Born in northern Italy, raised in Austria and given a German name, schnitzel is eaten in many places, but few countries have embraced it as enthusiastically as Israel.
Usually made from a thin meat cutlet, coated with eggs and bread crumbs, Viennese schnitzel was made from veal, but Israeli schnitzel is synonymous with fried chicken breast.
From the roadside food stand to the gourmet restaurant, you'll find schnitzel everywhere in Israel. Here are a few recommendations for schnitzel places that offer an interesting twist on an old recipe.
Albert's Schnitzel, Ben Yehuda 59
With Albert, the owner, cooking up spices in the kitchen and his wife Deborah providing the hospitality, it's impossible to leave Albert's hungry. Every now and then, one of them will throw you a glance and ask, "Want another piece of schnitzel, honey? You've barely eaten anything," while piling side dishes on your plate.
The schnitzel: Only Albert and Deborah know the secret recipe, and they're not telling anyone. We suspect it's a mix of bread crumbs and matzo flour, a bit of mustard and an especially thick coating. The only downside: the policy here is to keep serving you until you're stuffed (you have to know how to politely say "enough").
Sides: Macaroni, mashed potatoes, ptitim (tiny pasta made from dough) or rice. We chose baked potatoes with a chopped salad to counterbalance all the fried stuff.
Price: NIS 22 in a pita, NIS 40 on a plate
Best schnitzel in Tel Aviv
Uzi's Restaurant, Hakishon 20, Florentine
The quintessential blue-collar eatery, Uzi's is easy to miss, sandwiched in between fabric and clothing shops in Tel Aviv's Florentine neighborhood – but the smells will draw you in. Uzi has been serving home cooking for over 35 years. The place has three tables, a small bar, a dedicated clientele of regulars and a line out the door.
The schnitzel: Uzi serves thick pieces straight out of the fryer. Going against time-honored tradition, the cooks coat the chicken first in matzo flour, and then dip them in egg before frying them. The schnitzel comes out juicy and full of flavor.
Sides: It's easy to go for the classic combination of humous, fries and salad, but if you can find a place to sit, rice and beans is the way to go. Also, don't miss the local schug (Yemenite hot sauce).
Price: NIS 22 in a pita, NIS 35 on a plate
Sender, Levinsky 54, south Tel Aviv
In a city that lives for the next trend, it's no small thing to serve Polish food for 64 years. Sender, a small eatery near Tel Aviv's central bus station, was founded around the same time as the state, and nicely performs the complicated task of making good, up-to-date Ashkenazi food. The menu also features other Ashkenazi classics like p'tcha (calves foot jelly), gefilte fish and kishka.
Schnitzel: On the recipe from the restaurant's opening day, Sender's schnitzel is made from fresh chicken breast in homemade bread crumb coating made from rolls, challah, black and white bread and spices, with mustard, mayo and a bit of flour thrown into the mix. The secret mix of spices has a bit of paprika.
Sides: Pretty much whatever you want, but you have to pick two. We chose givetch (a vegetable stew) and mashed potatoes. The givetch was rich, containing eggplant, squash, cabbage and bell peppers, with a tomato-based sauce. The mashed potatoes were smooth and tasty. The dish also came with fresh bread, tahini, pickles and sharp horseradish.
Price: NIS 37
Hakovshim, Hakovshim Street 48
Tel Aviv's original farmers' market restaurant, Hakovshim is located at the edges of the city's Carmel Market, and many of its ingredients are bought there. The combination of coffee shop in the morning and high-end blue-collar restaurant starting in the afternoon creates interesting twists on the menu.
The schnitzel: Of monstrous proportions, which are almost too big for the plate. Also one of the most delicious we've ever had. Not thin, but not especially thick either, nicely crispy and well-spiced with cumin, chili, mustard and other spices. Easily one of the best in the city.
Sides: Mashed potatoes with caramelized sweet potato, fried onions, olive oil and a touch of nutmeg. It's brownish-hued, aesthetically pleasing and rich. Also comes with chopped salad.
Price: NIS 52
Delicatessen, Yehuda Halevy 81
What hasn't been said about Delicatessen? That it has a refreshing style, that it's like eating abroad, that's it's the next thing - and to be honest, it's all true. The first floor is a deli, while the restaurant is on the second floor.
The schnitzel: First, note that the restaurant does not serve schnitzel every day. When it is served, it's lean, juicy and colorful, with a few sesame seeds in the coating. Served simply, without ostentation. In an ideal world, we would eat lunch here every day.
Sides: We ordered ours with a vinaigrette and champagne dressing. We decided to forgo the obligatory French fries and mashed potatoes, though they were tempting, and went with oven-baked potatoes, spiced with rosemary and olive oil. All in all, a really nice deal.
Price: NIS 52, including a first course and bread (makes you wonder why there aren't more deals like this in the city)
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