Best of the Underground Awards 2005

The envelope, please.

We want you. For the underground.

Have you tasted the best Kosher burger in the world? Tell us where you found it, and what makes it the best.

Have you uncovered the secret of the best of all burekas, the Balkan-Israeli all-purpose 24-hour food item? Now's the time to spill it.

Do you happen to know of the best rogelach, the tastiest shawarma, the coolest rabbi abroad, the best dentist in Israel, or the hottest Jewish singles scene?

Email us your candidates for the Best in that category. Tell us where it/they can be found.

Tell us what makes it/them the best. 100 words or less, please.

Rate it/them on a scale from one (eh) to five (!!) felafel balls.

If it's world class, give it five balls and harif [heat inducing agent].

And the nominees are:

Best Humous, Israel

Lina's, the Old City, Jerusalem "The best humous in the universe. Very subtle and creamy. 5 balls" - David Pileggi

Lebanese Restaurant, Abu Ghosh "Unique, smooth, almost egg-like taste, 5 Balls" - Herschel Julius

Abu Hassan, Jaffa "Worth waiting the long queue and sharing a table with people you don't know. Go early - the 'ful' runs out by 2 P.M." - David Cohen

Abu Shukri, the Old City, Jerusalem "This place is in the Muslim quarter of the Old City - my Arab friends recommend it." - Lisa Richlen

Tanami, Ahuza Street, Ra'anana "Hard to believe that you get the ultimate humous in Ra'anana of all places, but it is so. This family-run 2x2 establishment produces better humous than can be found in even the best Jerusalem holes-in-the-wall."

"It's fresh, warm from the pot, and tastes like heaven. It can be served in good traditional 'complet' fashion at the four small tables, or take out. This humous deserves more than five felafels, but lets just say five anyway." - Margo Sugarman

Majdal Shams, Hermon "Ask anyone who has done miluim on the Hermon, its the creamiest, smoothest, and the taste stays with you long after you leave. It's easily the best I've ever tasted in Israel, in Australia, or in America ! Five (5) balls & harif !!" - Mark Axel

Pinati's, Jerusalem and Ashkara tel aviv "No best of hummus list is complete without them!"

Best Humous, Abroad

Rami's, Brookline, Mass. "Tastes just like in Israel!! And Rami's a nice guy too. 5 falafel balls" - Miriam Farber

Humous Place, MacDougal Street, NYC "A bright and friendly place that serves perfectly prepared and garnished humous (in three varieties) with great salads and home-made thick pitas. Five balls; simply the best I've had. After all, it's pretty much the only thing they make." - Eric R. Obenzinger, NYC

Na-na, Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia "All the Israelis go here - It's the closest thing to good hummous outside of Israel, smooth and delicate in taste. You can get takeaway tubs or eat in" - Anital Fu

Humus Bar, Ahuza St. Ra'anana "Another shockingly good bit of old world food from urban chic Ra'anana. Humus Bar is a whole on the wall with perhaps the best humus in the country - try it with 'ful' and a 'beytza' for maximum effectiveness..." - Ari B. Goldberg

Best sabih, Israel

Oved's Sabih, Givatayim - "Absolutely wonderful! I was even eating sabih in Tel Aviv a few days ago, and the owner claimed to have the best sabih in Tel Aviv - and then said: "But if you want the best sabih in Israel, go to Oved in Givatayim!" - Yossi Hasson

Best shawarma, Abroad Samis, Hendon, London - "Its all about the matbucha. But the meat is just the right texture and taste. Beats sollys every time! Nothing beats sitting outside the restaurant filling your face with delicious meat...except doing the same thing in Israel! Yalla betar." -Jeremy Last

Pick-a-Pita, New York, New York "The shawarma in this whole-in-a-wall restaurant rivals all the shawarma I have ever eaten in Israel. Combined with their excellent humous and charif, this place is no doubt the best choice outside the holy land." -Yitz Landes

Max's Deli, Wheaton, Maryland "The best shawarma ever!." -Jessica Balsam

Best shawarma, Israel

Pamonim, Ramat Hasharon - "Makes the best Pargit Shawarma! I ate a lot of it in my time and this place wins hands down. I make the trip once a week (if not for the calories, I'd be there everyday) to have myself, not one serving, but TWO great portions! And I don't chew...I inhale Touche!?" - Alter

