The Big Felafel

Food Torture: Not Another Cafe!

Cafe Hillel, just another cafe

Cafe Hillel, just another cafe.

I’m angry. What a surprise. I’m in the daze of a food nightmare. Living near Emek Refaim Street, you would think a girl could have her way with restaurants: endless options, yummy in your tummy food, and the cultural basics. But apparently the Food Gods don’t like us Jerusalemites.And instead of lots of different restaurants, whipping up all kinds of food-we in Jerusalem must suffer with choice A: falafel or choice B: café food. Crap and crap.


The sign reads: Coming soon Cafe Hillel. I wish the man in the picture would just keep walking. He even looks like he is stealing our taste buds! Shady!


In a previous anger post, I wrote about my desire for a Mexican restaurant in Jerusalem. Needless to say, my prayers and rants have gone unanswered. But friends, it just gets worse. Since my cries for Mexican food, two pizza places have opened in my neighborhood. And then…then this happened (focus your eyes on the picture). My cheap wrap place that almost felt like Mexican food if you closed your eyes tight enough and just held on to the wrap like it was a burrito, Tarantino’s, suddenly without warning closed down and a café Hillel is now opening in its place. Oh, the food inhumanity! Oh, the food torture! And obviously the worst part about it: THERE IS A CAFÉ HILLEL TWO BLOCKS DOWN!

Is this for real? Isn’t it bad enough that Emek Refaim is lined with cafes? It’s just the same menu, with different names for the salads, soups and sandwiches. Not to mention the difference in price from Café Aroma to Caffit for practically the same meal.

Now I know Nir Barkat just became mayor, but wasn’t he all about adding some culture to this city? I’m not saying that adding Mexican should be the first item on his agenda…no, I am. I think Mayor Barkat should shut down the building of this new café Hillel, which is clearly an abuse of our taste buds and a monotonous slap in the face. And instead, let us join together and build a burrito stand and unite for the sake of Jerusalem and her culture. Mexican food is just the beginning!

Stop the lame cafes from taking over our streets. They can have their menus but not our shekels!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Three Weeks of NIS 3 Coffee! | the big felafel pingbacked on 13 years, 11 months ago


  1. As a Yerushalmi, I find that really annoying as well. (Just wanted to write those first three words.)


    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  2. * debby says:

    there have been mexican the past but not alot of people ate there so maybe Jerusalem isn’t really ready for one

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  3. * aliyah06 says:

    I’d bet you a cup of coffee at the Coffee Mill that this Hillel isn’t new–it’s the franchise down the street moving to better digs, and the Hillel down the street will vacate and turn into something else…..time to pray for a Mexican restaurant. REAL Mexican, please……not diluted-for-New-Jersey-taste-buds fake Mexican.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  4. * Molly says:

    I would like to believe what you say is true…but the new place is so small, do you really think they would downsize? Still, let us hope for the best…Mexican food that taste like Mexican food!

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  5. * Moriah says:

    Dude. We need to unite. My mother and I (hopefully, God willing) plan to move to Israel, and we are born-n-bred-7-miles-from-the-border voracious Tex-Mex eaters. We can’t live without frijoles and tortillas (Mom, however, is vegetarian, and we’re both perfectly fine with soy cheese and soy “beef” crumbles). I suspected correctly that we’d be in trouble food-wise and was scheming on buying a good ol’ fashioned cast iron tortilla press to either smuggle into the country or leave with a friend to ship to us later–but of course, I have no idea if we’d be able to find masa in any store. At least I feel a little better that cilantro and avacados are easy to come by.

    Having our own Mexican restaurant would be our dream jobs. Seriously. But alas, that takes mucho dinero that we don’t have. :-/ Hey, if some chick can set up a website asking people to donate so she can get breast implants, maybe you should set up a “Bring Mexican Food to Jerusalem” fund! You never know what might work.

    In the meantime, I’m really glad I randomly Googled about Mexican food in Israel and stumbled across this blog–your previous ranty post had my mother laughing so hard she almost lost her spleen, and that’s an accomplishment. Plus, apparently this place is useful and stuff. 😉

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  6. * Molly says:

    I am so happy you found us! And I am glad that I could make your mama laugh. I love the idea of a Mexican food donation website! I want it! So make sure to eat plenty of Mexican before you get here! And eat a ton for me!

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  7. * Moriah says:

    Put a Paypal button on your blog or somethin’. Be shameless! You know you’re not the only one who wants it!

