Nestled on the curb in the dreamy, restaurant-lined blocks of West Soho, 12 Chairs Cafe offers gourmet Israeli cuisine in New York City. It started as a small cafe and became a neighborhood favorite drawing crowds of customers day after day. As you stroll among groups of laughing friends and families, you get the laid back feeling of summer and the smell of fresh cooked food wafting through the air. In the late evening, you can even hear the sound of tambourines and traditional music fill the streets as the dining experience turns into a party. We stopped in on Tuesday evening to try some food we had never eaten here before and to take full advantage of their ambiance day and night.
First, we had the pita with a few dips: the Babaganoush and the Labaneh. As the restaurant’s energy began to build around us, we dipped warm, fluffy pita breads in creamy labneh and spicy olive oil, and babaganoush topped with fresh herbs and tossed with perfect creamy consistency.
After our appetizers we tried their Shipudim and Arayas. The Shipudim consisted of incredibly juicy chicken skewers topped with tomatoes and served with crispy potatoes and a spicy tomato salad. Each bite of hot and spicy chicken paired with fresh tomatoes and salad captured the beauty of Mediterranean flavors and reminded us why 12 Chairs is a neighborhood staple. Arayas, which are grilled pitas filled with ground 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 more, but of course we had to have dessert.
First on the dessert menu is their version of a classic cheesecake. The Israeli-style cheesecake served at 12 Chairs is much lighter and fresher than the American versions, and a bite of this strawberry-topped cake really captures that summery feel. Our second dessert was Malabi, a dish I had never tried before. It’s a coconut milk pudding covered in pomegranate syrup and topped with coconut flakes and pistachios. Much 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 keep trying all the dishes on their menu as the summer progresses. If you haven’t tried this place yet, be sure to put it on your list! And if you go there as often as we do, I hope you’ve discovered some new dishes to try on your next visit by reading this. Check out the 12 Chairs website and menu here!