Pamonim, Ramat Hasharon - "The BEST Chicken Shwarma ! I'm addicted." - Diana

Shawarma Hazan, Haifa - "Haifa's Shawarma Hazan may or may not have the best Shawarma in Israel, but it is, without a doubt, the most Shawarmaiest Shawarma around. What I mean by that is that their Shawarma is the orignial,no-nonsense version, from which all the watered down, anti-pasta influenced versions you might stumble across stem from. Their pitas are hot and soft and filled with lamb shawarma, cabbage, parsley, onion, tehina and a generous dollop of yellow Amba sauce ontop. This Shwarama is defenitely hardcore and if you're not a die-hard shwarma fan or if you haven't got yellow amba sauce burning in your veins, i suggest you go eat somewhere else and spare your stomach the misery of the day after." - Gil Shefler

Best Burger, Israel

Elvis Inn, Neve Ilan - "Everything a burger should be, juicy, perfectly done, a true handful. Atmosphere also rates mention. Early science-fiction truckstop. All this, and Thursday nights balls + harif." - Herschel Julius

Moses, Tel Aviv - "Big juicy 'art' burger with great sauces. Nice crispy fries. All the rest is detail." - Michal Avni

MASH, Tel Aviv - "If you can stand the rowdy Anglo clientele, the burgers are unbelievably tasty. Served with decent chips. Five felafel balls please." - Sarah Lewis

Agadir's, Tel Aviv and Herzelia - "The burgers are world class. mad props though, and the burgers are also delicious." - Marc Grey

Best Burger, Kosher, Israel

Burgers Bar, Jerusalem - "Absolutely no question, this place on Emek Refaim wins hands down. The burgers are incredible, their sauces are fantastic and they'll even deliver until 3 A.M." - Samuel Green

Best Burger, Kosher, Abroad

Orange Delight, Studio City, Cal. USA

Niagara Falls, New York "My nomination for the best Kosher burger, abroad, is my mother's house in Buffalo. Definitely 5 falafel balls" - Cliff Falk

Chez Benny's, Queen Mary road, Montreal - Beth Blackmore

Noah's Ark Deli, Teaneck, New Jersey "Although I have never eaten a traif burger, my Italian business partner agrees with me that their pastrami burger is outstanding. We always take another back for the ride (we live in Rhode Island, a 3+ hour ride home)." -David Resnik

Best Place for Buying Women's Shoes, Israel

Gazit, across Israel - "They might not last more than a season or two, but the designs and styles are fabulous." - Dina Bernstein

Best Sports Bar, Israel

Muza's, Arad "Great sports bar with a huge tv screen for games and great food. Soccer memorabilia from all over the world!" - Joshua Baskin

Best Felafel, Israel

Felafel Devorah, Abou Yoseph, Haifa - Thick and creamy-rough with a garlic kick that'll knock your godkes off. Diverse menu, as well, and speedy service with a smile.

To start, the pita's are made on the spot - there is nothing better than a big pita fresh out of the oven. Let me continue. As a result of the high turnover, the felafel itself is always hot and fresh. The salads are delicious. In a nutshell, it's worth the wait. - Jordan Haberman

Felafel Hazkenim, Haifa - "Nothing like some good competition to make the felafel even crunchier and tastier, not to mention cheaper! Definitely 5 balls" - Yoni Bar-On

Felafel Queens, Yehuda Halevy Street, Tel Aviv - "A selection of different flavors - from chili to tomato felafel. Great pita bread." - Karen Shenhar

Nameless sidewalk booth, Ramatayim Street, Hod Hasharon, next to the gas station - "Just look for the crowds throwing their money at the proprietor. It's an institution in the Sharon area, and the cars double-parked on Hod Hasharon's main road cause traffic jams."

