31 Nachalat Binyamin
Beet salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, quinoa salad with carrots, raisins, and a dash of cinnamon, pasta with sweet potato and a rich tomato sauce, a healthy serving of a delectable quiche. Whoever said that vegetarian food is boring has never had a meal at Cafe Birnbaum. If the traditional Israeli kitchen is characterized by vegetarian dishes and salads then I’d declare this place as “the kingdom of Israeli homemade salads and vegetarian food.” You can expect a whole lot more than some lettuce, tomato and cucumber!
With a proud Tel Aviv history and a foundation that traces back to 1962, Café Birnbaum takes pride in creating unique and hearty vegetarian dishes for its eclectic diners. Back when Mr. Birnbaum first arrived, Tel Aviv was a very different city from the city we know today. He could feel the metropolitan temperament and after migrating from Poland, he decided to establish a bakery for the dwellers on Nachalat Binyamin.
As tradition dictated, family was a fundamental part of the business and all of the members had a role in the bakery. Daughters Pnina and Sima spent their days baking and learning old family recipes while other children in the neighborhood were learning to ride bicycles. Baking was in their bloodline and written in their future, and as a result today they are the proud owners of Cafe Birnbaum. Once they gained experience in the field, Pnina and Sima transformed the bakery into a cafe. As a response to its customers requests for a more assorted menu, Pnina began to concoct recipes and slowly introduce salads. It was then that Pnina’s culinary skills really began to mature and her palate for fine food developed. The fusion of her baking skills and her knack for savory flavor are illustrated in the fine quiches. It is here that one can taste Pnina’s mastery of baking along with her natural talent of infusing flavors. The daily changing quiches and pastas add a rich element to the buffet, which includes more than thirty healthy and delightful dishes. The multifarious buffet is sorted by hot and cold food and never ceases to excite returning clientele, while offering what might be the healthiest proposal of any Tel Avivian kitchen today.
Over the past twenty years, Pnina has begun preparing the daily dishes at the crack of dawn. With very little help, she prepares the “all you can eat” buffet, as well as the delicious desserts, an ode to the origins of Cafe Birnbaum. Her natural talents are personified through her knowledge of food and her experiments with recipes. Pnina and Sima are proud to be the first venue in Tel Aviv to serve quinoa and a manifold variety of legumes (kitniot) that they get through a special provider. The salads and pies vary depending on the season and the greengrocer’s daily delivery. Every dish is both fresh and scrumptious down to the last bite. Be sure not to miss my personal favorite- the sweet rice served with honey and dried fruit.
The unique experience starts as soon as you enter the café and realize that for only 45 shekels you can have anything your eyes and stomach desire. The experience continues as you taste each mouth watering dish and happily realize you can have seconds or even thirds. Finally, as your culinary journey starts to wind down, you make room to order dessert from a diverse collection of cakes and pies, because your stomach will not allow you to forgo it.
Since its establishment, dozens of people come by each day, among which include renowned painters Menashe Kadishman and Motty Golan, whose paintings decorate the cozy café, flooding it with colors and beautiful, cultural art. The special spirit of the restaurant is reflected through the variety of patrons who dine at Café Birnbaum, ranging from nutrition fanatics to those who care less about healthy food and come to the café for consistently delicious food.
This is the place where the welcoming smiles of the Birnbaum sisters are mixed with the colors of the carrots, cucumbers, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, tomatoes, quinoa, wheat, kasha, beans and rice. Each ingredient is prepared in such a simple and yet creative way and always demonstrates culinary sophistication. The truth is that once you try Cafe Birnbaum you can never again deny that vegetarian food can truly be heavenly.
**** Not in the mood for a salad bar? Make sure to ask your server for a fixed menu that has a variety of dishes including traditional Israeli breakfast.
Written by Nataly Safir
Photos by: Rachel Brender & Judith Goldstein