"A 1950’s-style diner with a wide and eclectic menu of sweet and savory pancakes, minutes from the Golden Mall, Rishon – a splurge that won’t break the bank. Fluffy and "moreish" pancakes to suit all palates, with some unique Israeli twists…"
*Stunning images all courtesy of Jessica Bruning
My, oh my… Remember the classic musical, Grease? The scene where they are sitting in that cute diner – how I wish I could have reached into the TV to steal a taste of the milkshakes and pancakes of Olivia Newton-John – Sandy and the stunner Travolta and gang…
Situated around the corner from the Golden Mall in Rishon, that wish comes to reality, as you step in to what feels like the set of a remake to the Grease musical. It’s a very unique concept: Pancakes and a full bar. Even before you enter, the simple checkered white and black border of the Retro sign is already a giveaway of the style of restaurant you’ll be stepping foot into… you can sit outside on a cute decked area with old street lanterns that light up in the evening. A charming vintage “open” sign hangs from the door… Welcoming a refreshing interior:
The eclectic bar-diner, reminiscent of a 1950’s style American diner (their website indicates the roaring 60’s), with some English-European features: The bar area has some awesome red vinyl bar stools, above the bar is a blue wall with a window faux flower box display. A London-style red phone booth cleverly disguises the entrance to the loo, Laurel and Hardy figurines sit happily atop. The front windows feature a NY cityscape wall – the other blue and yellow walls are covered a variety of vintage artist and movie star posters – some even leading up to the 90’s. Gold saxophone balloons hang low from the ceilings.
A jukebox and gramophone sits in one corner, overall it’s smorgasbord of ideas and design give the diner its unique character and a different atmosphere than the usual Israeli dining experiences – and this is even without describing the food… so let’s get to it!! I have described pretty much the whole menu (as they do not have an English menu), this way you’ll have more of an idea what to expect. Also please note that they are not kosher.
We have been wanting to come to this place for quite some time now, we were pleasantly surprised and relieved to be indoors, away from the heat that day (it was around 37C), also we were safe from the bustling crowds of shoppers just minutes away from the mall…
The menu is wide and varied, with a choice of pancakes savory to sweet. If you’re not in the mood for savory or sweet pancakes (how?!), fear not: Their five salads are musically-named, and there’s a selection of toasted sandwiches that are accompanied with dips. Drinks feature the usual cold and hot drinks, and then the ice-cream sodas (tropical, mint, strawberry or apricot) and milkshakes (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or banana). And of course beers and wine.
The prices are very reasonable. Dreamy dishes with original names honoring famous stars/ musicians/ bands or glamorous coastal cities that we all dream of going to… You’ll even spot some Israeli words like laila levan [white night – annual all-night events held across numerous Tel Aviv locations, following it receiving UNESCO world heritage status with its Bauhaus buildings] – no surprise that this particular dish is full of sugar for an all-night/day buzz.
Israeli favourite sweet (and savory) options also feature on most of the menus, like Mekupelet (chocolate log, similar to Cadbury’s Flake), mallabi (not my favourite) – [a classic dessert made from milk, sugar and cornstarch, as well as various flavourings like chocolate and more….]. Kadaif – [shredded phyllo dough, which looks like a very well-designed nest, is a versatile, delicious ingredient which has an interesting texture. Traditionally, it’s a Middle Eastern pastry with lots of butter, filled with creamy cheese or nuts and soaked in syrup, or added to baklava, but it can also be used in savory meat dishes adding an extra dimension]. Silan syrup – date syrup, a delicious alternative to honey – and the Israeli alternative to maple syrup with pancakes – though of course they did have maple syrup at the diner, whether it was the real Canadian 100% pure wholesomeness – I have yet to try…
They offer their own twist to the savory Israeli breakfast: Shakshuka pancakes with tahini! Galilee breakfast with labneh (a salty yoghurty cheese), onions spiced with sumac (Middle Eastern spice), fried egg with za’atar (a unique Middle Eastern spice mix) or the House pancake with pesto and Bulgarian cheese, guacamole and fried eggs. Various omelet options are also served, which come with a salad, tahini and bread of your choice. There is also a single or couples breakfast. Sabich pancakes [see Sabich Oved post], where boiled eggs are replaced with fried eggs.
Other fun savory pancake dishes include Panpizza (you can guess that one ;), a Mexican-style dish, spicy tuna and more. Sweet pancakes with an Israeli twist – cookielida-style [ice-cream sandwiched between 2 biscuits], Elvis (peanut butter cream, chocolate and peanuts – he must have really liked peanuts)… Then you have pancakes with Dulce de Leche or expresso and more [keep reading….]
They feature gluten-free and vegan selection of pancakes too:
Gluten-free: American (caramelized butter); Chocolate (mix of white and dairy); nutella; Pavlova (with forest fruits and strawberry ice-cream) and strudel (apple, walnuts, raisins, vanilla cream and ice-cream). Vegan pancake menu: Savory – Tripoli (tomato, tahini, roasted eggplant and pickled cucumber); traditional and San Remo (tomato spread, antipasto pesto served on a base of tomato and black olives).
Sweet pancakes include: Rose garden (vanilla cream, mallabi, coconut and peanuts), Tropicana (vanilla cream, pineapple slices, and caramelized vanilla with Amarena cherries), halva (with silan, walnuts and pistachio) and the strudel pancake (also vegan!)
Their specials: Copacabana (lotus spread – addictive and hot toffee banana), Sting (Mekupelet, whipped vanilla cream, drizzled honey and strawberry sauce), Bee Gees (ricotta, kadaif, honey and pistachio), Rosemarie (Rosemarie cream, mini marshmallows and strawberry syrup), Picasso (pistachio cream, halva, shredded halva, silan and dates), Retro Crunchy (nougat, Belgian chocolate with hazelnuts, coated cornflakes and mini marshmallows).
Our waiter was a cool guy, he was particularly impressed with our breakfast choices (commenting that they’re ptatza –the bomb, Israeli slang for amazing etc.) also they are recommend on the menu. Our naughty sugary sweet pancake dishes: I choose the Gypsy pancake, 2 large pancakes with plum jam (with big chunks of fruit) and sour cream sandwiched between, some sort of a crumble coated the top – it was delicious… Hanan choose the real showstopper – the pavlova, which was more like a sweet sugary tower of diabetes – but hell it was quite the show: 2 Stacked pancakes coated in Crème pâtissière of sorts, berry coulis with whole mixed berries (even though they were probably frozen, it was quite a sight!) then a large meringue crowned the pancake and a large scoop of strawberry ice-cream completed the tower of the pancake castle. The pavlova is a great crowd-pleaser, I think any kid (or adult) would enjoy the sugary meringue and pancake duo, although the berries give a slight tangy kick – this dish is crazy-sweet, the tricky bit (apart from trying to finish it), is how to tuck into the dish…
Jessica being the healthier one of the 3 of us, choose the breakfast special – 4 “mini” pancakes, cheese and other spreads and a salad with orange juice. Although the pancakes do not appear “handmade” (as they are too uniform in shape), they are light, thick and fluffy. The tropical-flavoured soda ice-cream, a neon-colored blue shake was the naughty sugary treat or the diabetic coma finale ;). My chocolate milkshake was tasty with added chunks of Mekupelet chocolate.
The sign “Pancakes make people happy” is indeed true, plus at least they’re honest, their menu reads: “Eat here, diet at home”
Jessica attracted the young chef’s attention with her good looks (naturally), and her snapping away with her SLR camera, he’s a young guy, very pleasant – he and our waiter took a few snaps of us with Jess’ camera. The food came fast and the service was good, although they don’t have an English menu (as mentioned), the waiter was very patient explaining the dishes.
Retro do events, catering for up to 70 guests, they have sound and parking (a rare find!) a dairy menu of sweet and savory pancakes, as well as other options from their menu like omelets and salads. It is also possible to close the restaurant for guests of 35-75 people – so you get to have Marilyn and Elvis to yourselves
So ladies pull out those long fluttery polka dot dresses or any other vintage threads will do ;), gentlemen get that sleeked-back pompadour hairstyle… step back in time (ignore the Michael Jackson posters) – have a Pleasantville [see the movie!] experience and enjoy the classic tunes our parents and perhaps even grandparents enjoyed listening to – a mixture of golden oldies and classics.
I can easily see myself coming back for more, especially with my young nephews who will be visiting from the UK and SA for my upcoming wedding… Likewise the diner was very accommodating to young couples with their prams, and the place in general is great for those young at heart and the rest – I think there’s something for everyone on the menu, if not that, at least go to check out its quirky, but awesome décor! Just be aware that the kids may be a little livelier after this adventure
I could picture an old couple with their milkshakes and pancakes, reminiscing about the good ‘ol days… I just hope to see it around for a great many years later, where I can be doing the same with Hanan, holding each other’s wrinkly hands and me still cheekily stealing his last forkful of pancakes… Grease moment: “I’m hopelessly devoted to you…” (And the pancakes ;)…