Mezze Cafe, an authentic neighborhood vegetarian (primarily vegan) restaurant nestled away on one of the most beautiful, charming streets in Tel Aviv, is a top pick for those who suffer from food allergies (as well as those who don’t. Believe me!). As 10% of the world’s population has been diagnosed as allergic or sensitive to gluten and 75% of adults globally have lactose sensitivities, Mezze Cafe owners Gal and Efrat Barzilay decided to step up to the challenge of serving desirable and delicious vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and dairy-free food right here in Tel Aviv. When envisioning the restaurant’s vibe and menu, the two were passionate to serve neighborhood patrons unique, Mediterranean inspired dishes full of vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits that all could enjoy on any occasion.
The sweet couple, both of whom are health food enthusiasts, wanted the opportunity to spend more time together on a daily basis, doing something they both love; working with food. Gal, who comes from a Moroccan family and has been a vegetarian since his early teens, had a tough time when it came to food growing up, where family gatherings meant the frequenting of endless amounts of meat and fish dishes. Efrat, a youthful mom with a passion for food who has celiac disease, imagined a beautiful, yet homey space where customers, both from the neighborhood and outside, could respect and enjoy a new take on healthy, food allergy-friendly dishes. While neither Gal nor Efrat have professional cooking backgrounds, Gal’s natural talent for creating and executing mouthwatering recipes and Efrat’s ability to run the operations of the restaurant without a flaw has given way to Mezze Cafe’s incredible reputation since its opening in 2004. I am very inspired by them both, how as a team they have such zeal to help those who struggle with dietary restrictions find enjoyment and pleasure in delectable foods. It is truly amazing.
The name Mezze, meaning “small plates”, remains the inspiration behind the cafe’s appealing menu, which offers a standout selection of mezzes suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some highlights include; Beetroot, balsamic, and goat cheese manchengo; Okra with grilled tomatoes, fetit cheese, and mint; Caprese salad with almonds, basil, and nectarines; Eggplant and labane spread with organic spelt pita; and homemade grape leaves. The restaurant’s mushroom, walnut, and cashew pate’, a vegan take on traditional liver pate’, is one of Efrat’s favorites. The mushrooms’ robust flavor is complemented by the slight bitterness of the walnuts and the sweet richness of the cashews, served aside organic rye toast. The dish strongly resembles its meat counterpart in texture and appearance, but lacks that strong aftertaste associated with the original. Another top pick is the tahini trio, a beautifully plated starter featuring three types of tahini alongside a generous serving of spelt pita triangles. One is of hummus like consistency, perfectly creamy and thick, the second a red pepper tahini with a distinct smokiness, and the third containing organic sesame, providing a slight crunch and delicious spin on ordinary tahini.
Mezze’s diverse clientele is a testament to its appeal as a place where a melting pot of palettes can dine and relish under the same roof. It is a cute breakfast joint, a relaxing coffee shop, a light lunch stop, a cool evening spot, and the perfect place for a romantic date. On any weekday morning, you may find a friendly neighborhood regular enjoying an espresso and a pastry, a young family enjoying breakfast together, or two friends catching up over late’s. Come nightfall and the majority of tables are frosted with decadent mezzes and tall glasses of wine. The restaurant’s ambience shifts from breezy and casual during the day to hip, yet cozy at night. The food is fresh and delicious and the atmosphere is warm and very charming.
Mezze Cafe boasts an intimate patio surrounded by greenery for a serene, personal dining experience right in the center of the city. White iron and wooden chairs dot the outdoor space, complemented by red tables and a red door for an artsy, quirky vibe. The inside of the restaurant is bursting with light, showcasing a large picture window that unites the inner and outer spaces. At night, the patio’s slightly dimmed lighting creates a sophisticated evening atmosphere.
All recipes and dishes, including desserts (all of which are gluten free), are crafted and produced in house. The wide range of breads served, some of which include rye, whole wheat, spelt, gluten free, and a variety of pitas are 100% organic. The waitstaff is very friendly and accommodating and is happy to make adjustments or suggestions for those with special dietary needs.
I find myself going back to Mezze Cafe over and over again. It has become a favorite of mine in the city both for its creative and tasty food and its pleasant vibe. It is one of the best places to bring friends to from out of town for a unique Tel Aviv dining experience.
Top Main Dish Pick: Black Rice with pumpkin, sundried tomatoes, azuki beans, nuts & herbs, topped with feta cheese
Top Salad Pick: Asian Seaweed Salad featuring glass noodles, lettuce, purple cabbage, cucumbers, basil, black-eyed peas and peanuts in an asian vinaigrette
Top Dessert Pick: Pistachio cake served with cream, tahini, silan (date syrup) & halva
~Written by Molly Cutler