Golda’s, the new American-style deli at the Jaffa Hotel in Jaffa, didn’t need to do much to satisfy us and make us want to return. But even that much was too much.
Here’s a growing trend I’ve noticed – street food that isn’t served on the street. The latest addition to this club is Golda’s. The name of the hotel may ring a bell with readers of Haaretz restaurant reviews, for the Italian restaurant Don Camillo opened recently right next door, and earned the dubious honor of being the site of the “most disappointing meal” the reviewer had eaten all year.
But as we’ve written here before, a food stall or deli or diner is not the same thing as a restaurant. The style of food is different, and (usually) so is the price, and if you add the casualness that typifies such places, the level of expectations is completely different as well. Golda’s doesn’t promise anything too pretentious:
Contrasting with the ambience of the upscale hotel, the deli (which may be reached from the street and is not solely accessible to hotel guests) offers a selection of classics seemingly transported from New York to Jaffa – bagels and lox, cheeseburgers, various sandwiches (grilled cheese, tuna melt, egg salad, etc), hot dogs, avocado toast, salads and more.
In an area where such “fast food” possibilities are relatively scarce, all we wanted was to find a decent new option that we’d want to return to when the mood was right, to get something to take away and then go find a nice spot to sit somewhere in Old Jaffa, or to enjoy sitting there in the hotel’s lovely courtyard. But that didn’t quite happen, to put it nicely.
The first thing that surprised us were the prices on the menu. Actually, you know what, the menu itself annoyed us – It’s in English only (What’s up with that?) and offers no information about what’s in the items. For example, what is served on the avocado toast aside from avocado? And what is a Beverly Salad?
What do the mini hot dogs come with? Whenever we tried to ask such a question, we got a hesitant answer. And oh yes, the prices: It’s expensive here. Very expensive. Look, we know that Tel Aviv food is not cheap, not even street food, and knowing this deli’s location, we didn’t come with any great illusions, but considering that all the items on offer are quite basic, we certainly expected something a bit more reasonable.
The cheeseburger is one of the priciest items on the menu – 64 shekels, and that’s without any side dish. Those cost extra. There was just a single patty, barely medium-sized. That in itself is not such a bad thing, the huge burger is becoming passé, but not at this price.
The meat was fresh and tasty, the bun was wonderful and the cheese added the necessary flavor and juiciness, but the whole thing was far from enough to satisfy your average hungry hamburger aficionado.
The avocado toast (48 shekels) and Sunny-Side-Up Egg Sandwich (52 shekels) were okay. No more, no less. The bread was properly toasted. The open-face toast featured generous slices of avocado, a little pickled onion and circles of hot pepper.
The other sandwich - it usually comes with salami (rather than ham as one would find elsewhere), which we opted to skip – came with sunny side-up eggs cooked just right and topped with Emmental cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise. A fun sandwich that’ll remind you of childhood.
This was the relatively decent part of the meal. Despite the exorbitant prices, at least the ingredients here were satisfactory and well-executed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other things we ordered.
Like the fries, for instance. For the 22 shekels (!) they charge at Golda’s for such an ordinary side dish, something that in most places comes free with your hamburger, you’d expect nothing less than amazing fries, cut from the freshest potatoes, twice-fried, perfectly golden, crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.
What you get instead is a little mound of fries that were first mass-produced and frozen. Sadly, Golda’s is neither the first nor the last to do fries this way, but it also has no qualms about charging a high price for them.
The mini hot dogs (46 shekels) are basically a version of “pigs in a blanket.” When done in a cool way this can be a great junky snack; I’ve enjoyed them a few times at diners overseas, made with different types of sausages wrapped in different types of dough, with a whole variety of possible additions, including cheeses.
At Golda’s, they’ve taken a frozen hot dog (just one), the most ordinary kind you can buy at the supermarket, sliced it into a few pieces and wrapped them with a piece of salami and filo dough.
The result was utterly tasteless. The same was true of the Buffalo chicken fingers (54 shekels) – a few strips of schnitzel with a seasoned coating – which were so stringy and tough that one assumes that this once-upon-a-time fresh chicken breast long biding its time in the freezer (at least it was coated first, so it wouldn’t be cold) before being taken out and tossed directly into boiling oil.
Overall, this place proved to be both amateur and annoying. It’s a pretty safe bet that Golda’s wouldn’t survive for long if it were really on the street in this city. Not at these prices, and not having made the almost-insulting choice to use frozen, processed food, contrary to the standard across the city today. Its location hidden from the view of random passersby means one must deliberately decide to go there to try it. Or to return there – and that is something we are not about to do. And it’s doubtful that others will either.
Golda’s Delicatessen. Jaffa Hotel (36 Yefet Street, Jaffa). 03-7785660. Open daily 11 A.M. – 11 P.M.