eaten as a snack, maybe with carrots, chips or crackers. If you order it in a restaurant, it's always an appetizer, typically served with a small portion of chips or bread.
In Israel, hummus is the main event. It's not considered a light snack or something to nosh on before your entree arrives, it is the central component that the rest of the meal is built around.
During my stay in Tel Aviv, I went to a hummus restaurant called Garger HaZahav. The name translates to "the golden garbanzo." You know how I love an alliteration!
Garger HaZahav is located in Shuk Levinsky, a popular foodie spot. As you approach, you can see the stools outside, where in the warmer weather, hungry diners post up at the window and the servers slide their bowls of hummus across the counter.
The day we went it was pretty chilly, so we opted to sit indoors. The restaurant space felt warm and cozy. The plants hanging from the ceiling made it feel like you were inside a green house.
The restaurant has art work on the walls and this little piggy immediately caught my eye. Doesn't her bandana give you Rosie the Riveter vibes?
When we arrived, the place was packed, but we were lucky to score two seats at the end of a long table. I have to take a quick pause to say that the family sitting behind us had not one, but two dogs with them! An Austrian Shepherd who was sitting so nicely under the table and a puppy who couldn't have been more than a few months old. I was staring at that puppy the entire meal!
Once we were settled, we ordered ice tea, which was infused with mint and lemongrass. Israeli ice tea puts my Diet Lemon Snapple to shame.
There were a few different options for the hummus itself. We decided to go half and half, ordering one half original (creamy) and one half which came with whole chickpeas, garlic and lemon mixed in. You're also able to choose a protein on top and we went with hard boiled eggs.
Next came the pita bread. This is what pita is supposed to taste like. It's pillowy, fluffy and fresh.
We were also given a bowl of pickles. I cannot get enough of Israeli pickles. They always have such an amazing, briny taste to them.
On the side, we ordered falafel and French fries.
The falafel balls had a green hue to them, from all the fresh herbs mixed in before frying.
These French fries. I could write a love letter to these fries! They were crispy, salty and completely addicting. They didn't even need ketchup!
Some people use all of the elements on the table to create falafel sandwiches inside of the pita bread. For me, I like to rip the pita and use it like a spoon to scoop up the hummus. The version we ordered with the garlic, lemon and whole chickpeas was so fantastic. I was afraid to keep eating it because I didn't want it to end!
If you're planning a trip to Israel and one of the things you want to do is experience authentic hummus and falafel, Garger HaZahav is your place.