Hummus Wars

July 19, 2011

Those of you who pay close enough attention to my Facebook will certainly have noticed the addition of a few key eateries in Belgrade recently. Belgrade, being as decidedly lacking in ethnic foods as it is, can’t, and indeed, isn’t, remiss to recognize these auspicious establishments. Fortunately, both of them have been quite popular since their respective openings, which makes me think they’re here to stay.

What, you might ask, have these two facilities in common? Hummus, of course, the name of the game.

The first of these, chronologically, is the Tel Aviv Hummus House, located at Carice Milice 3, right near Zeleni Venac. The vanguard of their offerings is their little falafel sandwiches. They offer other things, like various grilled meat dishes and things like that, but a vast majority of their clientele order the falafel sandwiches, and they’re right in doing so. The place also slangs hummus by the kilo, purchasable in tubs along with some bread. The joint is owned by an Israeli guy who’s a bit mysterious, I know he doesn’t speak much Serbian, so he usually chats up the customers in English. I also hear a fair bit of Hebrew spoken there.

The second is Šauarma Bar (something like a Serbian approximation of shawarma), located at Svetozara Markovića 37, right down the street from me, in fact, on the very same street. As can be determined by their name, their primary benefaction to Belgrade at large is shawarma, but they also have falafel and a few other dishes. They also slang hummus by the kilo, but the only bread they have is homemade lavash (quite good, but doesn’t last long). This place is owned and operated by– wait for it… PALESTINIANS! *THUNDERCLAP* Most of these guys speak Serbian quite well though (I haven’t sorted out how/why yet), and they’re constantly chattering away with their customers about where they’re from and things like that.

To the question at hand: which is superior? The stakes are actually quite high in this game being that we’re dealing with Israelis and Palestinians, but the answer, unfortunately, isn’t all that clear. My primary interest in both places from the get-go has been hummus. The quality of the hummus between the two places is pretty comparable, both go heavy on the tahini and light on the olive oil so it ends up with a strong sesame flavor. Not the best hummus I’ve ever had (the Gyrocery in Seattle still takes the cake), but it’s certainly far from the worst. I like the bread that the Israeli place serves with their hummus more than the lavash, but the lavash is better as a wrap for their falafel sandwiches and shawarma. I like the idea of the Israeli place focusing on one thing and doing it well (their falafel sandwiches), but I like the diversity of choices at the Palestinian place. In terms of location, the Palestinian place definitely trumps, but that’s entirely subjective being that they’re located no more than five minutes from me.

Conclusion? I’m going to continue to frequent both of them. At the very least, maybe I can do the diplomatic community a favor.

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