Nestled streetside into the dreamy restaurant-lined blocks of west Soho, 12 Chairs Cafe brings gourmet Israeli food to New York. It started out as a small cafe, and evolved into a neighborhood favorite drawing in crowds of patrons day after day. As you walk by groups of laughing friends and families, you get the easygoing sense of summertime and the scent of fresh cooked food wafting through the air. In the late evening, you might even be able to hear the sound of tambourines and traditional music filling the streets as the dining experience turns into a party. We stopped by on Tuesday night to try some food we haven’t had here before, and fully experience their day to night vibe.
First up, we had the pita with a few small dips: the Babaganoush and Labaneh. As the energy of the restaurant started to build around us, we dipped warm pillowy pita breads into creamy labneh and spiced olive oil, and babaganoush topped with fresh herbs and blended to the perfect chunky-creamy consistency.
After our appetizers, we tried their Shipudim and Arayas. The Shipudim consisted of impossibly juicy chicken skewers topped with tomatoes and served with crispy potatoes and spicy tomato salad. Each bite of hot, spiced chicken paired with the fresh tomatoes and salad captured the beauty of Mediterranean flavors, and reminded us why 12 Chairs is such a beloved neighborhood staple. The Arayas, which are grilled pita filled with minced lamb, were served with the same spicy tomato salad that seems to complement all meat dishes. These packed a punch of substance, and each little triangle really fills you up! These delicious bites were more than enough to satisfy our hunger and then some, but of course, we had to grab some dessert.
First up on the dessert menu, their take on a classic cheesecake. The Israeli style cheesecake served at 12 Chairs is much lighter and fresher than American versions, and a bite of this topped with strawberries really captures that summer feeling. Our second dessert was Malabi, a dish I’d never tried before. It’s a coconut milk pudding covered in pomegranate syrup, and topped with coconut flakes and pistachios. A bit like panna cotta in texture, this creamy dessert was also a refreshing end to our delicious meal at 12 Chairs.
I’m so excited to keep coming to this restaurant to continue trying all the items on their menu as the summer goes on and beyond. If you haven’t tried this spot yet, be sure to put it on your list! And if you go as often as we do, hopefully you’ve discovered some new dishes to sample on your next visit by reading this. Check out 12 Chairs’ website and menu here!