"It's the freshest, tastiest felafel you can get for miles, and is only enhanced by the atmosphere of passing hooting cars, petrol fumes and the elbows of hungry patrons reaching for more tehina. Five felafels." - Margo Sugarman

Adir, Emek Refaim, Jerusalem - "I went there almost every Saturday night for the entire duration of my 4-month program. So good. 4 balls" - Miriam Farber

Falafel Dumty, Weizman St., Gedera - "This kiosk has been around for years and is a family business. The food is excellent as is the service. The falafel is always fresh and hot and the pita bread is the best. 5 balls." - Baz Levinson

Golani Falafel, Afula - "Located across the street from the police station...the condiments have exquisite flavor, in my opinion there are at least three dozen from which to choose. The falafel are crisp. The servers expertly toss them in the air with tongs, and catch them with the pita; they make it look easy. No atmosphere, great food." - Ira Berkowitz

Felafel Oved Beit Lechem Road, Jerusalem - "Incredible texture, always fresh, harif from outer space. 5 balls" - Marc Grey

Shalom Felafel, Bezalel street, Jerusalem - "It is possible to eat felafel and not feel a heavy stomach for those who have not grown up with it. It is a quick cook and absolutely the best that I have tasted." - Remi Hebert

Best Felafel, Abroad

Sam's Felafel Stand, William St & Maiden Lane(Financial District), New York - "Best Felafel? Easy! Please, I have read the other listings in New York and they do not compare (I used to live in Macdougal when I was at NYU!) This is hands-down five felafel balls and harif! For $3.50 you get a huge platter of falafel, fresh out the fryer, hummus, baba ganoush, tahini, salad, grape leaves, fried onions, eggplant, pickled veggies, and warm pita! The line justifies how great it is. You will be on line for twenty minutes but it is worth the wait. Sam is efficent and never forgets anything. There were even articles about Sam's stand when he had to move from Maiden Lane and Nassau St because they closed it to street vendors. New Yorkers wanted their felafel guy back! If that doesn't convince you, ask all the Israelis on line, the best outside of Israel!" - Alex M

Eat a Pita, corner of Fairfax St. and Rosewood Ave., Los Angeles - "This is a great outdoor middle eastern eatery in the Fairfax District of LA. The atmosphere is half the eating experience, but the food is fresh and made right when you order. The falafel in pita is great. So is the Israeli salad and especially the Turkish coffee with baklava." - Sean Eatherton

Mamoun's Falafel, MacDougal St., New York City - "For only $2 you can enjoy a hot, freshly made falafel from this landmark establishment, far and away the best in NYC. At any given time of the day the line is out the door. It comes with the best tahini this side of Jerusalem and for an extra 50 cents you can get some truly outstanding hummus; great texture, always tastes great, and always fresh.

Their tea, knafe, and shawarma are quite good as well. I myself eat there a minimum of 5 times a week. 5 balls and harif" - Eli Segall

Lamalo, Antwerp - "I never thought falafel could be served as a gourmet food but this place managed to surprise me. Sublime falafel balls served on glazed earthenware dishes accompanied by Lafa bread, baked as I watched, and a tray with fifteen different salads all beautifully presented. The best of it was that my Israeli guests rolled their own lafa and told me it tasted just like the ones you buy in Israel, so you don't have to be a gourmand to enjoy it. Five balls and divine home made harif." - Tulli

Chickpea, East Village, 23 Third Ave., New York - "The city's sleekest falafel joint with three different choices (turkey, chicken and lamb) of shawarma served in house-baked pitas. It's so good the line usually forms outside the door. Cheap, fast, delicious and kosher. This joint rates 5 falafel balls." - Rene Attias

Alibaba, New York - "They use fresh ingredients and bake their own laffas. You can add fried onions and eggplant, in addition to about a dozen other fillers. It is also the first place I have seen outside of Israel that sells amba, the yummy pickled mango sauce that tastes great on falafal and shawarma.

The decor is filled with announcements about local Israeli events and pictures on little religious children in Yemen, through which one can feel the owner's nostalgia." - Adina Cappell

Rami's, Brookline, Mass. - "Again, just the best place to get Israeli food in the States. You feel like you're in Israel and not in the middle of New England. Great shwarma too. 5 balls!" -- Miriam Farber

Sassi Restaurant, Encino, Cal., USA

Oasis, Brooklyn NY - "Best falafel in the Western Hemisphere, hands-down

Naomi's, Main Street Flushing, NY. - "The place is kosher but even Indians and Arabs come there." - Stuart

Coolest Rabbi, Abroad

Rabbi Harry - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - "Rabbi Harry is a remarkable scholar, teacher, mystic, shaman, cheerleader and certainly the "coolest" rabbi to be found. Rabbi Harry Brechner is an ordained Conservative Rabbi and former IDF combat medic, who leads the old and the young in a profound and beautiful Jewish spiritual journey filled with kavana, yirah, simcha and ahava. Four felafel balls for Rabbi Harry." - Mike G., Victoria

