A Taste of Israel in Rittenhouse
Over the summer I got to see the sights and taste the foods of Israel. When a friend from my trip came to visit, I had to pick a place that would allow us to reminisce about our time there. Philly has a fair amount places to enjoy falafel, but after hearing from so many sources that Mamma’s Vegetarian was the absolute best in town, it was the perfect reason to visit.
It was a good sign when we were greeted just how we would be in an Israeli falafel place, with a sample ball of falafel shoved in our faces.
Falafel sandwiches are popular here, but the platter ($9.50) is the best way to sample Mamma’s. Israeli’s love diced cucumbers and tomatoes, so it was only appropriate that I found them together on my platter along with shredded cabbage. The falafel balls and hummus were almost good enough to be up to the Israeli standard, and were far better than others I have had in Philly (like Maoz). The veggie latke and fried eggplant slices were my favorite though. The veggie latke was so full of flavor; it tasted like my mom’s chicken broth in solid fried form. And the eggplant was my ideal version- soft on the inside, a little crisp on the outside, and sweet throughout. This is a ton of food for one person.
We were both so happy to see the pickle bar set up inside Mamma’s, just like they have in all the Israeli falafel joints. We helped ourselves to marinated carrots, sliced pickles, olives, and hot sauce.
I love fried kubbe. Here, since the place is vegetarian, the normally meat stuffed fried dough oval is stuffed with mushrooms so flavorful I barely missed the meat. This 3 bite snack was served hot. I would have preferred at least another 2 bites for $1.50.
If dining for 2, I recommend splitting the platter and a boreka. When I was there spinach or mushroom were available, both for $5. I have never seen a boreka shaped like this, but I can’t complain even a little. The flaky snake shaped crust of my mushroom boreka contained more of those flavorful mushrooms that were in the kubbe, just in a more enjoyable quantity.
Mamma’s proved to be the right choice for an Israeli style nosh. And remember, “Az men est nisht kain knobl, shtinkt men nit.” (That’s Yiddish for, if you don’t eat garlic, you won’t smell bad)
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Pretty close to real Israeli style food
- I want to go crazy with vegetarian fried things
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Not a piece of meat in sight
- Cash only
- Closed for Shabbot (could also be a plus if you keep kosher)
Mamma’s Vegetarian, 18 South 20th St (@ Chestnut St), 215 751-0477