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Mike Solomonov’s Israeli Sandwich Shop Merkaz Is Open for All Your Schnitzel Needs

Warm pita sandwiches await at the newest restaurant from the Zahav team

trays with pita sandwiches, coffee, and salatim
Israeli sandwich shop Merkaz opens in Philadelphia November 25, 2019.
Michael Persico

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.

a chef behind a counter at a fast casual restaurant
Chef Henry Morgan at Merkaz
Michael Persico

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.

pita sandwich with lamb
A shawarma-spiced lamb sandwich at Merkaz, new in Philadelphia.
Michael Persico

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.

interior of brightly colored restaurant with counter and orange stools
Like sister spots Dizengoff and Goldie, Merkaz is a counter-service restaurant.
Michael Persico
trays with pita sandwiches
Pita sandwiches make up much of the menu at Merkaz.
Michael Persico
pita sandwich with egg
The sabich includes fried eggplant, egg, chopped salad, amba, and tehina.
Michael Persico
shakshuka
Head to Merkaz in the morning for shakshuka, available on the breakfast menu.
Michael Persico
exterior of restaurant with walls of windows
Merkaz is next to Fergie’s Pub on Sansom Street.
Michael Persico

Dizengoff

1625 Sansom Street, , PA 19103 (215) 867-8181 Visit Website

Goldie

1526 Sansom Street, , PA 19102 (267) 239-0777 Visit Website

Zahav

237 Saint James Place, , PA 19106 (215) 625-8800 Visit Website

K'Far Cafe

110 South 19th Street, , PA 19103 (267) 800-7200 Visit Website

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