Rabbi Ari Kostelitz - Toronto Canada - "Rabbi Kostelitz is the best rabbi by far. He is hands down the coolest friendliest and a real "all rounder" rabbi he runs programs based on Carlebach style and just has this "smile and great love for every jew" he has to win awards!" - Jeff Joseph

Rabbi Ron, Dorshei Emet Reconstructionist Synagogue, 18 Cleve Road, Montreal - "He manages to find a balance between the rationalists, the humanists, and spirituality-minded new-age types, and all the flavours in between. He leads a weekly meditation morning minyan, and on Shabbat, blends traditional liturgy with modern poetry, chanting, niggunim, and the Dvar Torah is always followed by community discussion which can get, um, lively sometimes." - Beth Blackmore

Rabbi Kaye - Berkeley, California - "I also have to include his wife, Saro, in my vote. As Chabad shluchim for the UC Berkeley campus Jewish students, they have created a vibrant community. Friday nights, students looking for a delicious, hot (and free!) meal, accompanied by niggunim, dvar Torahs, and lots of oneg Shabbos, need look no farther than the Kayes. His wife's famous challah is the best to be had anywhere. During the week, students often pop over to study, or just to chat. Their door is open to all. Having many small children to care for doesn't deter the Kayes for organizing activities, classes, and meals for Jewish students on campus. Their boundless energy, friendliness, selflessness and commitment make them the best Rabbi-Rebbitzen couple around." - Orah Amira

Rabbi Mordechai Newman - Alexandria, Virginia - "he's young energetic, enthusiastic on every project we propose, it can be horseback riding, bike riding, bringing Mattityahu for a fundraiser concert or simply meeting and talking to people, he's always there with a smile, always ready to learn new things, even languages... a huge percentace of his regular minyan is primarly Spanish speaker, so he makes his effort for greeting in our language". - Roger Rivera

Best Dentist, Israel

Stan Brodie - Marcus 2, Jerusalem - "Painless and likes Gaelic music (that's a negative one by me!)" - Madeleine

Omri Rudberg - Kvar Saba - "This professional is a whiz not only with his unbelievably smooth and painless dental stylings but also with a constant flow of jokes that make you laugh so hard you have to make sure you don't spit out all the equipment. Fantastic atmosphere if you have to suffer anyway." - Becky

Solly Bergman - Hertziliya - "Can deal with chronic fear of dentists and talk cricket at the same time." - Vandana

Best Burekas, Israel

Ima's Bourekas, Talpiot, Jerusalem - "We fell in love with Ima's when living just down the street for a year. Even our adopted street cat, Jerusalem, remembers their scent - when my husband brought a box back last summer, the cat tore right into it! Flakey, nice variety, generally not overdone (teeth-breaking). Quite the scene on erev Shabbat! (Small outlet right at a large bakery!)" - Anne Johnston, Chicago

Corner Nahalat Binyamin and Yehuda Haleivi, Tel Aviv near the ACRI building - "the best hands down. 5 balls and dollop of harif for good measure" - Marc Grey

"Hamiznon shel Musa" Jaffa street, Jerusalem "Get a full cheese or spinach bureka with a hard-boiled egg, tehina, harif, and a juicy pickle. IT's only open through lunch so get there early." - Avi Rubel, Washington

Best Burekas, Abroad

Sheva Cafe, Taos, New Mexico - "This Cafe is owned by a bunch of cool down to earth Israeli hippies that now find themselves living in Northern New Mexico near Taos Pueblo. The burekas are flaky and tasty and the rest of the food is great too. Emphasis on the vegetarian dishes. Plus the atmospere is very Zohar and Sephirot - 5 Balls and Sababa!!" - Dorothea Migliori

Best Rogelach, Abroad

Wall's Bakery, Hewlitt, Long Island - Roberta Huberman

Posen's Delicatessen, Washington, DC - "No one makes it like they do there. It is made with phyllo pastry not the dough you find here." - Rachel

Best Place for Women's Haircuts, Israel

Roberto Rollia on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem - "Not cheap but not horribly expensive (about 160 NIS? may have gone up), and he gives such a good cut you don't have to go often - it grows out perfectly. Even though I live in New York now, I still get a cut when I visit Israel. I have not found anyone in New York who cuts hair as well as Roberto Rollia.

