On Magazine St. in New Orleans, a bright beautiful building beckons you to enter; an eggshell white facade with blue trim beckon me inside; or maybe that’s the aroma of their homemade pita bread wafting out from their wood-fired oven. It was a gorgeous day post Mardi Gras and the streets were quiet. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining down on what would turn out to be a pretty delicious afternoon.
“It’s a vibe” probably was birthed out of dining at Shaya. White brick and beige with rounded chandeliers, wooden shelves with black lanters casting a warm glow above the guests. The white leather chairs are the finishing touch on an Instagramers dream feed.
We sit at the bar. Often my favorite spot as getting the hot gossip from the bartenders is an experience in itself. As I cozy up and rest my arms on the bar, the bartender greets us warmly, asking us if we are up for cocktails for brunch. We exchange glances, “Absolutley yes, what do you recommend?” He rattles off a few of his favorites, making sure to ask us what we like. “You must try the 47 problems, then.” That’s Monkey 47 Gin, lemon, lychee and brut rosé. It was perfection; light and tart with a sweet finish (kinda like me, I joke). Their wine menu is sublime -especially their white wine list which is the PERFECT pairing with Israeli cuisine. Their rosé and red selection is outstanding as well so there’s the perfect pairing for everybody.
Let’s get down to the business at hand, shall we? I strongly suggest starting with the Salatim. We could not eat that pita fast enough, it was the best pita I’ve ever had in my entire life EVER and I’m confident you will be able to say the same thing. You can choose from Baba Ganoush, Chickpea Moussaka, Labneh, Ikra and Lima Bean Medames, order 1 or 3 but you will want more pita bread, you just will. Easy to fill up on it but it’s like your tummy just makes room for it so it’s like totally ok. You can’t miss their hummus though. Such texture, such depth of flavor and it’s not anything you could ever buy at the store, it’s made with love you can taste, a recipe and a love he received from his mother. In an interview with the the JC he said:
“My mother worked selling rail tickets and caring for the elderly, as she still does, so I would do the cooking.” But his mother got up in time to give him the best possible start: “She put out Israeli breakfast every morning — feta cheese, olive, cucumber and tomatoes with that hummus.”
I highly recommend their Israeli Salad ($12) made with cherry tomato, cucumber, red onion, preserved lemon vinaigrette, parsley, bulgarian feta, za’atar. It’s colorful, flavorful, crunchy, soft, savory, citrusy all while not weighing you down. Up next their Falafel Sandwich ($13) herb and chickpea falafel, pickles, cucumber, hummus, red chili, pita. I f*ck with falafel. It is one of lifes greatest gifts to us mere mortals and a dish I could eat every single day for the rest of my life and not get tired of it.
John Besh protégé, Alon Shaya has taken the cuisine from his childhood and given it a Louisiana twist. Don’t believe me? Order the Hummus with Fried Chicken ($14) then talk to me. From the warm hospitality, the even warmer pita bread (fine this article is basically a love letter to that and that’s OK by me) and the gorgeous atmosphere, it’s THE perfect date spot to impress your boo.
Photo cred: Zagat.com