Urban Rustic Bagel: Little Tel Aviv in Hallandale
South Florida's sizable Jewish community is no secret. The same goes for the community's food.
Urban Rustic Bagel, just off I-95 at Stirling Road, isn't exactly a Jewish deli, but with Israeli owner Shlomo Rozen and chef Gai Bessif - the former from Haifa and the latter Yafo - the Jewish Connection is there.
The café opened about a year and a half ago and is Rozen's first restaurant. Bessif joined a couple of months later, from Prime Sushi on 41st Street on Miami Beach's 41st Street. The menu, created by Bessif, leans more toward Middle Eastern fare, but there are also Israeli bagels, a bit larger and fluffier than the New York variety but are still chewy and not too dense. Trays of danish were set out on the counter.
We tried the shakshouka, two eggs poached a spicy tomato sauce that's simmered for hours with vegetables and jalapeno peppers. Be warned, however, this dish is spicy. We were thankful for the cooling side of cucumber and tomato salad as well as the toasted and sliced bagel that helped take off the edge.
Israeli and Jewish fare weren't the only items on the menu, though most have some Middle Eastern ingredients. There are a variety of salads, most priced around $10, as well as five different pasta choices and sweet crepes.
We even spied a sushi setup, which wasn't serving rolls when we visited. A lady working the counter said they've had problems finding a reliable sushi chef. Strange as it might seem, two people came in separately asking for sushi during our half-hour lunch. Bessif said sushi will remain on the menu despite the staffing challenges.
A chalkboard offering daily specials held more Asian fare, including Hamachi collar and a scallop tempura.
Despite the all-Israeli staff Bessif said the café is a place for everyone "Israeli, Latino, we get them all." That was no lie as on a weekday afternoon a variety of tables were full with families and business-types, bickering and laughing in both Hebrew and Spanish.
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