Merkaz, the newest restaurant from Zahav owners and James Beard Award winners Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, is now open in Philly with a lineup of warm pita sandwiches and the hummus that made Zahav famous. The Israeli-style sandwich shop is named for the Hebrew word for center, and centrally located at 1218 Sansom Street.
“The Savidor Merkaz is Tel Aviv’s transit hub — it’s the place that physically connects the people and neighborhoods of the city. By bringing Merkaz to Midtown Village, in the center of the city, we’re hoping to capture that same energy,” Cook said in a press release.
Running the kitchen at Merkaz is chef Henry Morgan, coming from the CookNSolo team’s hummus shop, Dizengoff. He’s bringing the hummus with him, served with pita and pickles and topped with foul, the Middle Eastern fava bean dish, and slow-cooked creamy haminado egg or with a rotating topping of the day.
But the heart of the menu is the selection of pita sandwiches. There’s egg in a pita with chopped salad, labneh, and za’atar on the breakfast menu, available from 8 to 11 a.m. From 11 a.m. until Merkaz closes at 7 p.m., stop in for a sabich: crispy eggplant, haminado egg, tehina (tahini), the Iraqi pickled mango sauce amba, and chopped salad all tucked into a pita. It’s a sandwich born and bred in Israel, the restaurant says, pulled from the Sabbath traditions of Iraqi Jews.
The chicken schnitzel — a ubiquitous dish in Israel originally brought over by Jewish immigrants from Europe — also gets tehina and chopped salad, while the lamb, seasoned with a shawarma spice blend of sumac and paprika, is layered inside the pita with peppers and onions. Cauliflower, flavored with “shawarma spice #3” (turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek), is nestled alongside poblano peppers, tomato, and cooling tzatziki.
Breakfast starts at $3 for za’atar pita toast with za’atar butter. The lamb sandwich is the most expensive on the menu, at $13.
“All it takes to understand the magic of sabich or schnitzel is eating one while standing on a street corner in Tel Aviv,” Solomonov said in a press release. “It’s those moments that make us want to keep this Israeli street food movement going in Philly.”
Merkaz also has family-style dinners to go: Choose a rotisserie chicken with za’atar ($36) or a rotisserie head of cauliflower with Yemeni hawaij ($28), packaged with four pitas, a pint of hummus, and a pint of salatim (cooked vegetable salads).
To drink, there’s tea and coffee from Philly-based Ox Coffee, along with house-made soft drinks in flavors like lemon cardamom, hibiscus grapefruit, and celery coriander.
Merkaz, located a few blocks from Solomonov and Cook’s Dizengoff, Goldie, and Abe Fisher, follows on the success of K’Far, their new Israeli restaurant in Rittenhouse helmed by Camille Cogswell. Up next is Laser Wolf in Kensington, led by Zahav chef Andrew Henshaw.
- How to Make Schnitzel Like an Israeli [Haaretz]
- This First Look Inside Mike Solomonov’s K’Far Is the Best Thing You’ll See Today
- Zahav Is the Best Restaurant in the Country at the 2019 James Beard Awards
- Star Chef Mike Solomonov Is Opening Three New Restaurants in Philly