Best Place for Men's Haircuts, Israel

Best Gym, Israel

Studio Smadi, Moshav Kfar Warburg - "A small well equipped gym. The trainers are the best. I have been going for three years and enjoy the friendly atmosphere." - Baz Levinson

Best Gym, Abroad

Best Place to Hang Out, Friday Afternoons, Israel

Best Coffee, Israel

Cafe Neeman, Malha Mall, Jerusalem - "The best iced coffee - hands down - can be had here. It's creamy, sweet (but not overly sweet) and tempting even in the heart of winter. Thank goodness it's actually available then too because I can remember the days when "big brother" i.e., our makolet owners believed that eating ice-cream in the winter lead to some unnamed dire consequences and closed down their freezers for four months. Honest." - Frimet Roth, Jerusalem

Best Coffee House, Israel

Yehuda Halevy, Yehuda Halevy Street, Tel Aviv - "Coffee to die for! Delicious sandwiches and quiches made on the premises." - Dina Bernstein

Cafe Arlozorov, Arlozorov Street, Tel Aviv - "Great goulash soup and friendly down-to-earth service. A perfect place to read the paper in the morning, over one of their massive breakfasts." - Karen Shenhar

Best Deli, Abroad

Pancer's Deli, Toronto - "By far the oldest and most well known "Jewish-style" deli in Toronto. Located, of course, on Bathurst St. Five balls."

Pico Kosher Deli, Los Angeles

Katz's Delicatessen, New York City - "No trip to NYC is complete without a stop here for the best hot pastrami sandwich on earth. These famous sandwiches are the best on earth, but if you're not a fan, get the brisket, corned beef, salami or famous NY dog. Tip: slip a $1 bill in the cup for a tower-toppling sandwich." Ess gesunt! (Yiddish for eat in good health" - Rene Attias

The Noshery in Des Moines, IA "It's easily the best deli in the Midwest. The roast beef and turkey on rye is phenomenal." - Brian

Schwartz's Delicatessen, Saint Lawrence Boulevard, Montreal -"It's the home of Montreal's famous Romanian-style smoked meat sandwich, and the cozy restaurant has been a landmark in Montreal's Jewish community for over 50 years. No visit to the city is complete without lunch here, and don't forget to ask for the home-made French Fries and a glass of Cherry Coke. Five Ball Rating and don't forget to take out a side of smoked meat for the trip home." - Brian Torobin

The Main, across the street from Schwartz's - "They have a wider menu, with chicken soup, bagels, verenicas, as well as the best french fries. Sharing "the best" with The Main, is Smoked Meat Pete's also in Montreal and Montreal West Island -- Pete is the son of the Main's owner." - Beth Blackmore

Best Kosher Deli, Abroad

Pico Kosher Deli, Los Angeles

Second Avenue Kosher Deli, 2nd Avenue and 10th Street, NYC "Unbelievable! 5 Balls!" - Eitan

Best Synagogue Singles Scene, Israel

Yakar in Katamon, Jerusalem. - "Orthodox, but laid back, with a crunchy Carlbachian undertone. Lots of friendly singles who will invite you for a meal. Mostly Anglo but some Israelis too. After services, people crowd around in the street below socializing."

Best Synagogue Singles Scene, Abroad

Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Upper West Side, New York - "It's like Lay's potato chips, once you start you just can't stop. Great place to meet - weekly events and trips. The music is amazing with a live instrumental band up-front. Sing and hum along or just groove to your own vibe. Wear jeans and construction boots or a 4-piece suit - your call." - Rene Attias

Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Upper West Side, New York - "Definitely the place to go. Everyone you've ever known will be there, plus lots of other people to meet. And soooo much fun! Great way to start the weekend. 5 balls" - Miriam Farber

Kehilat Hadar, The Second Presbyterian Church at 4 W. 96th St, Central Park West, NYC - "B'nai Jeshurun is SO passe - Hadar is where its at!" - Malaika Martin, NYC, formerly of Tel-Aviv

NOVA gesher-city cluster - "It's a group of young people 25-35 that meet regularly on different venues around Alexandria and Arlington. But what makes this group special? We're very welcoming, we hold regular picnics, dinner parties, shabbat dinners around town in order to meet more people and so far we're so popular that even guys and gals from other states come to meet us.. it's really a phenomenon. - Roger Rivera



In my opinion, the best of every thing is found in Israel - Ida