In recent years, Tel Aviv’s restaurants have justly received growing international recognition for their inventive culinary fare.
Far from the spotlight are other taste sensations readily available on Israel’s urban streets. In a country where fruit and vegetables are bountiful and part of the national palate, it’s little surprise juice stands are everywhere. If they all dispense freshly squeezed juice of multiple fruit and/or veggie combinations, they don’t all offer the same experience.
In Tel Aviv, one in particular stands out from the rest, as much for the quality of the nutrient-rich, juice it serves as for the human component provided.
At the fruit-bedecked The Beautiful Ones and The Juices kiosk on Sheikin Street near Allenby, there’s often a line-up in front. Many of the people are return customers due to the appeal of owner Ilan Nuri.
Indeed, Ilan has an engaging presence. A mix of stand-up comedian and irrepressible huckster, he enjoys attending to customers as they order their drinks. For those unsure of what they want, he quizzes them about their tastes to determine what he thinks will suit them best. In his quick-witted manner, in Hebrew and English, he invariably puts a smile on the faces of those he serves, ranging from local residents to foreign tourists.
On a recent, hot afternoon, when we visited The Beautiful Ones and The Juices for some fruity relief from the heat, Samantha Gurfinkiel was in the line to place her order. She’s one of many regular customers who live in the area. Originally from Paris, she moved to Israel in 2007 and has been patronizing the juice stand once or twice a week for the past 10 years.
“Ilan is a big reason I come here,” says Samantha, 36, a business developer in high tech in Tel Aviv. “He’s very nice, he knows what I like and makes me great drinks. He has all the choices one could want but I usually go for a mix of several fruits on a base of almond milk. It’s almost a meal for me.”
More than 80 percent of the drinks Ilan makes contain fruit while 20 percent have vegetables. The most popular one is called Sababi Babi, a concoction whose ingredients Ilan keeps secret.
“It’s a sacred drink,” says Ilan, 47. “Nobody knows what’s inside. I can’t talk about it. We even have a sign that apologizes for keeping the ingredients secret. When you sit here and drink a Sababi Babi, you cry… from joy. It’s the best in the world.”
All he’s willing to reveal is that it contains mint and melon. He tries to make people believe the drink is made from 32 ingredients though that’s obviously a stretch. Whatever the recipe, the taste is divine.
For all the exotic choices available, Galya went with a basic order – straight carrot juice which proved highly satisfying even if it didn’t have the bells and whistles of the Sababi Babi.
Forever the joker, Ilan is rarely at a loss for words, often eliciting laughter. When asked about his juice stand, he answered in typical fashion.
“Let’s be precise,” he says straight-faced. “This is not a stand, it’s a boutique. You know why? Because we don’t make juice. Do you know what we’re making? Art. If you want, juice you have over there,” pointing to a competitor down the street.
His so-called ‘boutique’ is – like most other juice stands – tiny and adorned with all kinds of fruit. Opened in 1991, it’s just big enough for Ilan at the front, and two people off to the side where they’re constantly preparing drinks.
Ilan, who lives in Tel Aviv, the city where he was born and raised, becomes uncharacteristically reticent when asked how many drinks he serves, on average, every day. He stays tightlipped on why he refuses to give any idea of the quantity. Suffice it to say, based on the crowds he attracts, it must be around several hundred a day.
When not tending to his juice ‘boutique,’ Ilan is also a singer. If you didn’t get enough of him when you ordered your drink at his kiosk, you can catch him on YouTube performing various songs with the same verve and gusto he brings to his work creating wonderful drinks.
– The Beautiful Ones and the Juices – 7 Sheikin Street, Tel Aviv. Tel: 053-528-2747