With Merkaz, Michael Solomonov Debuts His Trendy Tackle Israeli Avenue Meals

Tel Aviv, Israel, has a thriving avenue meals tradition constructed round sandwiches: heat pita pockets filled with layers of contemporary salads, rotisserie meats and tangy sauces. Yow will discover the transportable meals at hole-in-the-wall meals stalls everywhere in the metropolis, and now Philadelphia’s foremost evangelist for Israeli delicacies is bringing that very same environment to Pennsylvania.

Earlier this week Michael Solomonov, the James Beard Award-winning chef and proprietor of Zahav, opened the pita sandwich store and café Merkaz (the Hebrew phrase for “center”) in Philadelphia’s centralized Midtown Village.

“Philadelphia has amazing sandwiches and I am so excited to be part of that conversation with Goldie and now with Merkaz,” stated Solomonov, who was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh. “Come for cheesesteak, stay for sambich and schnitzel.”

Merkaz is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Within the morning, it’ll serve espresso and conventional Israeli breakfast dishes like hummus foul (hummus served heat with fava beans and an haminado egg); eggs in pita with yogurt, chopped salad and za’atar spices; and shakshuka, the North African dish of eggs baked in a spicy tomato and pepper stew.

merkaz cauliflower shawarma

Cauliflower shawarma. 

Photograph: courtesy Michael Persico

Within the afternoon and night, Merkaz will serve pita sandwiches, hummus, salatim (cooked vegetable salads) and Gazoz, the favored Turkish delicate drink that is available in flavors like lemon-cardamom and celery-coriander. To-go, family-style meals can even be out there, akin to whole rotisserie chickens with hummus and salads. 

Pita sandwiches on the menu embody rooster schnitzel; shawarma-spiced cauliflower and rotisserie lamb; and Jerusalem grill (rooster hearts, turkey breast, tahini and pickles). Solomonov is most excited for the sabich sandwich, which relies on an Iraqi Jewish dish and comprises fried eggplant, slow-cooked eggs, tahini, amba (pickled mango sauce) and chopped salad.

Merkaz is co-owned by Steve Cook dinner, who’s Solomonov’s associate in CookNSolo, the restaurant group that additionally operates Zahav, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Goldie, Federal Donuts and Okay’Far, which opened this fall. (Merkaz’s chef is Henry Morgan, who comes from Dizengoff.) In early 2020 the restaurant group will open Laser Wolf, a skewer home and bar.

“The last year and a half really taught us that there is room to grow, but you can overstretch,” Solomonov stated. “Being a little bit disciplined about how we do it is important. It’s all risky and it’s all crazy and you have no idea what is going to happen when you do these things. We’re just trying to do it one restaurant at a time.”

Solomonov’s eating places thrive in Philadelphia, however haven’t fared as effectively elsewhere. The crew opened Dizengoff and Federal Donuts in New York and Miami, however they closed. The chef believes diners in Philly respect his work as a result of they care about high quality, not hype, and he isn’t being redundant. He’s telling very concise tales with every of his properties; he isn’t promoting falafel in seven locations.

merkaz shakshuka


Photograph: courtesy Michael Persico

“There are so many different ways to have a meal and there’s so many aspects that I don’t think people touch on,” he stated. “Picture eating breakfast in the South versus what eating a New England dinner is like. There’s just so many different kinds of nuances and facets that make up meals here in the U.S.—it’s the same thing in Israel.”

To Solomonov, Israeli delicacies is as various because the ethnicities and nationalities that decision the nation dwelling: Center Japanese, Palestinian, Bedouin, North African, Japanese European, Jewish and Balkan, amongst others. The culinary traditions listed here are being created in actual time, and the chef has plans to translate much more components of the delicacies sooner or later.

“There’s definitely other aspects of Israeli food or Jewish food in particular that I think we can elaborate on, but right now we’ve just got a lot,” he stated. “Eastern and Central European Jewish cuisine has almost no accurate representation here in the U.S. When you think of Jewish food, you really think of post-World War II in North America. We sort of lost the pre-World War II cuisine in like Hungary. The way Hungarians treat the goose, almost like we do the pig, how they treat the fat and the curing. That hasn’t really been expressed yet in the States.” 

However for now, he’s going to concentrate on making and preserving those he already has nice vacation spot eating places. 

“There’s something really wonderful about being able to touch all your restaurants in a day, walk to them,” he stated. “And it’s really gratifying to have New Yorkers come to Philly to have dinner. I love it.”

Merkaz is open daily for breakfast from eight a.m. to 11 a.m. and lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

merkaz philadelphia restaurant exterior

Outdoors Merkaz in Philly. 

Photograph: courtesy Michael Persico

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