(New York Jewish Week) — What happens when the country’s premier newspaper names a hole-in-the-wall kosher falafel joint as one of the 100 best restaurants in New York?
Hundreds of people show up every day, creating lines that occasionally snake out the door. News stations from across the globe ask for interviews, catering requests come in from all over the city and, of course, the falafel often sells out before closing time.
That’s what happened at Falafel Tanami, a tiny Israeli-owned falafel place just a few blocks off the Avenue M stop on the Q train in Midwood, Brooklyn. In April, the humble eatery at 1305 East 17th Street — featuring just three counter stools, a quiet soundtrack of Israeli religious pop and photos of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson adorning the walls — was included in the New York Times’ list of the 100 best restaurants in New York City, curated by the paper’s senior food critic, Pete Wells.
“It has been crazy, Baruch Hashem,” said Galit Tanami, using the Hebrew for “thank God.” She owns the store with her husband, Ronen. “Everybody is so excited for us.”
“The falafel are extraordinary,” Wells wrote in his review. “The thick cushions of pita, baked to order, may be better yet. It’s hard not to go wild with the salads and vegetables and garlic, all as fresh as if you were standing in a market in Tel Aviv.”
“Now everybody wants to try it,” Tanami said of her restaurant’s signature dish.
For the first few days after the Times dropped, the restaurant had to close two hours early — at 8 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m. — because it ran out of inventory. Since then, they have found a good rhythm to be able to stay open regular hours, Tanami said, but it’s still busy every day.
Then again, it’s not as if Falafel Tanami had been a secret. Owner Tanami said that the restaurant has been “very, very busy” since 2019, when New York Magazine’s Grub Street declared it the “Absolute Best Falafel in New York.” And it’s long been popular among Brooklyn’s kosher-keeping observant Jews: 770 Eastern Parkway, the global headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement in Crown Heights, often orders Falafel Tamani catering. Yeshiva of Flatbush, the Modern Orthodox high school just three blocks away, does the same. Israelis, too, are known to drop in for a taste of home.
Galit Tanami had no prior experience in the culinary industry before she and her husband moved to Brooklyn and opened their restaurant in 2016. Previously, the couple had been living in Israel, where they raised their two teenage sons, but Ronen wanted to move the family back to New York, where he grew up. Galit followed Ronen’s lead, and she also embraced his grandmother’s falafel recipe — for decades, his family had operated Famous Pita, a popular falafel shop also in Midwood that closed in 2014.
After seven successful years of operating Falafel Tanami, Galit and Ronen Tanami still arrive at the restaurant every morning at 6 a.m. to hand make the falafel balls and chop the fresh salads, she said. “Nobody is allowed to touch the falafel except for us,” she said.
The New York Jewish Week popped by on Monday, which is typically a slow day, according to Tanami. And yet, a steady stream of customers trickled in — many on lunch break from Edward R. Murrow High School, a public school across the street with 4,000 students and nearly 500 teachers.
“I’ve been coming here every week almost since they first opened,” said Heshy Halpern, an environmental science teacher at Murrow who keeps kosher. He said he always orders a falafel pita with all the salads — the same economical order ($8!) Wells recommended in his review.
“It’s just the best,” he told the New York Jewish Week. “Everyone in Midwood knows they’re really good — Jewish, not Jewish, everyone.”
Along with Falafel Tanami, Wells named two Jewish delis — the Upper West Side’s Barney Greengrass and Flatiron’s S&P Lunch to his list. Other restaurants included in the top 100 were the Israeli-inspired Shukette and the Jewish-owned spots Mark’s Off Madison, Dirt Candy and Shopsin’s General Store.
As for Falafel Tanami, the boost in business generated by the Times’ list has given the owners an opportunity to think about growth — they may start selling frozen falafel for customers to fry at home, Tanami said, and they’re thinking about a possible second location. “Everybody wants to do business with us now,” Tanami said.
She added that they’re considering an expansion to Crown Heights — though that would have its challenges. “If I open something, I need to be there. I’m a perfectionist,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to go home.”
“We don’t need to rush this,” Tanami said, adding that her focus, for now, is sustaining their eatery though this busy period. “We are moving slowly and safely, Baruch Hashem.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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