The restaurant Shaya has racked up one culinary accolade after the next, and has made modern Israeli food a talking point for the New Orleans restaurant scene. Now, a much more modest outpost for Israeli flavors called Tal’s Hummus has emerged a few blocks up Magazine Street.
“The whole idea is to be Israeli street food, just what you would find there,” said proprietor Tal Sharon. “It’s traditional flavors, very casual and quick.”
The menu starts with many familiar staples of Middle Eastern cuisine -- falafel and kebabs, labne and hummus prepared several ways. It gets its specific Israeli identity by blending in other flavors from the broad Jewish diaspora and by mirroring the mix of foods popular in Israel now. A good example at Tal’s Hummus is the sabich, a pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant and hard boiled egg, tahini, pickles and Israeli salad, that crunchy-fresh mix of cucumber, tomato, parsley and onion.
Sharon opened this little counter service eatery in late May, taking over the former home of McClure’s BBQ (which is now in business inside the NOLA Brewing Tap Room). It’s quite a change: though it’s not vegetarian, only a few dishes at Tal’s Hummus have meat.
Sharon, a native of Tel Aviv, started his career as a fine dining chef. He moved to Costa Rica and eventually opened casual beachfront eateries in a surf town there.
He relocated to New Orleans in 2014, and initially worked at Doris Metropolitan, the Mediterranean steakhouse opened in the French Quarter by a pair of fellow Israeli restaurateurs who also have a restaurant in Costa Rica. He was in charge of the breads at Doris Metropolitan, which are distinctive.
When Sharon decided to set down roots in New Orleans he started planning his own eatery based on the street food flavors of home, from the particular pickles he missed to the type of pita.
At Tal’s, this bread is thicker, puffier and darker than the pita style familiar from other local Middle Eastern restaurants, and it works beautifully with the falafel, which are craggy-crisp outside and vividly fresh and green inside. The menu has borekas, or savory puff pastry pies; the hearty North African egg and tomato dish shakshuka; and, naturally, hummus – prepared with chickpeas or with fava bean, or topped with a mushrooom and onion mix or with beef kebabs.
At the homespun condiment bar, you’ll find self serve bowls of tahini, olives, hot mango chutney and schug, a thick, green, spicy relish.
Tal’s Hummus serves soft drinks only (BYOB is allowed) and it serves lunch and dinner daily.
4800 Magazine St., 504-267-7357
Lunch and dinner daily
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.