Good News Veggie Lovers, Nagila Restaurant in Jerusalem is the Place for You!
Being a vegetarian for five years now and coming to Israel one already has the assumption that the only thing he or she will be able to eat is Falafel. However, as I begin to become a Jerusalemite I’ve come to discover that this assumption is false; the best place to be a vegetarian is actually in Jerusalem where everything is most likely Kosher. A friend and I were recommend the restaurant “Nagila” in which I’ve not only discovered the place where I will sit down for the next few months whenever I am craving a veggie burger, but it is a restaurant where one can sit outside on a warm day in June and have a conversation with their best friend on the latest news happening in their lives, or a place where women in their seventies gather to have a light lunch and discuss the lives of their grandchildren. I won’t say this is just a place for young people, but a place for everyone who needs a mental break from the chaos of the Shuk and the touristic Ben Yehuda Street to sit down and not think of anything else except about the variety of healthy whole hearted vegetarian meals the menu has to offer.
Nagila’s famous veggie burger is named “Yamburger” and it is made of black beans, lentils, walnuts and tofu served with a whole wheat bun and with baked sweet potatoes and a mild salsa dip. I don’t know if it was the natural taste of all its ingredients or how delicate the food was presented, but as I ate this meal, I couldn’t feel more at home. The taste was not like the juicy artificial flavors of my usual restaurant foods, but I must say it was the best “home cooked” meal I had in Jerusalem. My friend ordered the Coconut Curry Stew which had chickpeas, potatoes, green beans, cauliflowers and broccoli served on buckwheat rice, in which we both devoured leaving the plates empty, and our need to return to Nagila even greater. Of course, dessert was topped with a vegan Tiramisu cooked inside a hipster Mason jar, perfect enough to satisfy our sweet tooths!
What surprised me the most of this place and I begin to gather from Jerusalem is how welcoming everyone is. When the waitress at Nagila realized I had no idea how to order food in Hebrew, she took her time to explain everything that’s on the menu. If a waitress can’t think of the English translation they ask at least three people in order to give you the answer you were looking for. Nagila does not only create meals that taste like your great grandmother’s recipes that everyone craves around the holy holidays, but the service is so welcoming one wants to come back. I had a chance to speak to the owner, Gila in which when asked why she originally opened this restaurant she said it was to sell already prepared Shabbat food for the locals, when she realized it was a major success, she decided to make it a vegetarian restaurant as she was inspired by her daughter’s diet choice and wanted to create food that would appeal to everyone. She was so sweet and even though she warned me her restaurant was within ten minutes going to become busy she took the time and recommended her favorite dish which is called Majadra La J’hahdara which is whole rice, sprouted lentils, and onions served with their famous tomato sauce.
Within seconds, 13:30 p.m. hit and a group of twenty religious women filled the restaurant and the place which I saw as peaceful became an environment that shined the light for me on how orthodox women interact outside of religious sanctions and all of them sat together ordering their usual dishes, singing songs and enjoying for the next couple of hours a restaurant that doesn’t only feel like home, but represents the community feeling of what is Jerusalem.
Visit their site: http://nagila.rest.co.il/
And visit them!