Cruising on Biscayne Boulevard towards 163rd street in North Miami,Jerusalem Deli & Cafe
is undetectable in its strip mall location. But once you discover this holy city-named cafe, you'll be drawn to it forever. After our first encounter, we revisited three times that same week. Now we have plans to go back and eat our way through the menu and salad case.
The pull is fantastic: flavorful, fresh food, friendly service, and affordable prices. Also, the owner -- whose name is Wissam El-Zoor, but goes by Sam -- knows what's up. He gave us a high-five and baklava on the house during our second visit after we correctly guessed he was from Lebanon. One bite of that sweet, sticky, layered, pistachio-dusted pastry and we were instant fans.
At the cafe, there are a few tables in the middle, a Middle Eastern grocery store to your right, refrigerated drinks along the back wall, and a deli to your left. You can get a sandwich filled with everything from hummus to lamb for around $5 to $6 or you can go for a plate for double the price. We prefer the plates. You've got to eat the sides and salads here.
The shawarma plate ($9.99) comes with meat freshly carved off the spit. We came early and got end pieces. It was good, but not as delicious as the inner meat slices we had hoped for. It came with pita bread and sides, including velvety hummus and a tomato and cucumber salad. Sam drizzles olive oil on top of the hummus and sprinkles with it paprika. You'll just want to dip everything in it until there is nothing left.
But if you rather get something else, you can ask Sam to substitute another side or salad -- he's a flexible plate-preparer.
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For the chicken kabob plate ($9.99), we chose the tabbouleh and hummus sides. The chicken was packed with flavor and the meat was moist. We also added some veggie dolmas for 50 cents each -- the meat variety is 85 cents. These slightly sour bundles of rice wrapped in grape leaves were addicting.
And when it comes to addictive sweets, this baklava ($1.50) tops the list. We only intended to take one bite and then save the rest for dessert, but once we got a nibble we just couldn't stop eating it.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst