Photography by Beau Gustafson
What is a man to do when he cannot find a place to eat? When Eli Markshtien, his wife, Laurel, and their family moved to Birmingham, he could not find an Israeli restaurant. So he opened his own and began cooking his grandmother’s recipes—solving his problem and also fulfilling his dream of owning his own Israeli restaurant. Eli’s Jerusalem Grill opened in late 2014, located at 4675 Highway 280. Eli’s serves grass fed beef, organic chicken, and organic wine and beer, and uses no GMO oils. Allergies? No worries. Call ahead, and Markshtien will make your food in a separate area and keep it in separate bowl.
Today is my first visit to Eli’s. Ordering from the menu at the counter, I meet Eli. I am immediately impressed by his knowledge of and passion for organic foods and his thoughtful suggestion of the chicken shawarma plate. I pair it with a glass of Protea Chenin Blanc from South Africa. The organic chicken is cooked on a vertical spit, which is a slow-cooking method similar to a rotisserie. The food arrives at my table hot and aromatic. Atop a bed of half basmati rice and half Israeli couscous is a generous portion of thinly shaved, juicy bites of chicken. On the same plate is an Israeli salad of freshly and finely diced tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley, topped with olive oil and lemon juice. I drizzle Tahini sauce and add a few touches of S’rug, an Israeli hot sauce, to the plate as I mix the salad bursting with freshness in with the flavorful chicken.
Additional sides I could not resist include crisp, acidic Israeli pickles and the most incredible Israeli olives ever. A generous bowl of Eli’s awesome hummus with olive oil atop and a basket of thick, fresh pita bread round out this flavor-filled, authentic meal. The chicken shawarma is also available as a sandwich with the same ingredients stuffed into pita bread. Most impressed with my meal and experience, I look forward to coming back soon. The restaurant serves a special (of approximately 30 servings) of wild-caught fish, Moroccan style, on Fridays while it lasts. I plan to get here early.