    Mmm, Mom’s cooking beans as we speak. Just an hour earlier we were cleaning them and peeling garlic, and she chopped about a pound of cilantro. Good times. (Did you know that cooking beans in plain water with no seasonings or oil makes them go bad way faster? Mom knew someone who did that once, and it was like a toxic waste spill had occurred in that chick’s fridge. Nastytown.)

    Hells yeah, we’ll eat our respective weights in Mexican food before we leave! I propose a week-long fest of gorging until we’ve got guacamole coming out of our ears and we’re adding to global warming with our gas. 😡

    At least I do love felafel…when I’m eating it over here, anyway. I suppose I have a limit to my appetite for it that I haven’t discovered yet. But I do so enjoy those little buggers when they’re hot and fresh. And Mom and I both freaking love hummus and can’t get enough of olives. We’ve got no problem with Israeli cuisine–it’s just the lack of our old chow that’s gonna hit us hard.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  8. Tarantinos indeed closed down quietly, but I was interestingly around when they began their closing. Here’s the story (100% true):

    One night I was heading back from downtown and I was walking on Emek. I had my iPod on, so I wasn’t really paying attention to noises around me. It was 2am. As I got close to the Tarantinos area I heard a beeping. At first I thought it was in the music I was listening to, but then I noticed it wasn’t matched to the music. So, I pulled out an earbud and heard it clearly, thinking it was a car alarm. Then as I got to Olive I could see what was going on. A small fire was burning just inside the door of Tarantinos. Smoke was billowing out from all the doors and from the roof, and there were just a couple people around. I walked over to a guy sitting in a car across the street and asked if he called the firefighters and he said yes, so I waited. The firefighters got there after about 20 minutes, and he said he called 5 minutes previously. So, they pulled up with their vehicles and a firefighter just plain walked up to the door and pulled the handle. The door opened and there was a fire not 2 feet inside the door.

    Let me repeat that: 2am, door unlocked, fire raging inside the doorway.

    The next day there was a sign saying “sorry customers, we’re doing some renovations.”

    hmmmmm…… never heard a word in the newspapers either, and my roommate at the time worked at jpost.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  9. * Molly says:

    Danny! I too thought something was mad strange when the rennovation sign was up but no work was being done. A month after the sign went up I asked the other Tarintino’s in the city center and they said that there was a fire and now they were closing down. I thought that it might have been an insurance thing, and that they weren’t making money so had a fire to get out of it. It is starting to sound like one of Tarintino’s movies! Speaking of which, do they even have the rights to use his name? The whole thing is shady but they really do have decent food!

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  10. I’m so tired of restaurants in this city.. really! you forgot that with the choice B category there’s dairy or meat and they’re all just variations on a theme. it’s a little sad that cafe hillel prevailed through terrorist attacks but can’t cut it with the competition (aroma, tal bagels, coffee shop, coffee mill etc.) my sources tell me there won’t be two hillels on emek. the big one is closing and a meat restaurant is opening in its place – hopefully something decent because I’m most unimpressed with selina’s over the past several months. their food quality and portion sizes have gone down and their prices have gone up, up, up. what emek needs (aside from MEXICAN food) is a decent bar!! here’s to hopin…

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  11. * Molly says:

    Wow a bar would be awesome!How about a Mexican style bar! Why is it we can think of good ideas but we’re not rich enough to do them!

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 3 months ago
  12. * Sam says:

    i was here this summer in the king solomon hotel with friends.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  13. * Michelle says:

    I just got here from Texas, and am going through serious withdrawal. I would be perfectly willing to spend every waking hour after work to brainstorm ways of starting up a Mexican restaurant here… no joke. Who’s with me? It’s necessary. It could be kosher.. family friendly.. I mean HELLO, we’d have quesadillas… salsa… tortilla soup, perhaps? In my opinion, fish tacos would really sell here…

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  14. Michelle, as a hungry Texan in Israel, count me in.


    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  15. * Brooke says:

    As another hungry Texan living in Jerusalem, I am definitely on board with bringing Mexican restaurant here… My family and I have shared many complaints on such a topic. haha!

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  16. * p_almonius says:

    There is a Tarantino’s in the center of town (walkable from Emek Refaim) on Rechov Hillel.

    Also, there is no street named “Emek” in Jerusalem. “Emek” is a cheese.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  17. * perry says:

    oh what i would give for chimichangas, enchilladas,real salsa and quac!!

    oh and while we’re on the subject…does anyone know if tortillas are kosher for passover?!?!?! i’ve been dreaming of a mexican seder for years!!!

    (p.s. if you need someone who’s got some mexican flair in the kitchen…let me know!!)

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 1 month ago
  18. * Katie says:

    I’m a college student who will be studying in Israel next semester, and I’ve already been warned about the lack of Mexican food. Is it true that Aroma’s isn’t that big of a deal? I’d heard it was amazing. But it’s always good to know this stuff before I come over. Any advice on bringing things along? I’ve heard they don’t have tortillas & we will want to bring sauces & seasonings. True?

    | Reply Posted 14 years ago
  19. * Molly says:

    Hi Katie the college student!
    I don’t know where you heard that Aroma has good Mexican food, but their lying to you! There is no real Mexican food in Jerusalem proper. As you can see from previous comments on this post, there are a few places opening up around the country, but none have yet to make it to Jerusalem! There are tortillas here but they are expensive compared to America…so yes, if you can’t live with out Mexican, then bring some. There is also some types of salsa in jars here, but again it is expensive and not so great. If you can cook Mexican food then you will make it, but for people like me that like eating and not making it…life sucks! Good luck with your semester here, and enjoy all the other delicious food that Israel has to offer (because there is plenty of other yummy here too!)

    | Reply Posted 14 years ago
  20. * Gabe says:

    I’m also blogging about Mexican food in Israel, and I just wanted to update the last comment. Jerusalem has had a few options recently. A quasi-Mexican place opened on the end of Yafo street near the old city, but it closed quickly. Meanwhile Mike’s Place recently reopened in Jerusalem with a full menu of Mexican items.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  21. * Ilya says:

    I can usually take a joke but this reads just outright obnoxious. I’d be the first to admit Jerusalem sports some rather mediocre eateries. The German Colony especially excels at that, and many of its patrons are your ex-pats who are apparently willing to overpay for those sandwiches and salads. On the other hand, adding a tex-mex place to make the American bunch feel right at home won’t solve this. You’re not addressing the core issue, just asking to bend the city a little bit more for the growing American population.

    To sum it up: More students would bring cheap eateries, more yuppies would bring upscale eateries, and more Americans would bring cream-cheese bagels for 50 NIS.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
    • * Molly says:

      Hi Ilya,
      Thanks for your comment. I am sorry you found it obnoxious. Obviously you think very highly of Americans and that is very clear in your very kind comment. I actually completely disagree with you. If you know mexican food at all, then you would know it is very cheap. So if you want cheaper places you should start there. And there are already a lot of Americans living in Jerusalem, yet the same kind of cafe keeps popping up. These cafes aren’t for yuppies, they are just little trendy eateries that are very much the Israeli signature food place. So again, not sure where you are going with that. As for bagels. You can buy 13 bagels for NIS 50 at Holy Bagel, which is a pretty decent deal. I was just at Hebrew U and they wanted me to pay NIS 11 for a toast, with cheese and tomato sauce. So again, that is a place with thousands of students but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the price. Having mexican food, or any other type of food is just a nice way to have variety, and that is really the point I am trying to make. Hope I write something that you enjoy more. And just for the record, not all Americans are rich, yuppies. And I for one am not.

      | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  22. * Ilya says:

    Molly, never meant to insult you, just to give a rough idea of how this sounds to an outsider. Your complaint is true. And yes, Mexican is the Mizrakhit of America — affordable, tasty, common. However that’ll be precisely like me coming to an American town with a sucky dining culture — let’s say they have a Starbucks or two and their pinnacle of casual dining is the Cheesecake Factory. So anyway, I’d come to that place and say “You know what you guys were missing all along? A shawarma stand!”.

    People need to encourage *varied* private business and discourage the Cafe Hillel etc. franchises. And people need standards. But a shawarma stand is not the solution.

    To a local, it sounds a bit like “No matter what you guys do, you could always do better by being like America. Oh, and your flag could use some more stars and stripes.”.

    I love Mexican food as much as the next guy, but Jerusalem could even enjoy the culinary standards and variety set by Tel Aviv (which has merely one Mexican restaurant, to the best of my knowledge).

    P.S. As to the Hebrew University, I think the student body sets a maximum for the prices of many items, and consequentially the prices in the cafeterias are lower than you’d find in any coffee shop (that I know of).

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago

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