Making the wilderness bloom, 2012: After the cease-fire was declared Wednesday night it is finally possible to go down south and enjoy the fabulous restaurants in the region, and along the way, help places that suffered economic damage this past week. We have assembled a selection from Top Five columns from the past year, of the best places to eat in the south. Cut this out and save for quieter days

BE'ER SHEVA AND SURROUNDINGS

Saba Ciabatta – For a decade now chef Ilan Zigdon’s sandwich shop has been the best place in Be’er Sheva to munch on creative sandwiches and ciabattas fresh from the oven. There is one especially successful option: Tomatoes, olives and a spicy spread on a ciabatta, topped with eggplant and slices of cheese, grilled in the toaster for a few minutes. The final result is something between a hot sandwich and a pizza and it is so very tasty. Saba Ciabatta – Reger Rassco 109, Rassco Passage, Be’er Sheva

Sami VeSusu – Sami VeSusu is a Romanian restaurant in the heart of Be'er Sheva that opened its door in 1970, serving one of the best kabab's in the country. Alongside the excellent kebab you should order the giant wedges that are simple but simply wonderful. Ami VeSusu – 12 Ramabam Street, Be’er Sheva

Bourekas Oumi – Every soldier who has ever passed through the Be’er Sheva command knows that you eat bourekas at Oumi's. Maybe there are better or more sophisticated flaky pastries with savory fillings elsewhere – but there is nothing like Oumi’s. These are large and tasty bourekas (choice of cheese or potato). The bonus: the egg tucked inside, and a lot of the spicy pepper condiment, harissa.
Bourekas Oumi – 107 Hapalmach Street, Be’er Sheva

Recommended falafel: Hafalafel Hayarok – in Be’er Sheva, the truth must be told, there are several different places for high-quality and cheap falafel (Falafel Hagesher, for example) but after serious deliberation, we have chosen Hafalafel Hayarok. Why? Not because of the falafel, which isn’t really green as the "yarok" in the place’s name implies, but rather because of the flavor and above all because of the presentation. Where else in Israel do they pop the falafel balls into the air on their way into the pita? Hafalafel Hayarok – KKL, corner of Trumpeldor, Be’er Sheva

Kebab Rahat – Before you raise an eyebrow and turn up your nose, in Rahat's vegetable market, there is one of the most surprising meat on skewer joints, with some of the tastiest and low-priced kebabs. It is worth going for a pita with a few vegetables in it (hey, we’re in a vegetable market) and one perfect kebab.
Kebab Rahat – the vegetable market, Rahat

ASHDOD

Idi – The chef and proprietor of this established and successful restaurant, Idi Israelovitz, is a man of the sea in the full sense of the word. The place maintains its reputation as a serious seafood and fish place. Among the abundance of seafood dishes, it is worth focusing on a classic offering, neither complicated nor over-sophisticated and just wonderful: crabs with butter and garlic (NIS 110). If you are extremely hungry it's worth trying the seafood cauldron for two (NIS 215) and the advanced diner can try the lobster. IDI – 6 Habosem Street Ashdod


Balzac – Nested in the middle of a sleepy residential neighborhood in Ashdod is a small and surprising French restaurant that is worth knowing. Many of the dishes are based on boutique cheeses from Meshek Kornmel and Gvian Tse’ela, so that if you are into especially cheesy risotto, this is the place. Our recommendation: labaneh mousse (NIS 29). Labaneh is a kind of soft yogurt cheese.  Olive oil isn’t something we are used to eating as a dessert but the dessert interpretation here combines a puree of pistachios, chestnuts labaneh and olive oil, of course. Balzac, 11 HaEshel Street, Ashdod

Mama Mafrouma – We never tire of praising this cozy and delicious place in Ashdod. There can be excellent shakshouka – a tomato-based egg and vegetable dish – and of course mafroum – stuffed potatoes – but the headliner here is an airy couscous that goes with pkaila. True, this greenish stew of spinach, beans and beef doesn’t always arouse desire or lust – but only until you taste it. Tripolitan food by the book. Mama Mafrouma – HaAvoda 44, Ashdod.


ASHKELON

Mis’edet Hanitzahon – That would be the "Victory Restaurant" in English and it is the most encouraging name these days. Hanitzahon is a veteran workers’ restaurant located on the pedestrian shopping street and everyone in town knows it. The dining room is glammed up with old-fashioned glitz and on the menu of first courses you will find the ultimate winning combination: oriental and Romanian. Alongside hummus, tahini and eggplant you will find jellied calf’s foot, ikra, chopped liver and gefilte fish. In the main dishes, don’t skip the genuine Romanian kebab, drenched in garlic and bursting with juiciness. The chorizos are good, too (NIS 20, not including side dishes). Mis’edet Hanitzahon – 32 Herzl Street, Ashkelon

Gazpacho – It is necessary to enter chef Guy Peretz’s restaurant without any preconceptions. Yes, it is a restaurant in a hotel in Ashkelon and it is excellent so let’s move on and concentrate on the food. Our choice: fish tagine (NIS 92). The tagine is the Moroccan version of stews and in this case – a cauldron of rock bass in a sauce of hot peppers with cherry tomatoes, cilantro and garlic. Chreime – the next generation of the traditional fish stew.  Gazpacho – 9 Yekutiel Adam Stret, Holiday Inn Hotel, Ashkelon

MORE RESTAURANTS IN THE SOUTH

Cadaques – hiding in the area of Sderot is a small bar that offer a fascinating interpretation of the term tapas. Our choices: crepe con jamon (NIS 28), a wonderful crepe combining ham and bechamel sauce. For the advanced: catfish covered in panko. Cadaques – Sha’ar Hanegev gas station - Sderot

Netachim – An Israeli grill restaurant specializing in various meat dishes. The menu includes a variety of skewers like mutton fat, kebab or goose liver, a cut of entrecote, lamb chops, various fish and more. If all this doesn’t fill you up you can also buy salads by weight to take home. Netahim – Yad Mordecai

Kramim – This restaurant is located in the middle of a plant nursery, surrounded by ornamental trees, a fish pond and flowers, which will already contribute to a lowering of the stress level. Chef Sahar Rafaeli has created an elegant and varied menu from breakfast to dinner, with ostrich filet, shrimps and eggplant ravioli, a cut of entrecote and more. Kramim – Moshav Segula