Former Vancouverite Harvey Sandler opened Harvey’s Smokehouse in Jerusalem a few months ago. (photo by Barry A. Kaplan)
Kansas City, Mo., is my hometown. Well, Overland Park, Kan., is more accurate, but Kansas City, the home of barbeque, is just across the state line. For most Jews growing up in the area, however, there were no kosher restaurants, so barbeque wasn’t a part of their culinary experience. So, imagine my surprise when I wandered down a Jerusalem restaurant street, walked into Harvey’s Smokehouse and spied Kansas City barbeque on the menu.
Harvey Sandler has an interesting culinary history. A chef by trade, he comes from Vancouver. There, he owned kosher café and caterer Nava Creative Kosher Cuisine, at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, for five years. He sold Nava to current owner Susy Seigel when, in December 2009, he and his wife and four children made aliyah.
After getting settled in Israel, he became chef at Papagaio, where he stayed nine months. Then, living in Efrat, he opened a take-away place for a year. In 2011, he was interested in obtaining a larger place and found that Gabriel, on this same restaurant street, was for sale. He acquired it and ran Gabriel for six years. Late last year, he and a partner decided it was time for a change, so they closed Gabriel on Dec. 14, 2017.
“We had the space and realized the biggest trend in America today is barbeque. It is starting to come to Israel, but it didn’t exist in Jerusalem, and people wanted something different,” said Sandler. On Dec. 17 – yes, three days after Gabriel closed – Harvey’s Smokehouse opened.
Welcome to the only smokehouse in Jerusalem! The main room, with seating for eight, is long and narrow with a staircase to the left to an upstairs dining room that seats 40. A large mirror is on one wall. On another wall is a wonderful painting of a campfire done by Jerusalem artist Solomon Souza, a friend of the sous chef, who dazzled Machane Yehuda (the Jewish produce market) shoppers with his spray-painted artwork on the shutters of the vendors’ stalls.
In the main room, in addition to the three tables that can seat up to eight people, there is a bar with six bar stools and a window to the kitchen. The highlights of the décor are the Jerusalem stone wall on one side and the rendition of an angry bull done by Souza.
From the six offerings in the “Let’s Get Started” portion of the menu, we were treated as the restaurant’s guests to appetizer sizes of three: crunchy popcorn chicken (chicken tenders) was accompanied by sweet chili dip, chipotle aioli and barbeque sauce; Texas BBQ nachos, which were tiny corn tortillas topped with smoked beef shoulder, chipotle aioli, guacamole and pico de gallo; and burnt ends, carmelized brisket, Kansas City BBQ-style, with yam chips. All were absolutely fantastic, melt-in-your mouth and just a little bit spicy.
There were five selections under “Greens ’n’ Things,” which we did not sample, but the salads looked like they would be delicious.
In the “From our Traeger Smokers” section, there is a barbeque platter offered, as well as other choices. Here, diners choose the type of meat (priced per 100 grams) and one of seven sides. Included on the sides list are creamy coleslaw and corn bread. Cherrywood smoked lamb bacon is offered as an addition to your choice for an additional amount.
“From the Grill” comprises four options – including salmon and chateaubriand – with choices of hasselback potatoes or french fries, coleslaw, and chimichurri sauce.
There are also five handcrafted sandwiches from which to choose, all made with freshly baked frena bread.
We sampled a variety of Sandler’s choices for us: hickory-smoked brisket; cherrywood-smoked asado; chorizo; hickory-smoked pulled shoulder beef sliders; hasselback potato; dill pickles; corn bread with chili peppers and pecans; and barbeque sauce, Carolina gold sauce and chimichurri. These were so finger lickin’ good, I can’t even tell you!
If a few of these words are unfamiliar: Traeger is a well-known brand of smokers/grills; chipotle are Mexican dried jalapeno chilis; aioli is a Mediterranean garlic and oil sauce; pico de gallo is a salsa made of chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, chili pepper, salt and lime juice; frena is a traditional Moroccan bread, often baked in a tabun oven; chimichurri sauce comes from Argentina and Uruguay and is a sauce used for grilled meat, comprised of parsley, garlic, oil, oregano and white vinegar; chorizo is a Spanish sausage, often spicy; asado is a Brazilian Portuguese type of barbeque, roasted about two hours; and hasselback potatoes are sliced widthwise, leaving the bottom intact, brushed with oil and baked in a hot oven until the slices fan out.
And, what is Kansas City-style barbeque? It is slow-smoked meat, which originated in Kansas City, in the early 1900s. The meat is rubbed with spices, slowly smoked over a variety of woods and served with a tomato-based barbeque sauce. Typical side dishes are baked beans, french fries and coleslaw.
At Harvey’s Smokehouse, there is no dessert menu per se, but, on any given day, you might find a selection of apple pie, apple tart, halva parfait, chocolate mousse or chocolate soufflé.
If you’re going to Jerusalem and have a hankerin’ for barbeque, this is absolutely the place to come for a fun evening (especially if Harvey comes out of the kitchen to chat with you) and unique food new to Jerusalem. Make a reservation because this place is full every night!
Harvey’s Smokehouse is at 7 Shimon Ben Shetach (phone: 02-624-6444). It is open Sunday through Thursday, from noon to the last customer; and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to last customer. Kosher supervision is under the Rabbanut Yerushalayim Mehuderet.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, book reviewer and food writer in Jerusalem. She created and leads the weekly English-language Shuk Walks in Machane Yehuda, she has compiled and edited nine kosher cookbooks, and is the author of Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel.