It has been known as My Pita, Kosher Bite and now Taste of Tel Aviv. But one thing remains constant — the Brays Oaks District has the “real deal” when it comes to Israeli-Mediterranean food.
Customer reviews are pretty consistent, with lots of raves about the family-friendly bakery and deli, now owned by Gabi Algrably, who took over the former My Pita location and renamed it Kosher Bite about a year ago.
In August, Algrably renamed the restaurant Taste of Tel Aviv and customers report being transported to Israel through their meals.
“It was like being on (Jaffa Road) in Jerusalem and biting into a street-side shawarma bel laffa! So, so, so, good,” said a reviewer on Yelp.
And another: “My son officially blessed the sandwich as being the first falafel in Houston that’s a worthy contender to falafel sandwiches in Israel.”
“The crazy thing is that I’ve driven past this place many times and never even considered trying it … Was I wrong. I will definitely go back.”
If you haven’t stopped by Taste of Tel Aviv on Hillcroft yet, this is a good time to support local restaurants and also eat safely. In addition to providing hand sanitizer, wearing masks and other COVID-19 precautions, the restaurant has outdoor seating and is offering a series of to-go family meals.
“While the world is going through panic in uncertainty, one thing you can be sure of is that you will always find our doors open with a smile and a delicious meal,” the restaurant recently posted on Facebook.
A stop for dinner showed that to be true, with a few people eating outside following a rainstorm, a happy family eating inside and employees behind the counter greeting us with hellos and huge smiles that we could see even with their masks on.
The first thing we noticed, after the hand sanitizer, was the shelf overflowing with bags of fresh-made pita, which we could not pass up.
While the menu isn’t super extensive, it has traditional favorites such as falafel, shawarma, schnitzel and shakshuka (poached eggs in a hearty, spiced tomato and pepper sauce), along with American specialties like an old-fashioned hamburger and chicken nuggets on the kids’ menu.
The bakery offerings and some menu items change depending on the day and/or holiday, so follow their Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/kosherbite, or just call for a friendly voice and advice on what to order.
“Food is our job; eating is yours,” the website states. It was an easy assignment.
The shawarma — seasoned chicken and lamb, stacked and roasted on a slowly turning vertical rotisserie, shaved and served in pita, laffa (thicker and chewier bread) or on a plate with your choice of variety of fresh salads, tehina and hummus — is, well, delicious. The shawarma pita is also huge. It could probably be shared but you won’t want to. Trust me.
The meat was perfectly cooked and disappeared in minutes. It’s a taste that stays with you, and not because of the spices. You’ll be craving shawarma for the rest of the week.
Same holds true for the falafel. Everything is fresh and the spice level can be adjusted to your needs. We asked for spicy, and we were happy with the result.
We started our meal with the Moroccan Cigars, meat-filled crispy wrappers that are great for sharing. (Really, this one you could share. Don’t want to fill up too much before the main course!)
For the vegetarian in the family, we got the Dips Trio: matbucha (cooked tomato and roasted bell peppers), baba ganoush and hummus served with warm pita bread. While they were out of baba ganoush that night, they substituted with a fresh coleslaw. We will just have to return to try the eggplant-based dip.
We will also return to try the sabich, a warm pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, Israeli salad, parsley, amba (pickled green mangoes) and tahini sauce, which gets rave reviews online.
By the way, the extra bag of pita bread from the bakery portion of the business came in handy to finish off the dips trio over the next two days. And the hummus entree comes with falafel balls or shawarma, which can also be enjoyed with the pitas if you don’t finish them the first time around.
Taste of Tel Aviv, despite making adjustments, has suffered financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were forced to cut our staff by half and the expenses associated with kosher supervision are some of the largest expenses the restaurant has to incur,” the restaurant posted on social media.
For a short while at the start of the pandemic, said Algrably, the restaurant dropped its kosher supervision necessary for certification but continued offering only kosher food. Taste of Tel Aviv is now back to being officially kosher-certified, Algrably said. When the restaurant regained its certification, he said he decided to change the name to Taste of Tel Aviv.
Algrably, who is Israeli, said the new name more accurately reflects what the restaurant has to offer. Since taking over, he said, he has streamlined the restaurant’s menu and improved the speed of service.
“A lot of people used to complain about the time waiting and that they didn’t see the food and everything was in the back. Everything is in the front now and it’s very excellent service with a smile,” he said.
While he removed some items, Algrably plans to add something new and exciting. Starting very soon, Taste of Tel Aviv will begin offering kosher sushi, which he says will be served up fast and fresh and, of course, “with a smile.”
Taste of Tel Aviv
9804 Hillcroft St.
Houston, TX 77096
Open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday night after Shabbat starting about 7 p.m.
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig