Sunday, June 07, 2020

Remember the last time you were in Israel, when you had a craving for some really good shawarma, or maybe falafel and hummus? You went to that nearby spot you could count on for good food served quickly and priced reasonably. If you find yourself wanting a taste of Israel again, head to Yalla! at 206 West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck.

“There’s something about Israeli food; it has its own niche,” said co-owner Jay. “We knew we got it right when the seniors from TABC came back from Israel and said this is great, really authentic.”

Co-owners Jay Estes and Meir Szegedi, friends since high school, opened Yalla! in July and have slowly fine- tuned their menu and recipes. Now they are ready for everyone to know that real Israeli-style shawarma and falafel are waiting for them at Yalla!

Both Meir and Jay went to Yeshiva University after spending their post-high school year in Israel. Like most of the student body, the pair ate a lot of meals at restaurants. Then they decided to open one together.

“We went to restaurants and talked about what we liked and what we didn’t,” said Jay. “We took the best of what worked and put that into our plan.”

They brainstormed about what to serve and made Israeli food the focal point of their menu, with healthy helpings of salad, and a few American classics like hot dogs and fries to keep children happy. Mains include spit-roasted shawarma, grilled chicken and beef shish kabob. Yalla! makes the kind of falafel that looks green from fistfuls of cilantro and parsley. The hummus is thick so it doesn’t drip out of a sandwich. All menu items can be served on pita or laffa, a big fluffy flatbread. Salad bowls are another choice, with optional chicken or beef on top. Mix and match selections for variety.

Whether you’re sitting down for a meal, or waiting for your order to take out, you’ll slowly start to notice the mural covering one of the walls, and realize how interesting it is. Jay worked with a designer to make something original and eye catching. There is a mix of English and Hebrew words and images that combine into a visual panorama of Israel and Teaneck fused by food. Look carefully and you’ll see a barely recognizable, young Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Dayan.

“We wanted to make something cool,” said Jay. “Creative art with a modern-day feel to give Yalla! an all-around great look.”

Yalla!—Israeli slang for “c’mon!”—is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and motzei Shabbat. For the complete menu, hours and directions, visit www.yallateaneck.com.

By Bracha Schwartz