Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Out Not In

I went to dinner the other night with my Israeli friend.  We were trying to invoke the spirit of our recent trip to Israel which now seems oh-so-long ago.  I hadn't had a good Israeli meal since returning to the States and I was craving it something awful.  I wanted to be sure we got the best, most authentic, Israeli food in the city regardless of price, reputation, or anything else.  I did my homework and all signs pointed to Mama's Vegetarian in center city so that's where we ended up.

At Mama's you order cafeteria-style. We ordered the hummus platter, the bureka platter, and the vegetable salad platter (we were very hungry). It was super cheap which is a plus, especially since they serve everything in plastic clam shell containers - even if you eat in as we did (which seems not only ghetto but, even more so, extremely wasteful).

We brought a bottle of  Israel wine from the Galilee.  I had called the week before to confirm this was OK but when I asked for a bottle opener they gave us a hard time and insisted that I had called "the wrong place" and that wine was not aloud... Hmmm.

I asked them "Why?" and they mumbled something rude.  After insisting they didn't have a bottle opener they finally fished one out of the pencil holder and handed it over.

We shrugged them off, cracked the wine and sat sipping out of Styrofoam cups while getting the stink eye from the staff (in the not overly clean dining area).  This all would have been much more annoying if A. I was facing them, luckily for me my back was toward the counter and B. the food wasn't as good as it was... but it was good.  Very good.

Mama's hummus is not only delicious but more authentic then anything else I've had in the city.

The burekas are moist and flaky and there is a choice of spinach, mushroom or potato filling. They were the gargantuan variety which I hadn't seen in Israel but that appear to be the norm in the States.


The salad platter was just OK although it is the dead of winter so I'm wondering if the platter is more robust and isn't spilling over with tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer.

Also note that, in addition to what you order, there is a full fixin's bar with marinated carrots, fried cauliflower, pickles, olives, sauces, and various other marinated goodies.  So factor in that deliciousness.

We topped everything off with Baklava and its honey-pistachio-gooeyness was delightfully mouth-melty.

SO... I think the moral of this story is that Mama's is designed for take out... they have never claimed otherwise.  Having said that, if I were a take out person (which I'm not) this would be a stellar option... It's tasty, cheap, healthy, exotic, good for leftovers, good for movie night with your hot Israeli lover, good for pretending you made it and serving it at/bringing it to a dinner party.  

In addition they have a meat-serving cousin on South Street between 6th and 7th if Shawarma is your jam.

Mama's Vegetarian - 18 S. 20th Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

1 comment:

Ben said...

I'm going to guess that they gave you a hard time about the wine because it wasn't Kosher wine. Mama's is a kosher establishment which is also why they aren't open Friday nights and on Saturdays.