A lion in Zion

Hagov can satisfy sports spectators’ viewing needs and their hungry stomachs.

Jerusalem bar 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Jerusalem bar 311
(photo credit: courtesy)

It’s been hundreds of years since any lions lived in Israel, but a few months ago a new lion’s den opened in the region. Hagov (The Lion’s Den) is a sports bar in downtown Jerusalem, and its goal is to serve an entire cross-section of the city.
Luckily, with the ability to show eight different sporting events simultaneously, Hagov is able to cater to all of the types in the capital (those who don’t like sports don’t actually have to watch). And when I say cater, I include the food sense of the word. The bar is fully stocked with all types of alcohol, as would be expected, including five different beers on tap. But in addition to the booze, Hagov has an enticing menu that combines bar staples like Buffalo wings and burgers with options like carpaccio and salad.
While chatting with one of the owners, he mentioned that the Hagov teamhad put special effort into the menu. I’d heard from acquaintances thatthe kitchen got off to a rocky start, but judging by what I sampled ontwo separate visits, that culinary effort paid off.
The bar is long and somewhat narrow, like many of the older buildingsin Jerusalem. There are seating areas at individual tables, along thebar, and out back where there is a massive screen. The wait staff isbilingual, which emphasizes the Anglo-friendliness of Hagov. Thebackground music is also all in English, and the English menu isactually intelligible.
From that menu, my dining partner and I ordered beers on draft: 400 ml.Carlsbergs and Tuborgs (NIS 22 each). I also put the whiskey sour (NIS32) to the test, and I’d give it a B. To go with the drinks, we triedthe Buffalo wings (NIS 43 for 24 pieces). They come in three levels ofspicy, and we opted for the middle one. I found the beer very useful indousing the flames on my tongue – that’s not a veiled complaint. Still,my dining partner added Tabasco to his. The wings were crisp on theoutside and the flavor unlike most Israeli wing options.
On a subsequent visit, I also sampled (with the help of a friend) the250 gr. burger (NIS 50), the roast beef platter (NIS 59) and the onionrings (NIS 27 or free with burger). All were presented simply but nothaphazardly. The burger tasted like it was actually made of meat, notjust some vague ground-up relative of a cow. The bun was toasted andthus more likely to crumble, which made it a bit difficult for it tohold the burger.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of a roast beef platter at a bar – oranywhere, for that matter. It turned out to be a plate with thinlysliced meat and tomato salad, and a second plate with sliced bread andtwo spreads (sun-dried tomato and tehina). The meat was pink inside andreminded me of the steak my mother used to make, back in the day.Again, that’s not a complaint. I couldn’t quite figure out what thetasteless yellowish sauce on the platter was, though, so I skipped it.
And really, since when can you go wrong with onion rings? The Lion’sDen version is a homemade deal with tempura-battered slices of onion,and they’re good and greasy.
Generally, Hagov is a fun place. The food is tasty, the music isentertaining, and there’s always a game to watch. Wisely, there arehooks under the bar on which to hang a purse, so women know that it’snot a men-only type sports bar. But remember: A sports bar can getrowdy when a critical match is on. With the World Cup fast approachingand the multitude of nationalities in Jerusalem, things in the Lion’sDen just might get wild.
Hagov, Rehov Yoel Moshe Salomon 5, Jerusalem.  052-870-9993.Open Sunday-Thursday, 7 p.m. to the last customer, and Saturday nightafter Shabbat. Kosher.