Clean Eats

Eli’s Jerusalem Grill pleases all with organic fare.

By Jan Walsh

Eli Markshtien originally opened Eli’s Jerusalem Grill to make Israeli food, from his grandmother’s recipes. Locally, family owned by he and wife, Laurel, this one-of-a-kind eatery has since become a destination restaurant. Through the years I have been in many restaurant kitchens including this one. And never have I seen more organic products than at Eli’s Jerusalem Grill. True to his Israeli homeland, where genetically engineered plants are avoided, Chef Eli Markshtien carefully sources and skillfully crafts these pristine products into his incredible Israeli fare.

Not only are the meats grass fed and chicken organic the beverages are also well vetted. Caramel Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 arrives to Eli’s from the Upper Galilee. For 140 years Caramel Vineyards has been producing kosher wines. After undergoing extended fermentation with skins still on, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. The wine is dark in color, and boasts beautiful, balanced, nuanced notes of black cherries, blackberries, and cassis. I ask Eli where I can buy this wine for my cellar to learn that it is not available locally other than at Eli’s… I would come here just for this gorgeous wine!

In addition to wine, I also see boxes of my favorite water, Blue Spring Living Water, from Blount County, where I grew up. Soon I will feature about this water in February “Goods” section of Birmingham Restaurants Insider newsletter.

Looking over the menu, I want to select some dishes not previously tried.
But it won’t be the apps. Eli’s Organic Potato Latkes are offered during this time of Hanukkah each year. So, latkes it is plus the Fried Cauliflower. The latkes are golden and crisp on the outside and moist and pristine white on the inside. Freshly dug flavors burst in each bite enhanced by apple sauce and sour cream. The fresh cauliflower is tried and true, always golden, crunchy, and flavorful. It also makes a nice side dish for the mains.

At Eli’s suggestion we order the Garlic Chicken Plate with White Cabbage Salad and Vegetarian Plate. Over a bed of organic basmati rice and Israeli couscous, a hearty portion of sliced, grilled organic chicken, along with the salad and the world’s best and freshest pita bread. Tender, moist strips of chicken delight the palate with Eli’s marinade of garlic and spices. The crisp white cabbage tossed in homemade mayonnaise, lemon, and its own spice blend refreshes the tastebuds. And as always, the made fresh daily pita comforts with its plump, doughy softness.

The vegetarian plate is a feast! Six falafels, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli salad, Israeli salad, red cabbage salad, Israeli couscous, and organic basmati rice are served with a side of pita.

I pull a little of everything toward the center and mix the flavors, while eating the falafels like hush puppies, no fork needed for these crunchy, fluffy, and herby balls. There is also no better hummus than Eli’s. And it scrumptiously slathers everything on the plate with its nutty and tangy flavors, especially the pita bread and falafels. The baba ghanoush pampers the palate with its velvety consistency and adds depth with its smoky, earthy eggplant notes. Each salad brings its own personality to the plate: tangy tabouli, acidic Israeli, and crunchy red cabbage. And the couscous and rice round out the dish with starch.

For dessert is a nest of Kanafa. The colorful dessert is mysteriously intriguing boasting crunchiness, nuttiness, and creaminess. Yet it is light and not filling, making a sweet, Heaven-sent end to the meal.


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