Café Ringelblum helps at-risk youth get back on their feet – and serves up some tasty food in the process
By SHIRA TEGER
Until recently, the only kosher restaurants I’d been to in Beersheba were Israeli-style steakhouses. Whenever I was in town, that’s where friends would take me. They were good, but there had to be something else. Didn’t there? Not too long ago, I finally got to try an Italian-style dairy restaurant in the city – and I was sorely disappointed.But now, I’ve finally found a dairy place in the city that’s charming, offers good food and serves a great cause.Café Ringelblum is located in the less-than-stunning “Schuna Dalet” near the entrance to the city, and it somehow both fits in and stands out.It has a wraparound covered wooden deck and a small interior, one wall adorned with black and white photos of the city and its people. The décor is casual and clean.The menu offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches, homemade gnocchi, pasta and usually fish, too. We started with a bruschetta special that included a mix of four different bruschettas (the normal portions come with three slices and run NIS 16-18).We had a slightly sweet corn-mango mix that tasted like one would expect; a tomato-purple onion combo with stunning colors, some cilantro and a lot of fresh flavor; a mushroom version that was a little oily but tasty; and a sardine creation that I was too scared to try but my dining partner reported to be rather fishy. Each slice was toasted enough to support its topping but not too much to be hard to bite through.In addition, we tried a salad special that wasn’t on the menu (most salads are around NIS 30); it was a summery combination of leaves, mozzarella and figs with a subtle flavor that was slightly sweetened. It was a big hit with both of us.AdvertisementFor a main course, I opted for fusilli with a rosé sauce (NIS 34). It came topped with parmesan and had some chunks of tomato in the nicely balanced sauce, which I liked. My dining partner went with one of the fish specials, the seared salmon (NIS 60). It came with mashed potatoes and salad. While he thought the fish was good, I found it to be slightly overcooked.For dessert, we chose among the handful of homemade options that vary from day to day. We took the apple crumble (NIS 28) and what they call a “mango rouge cake” (NIS 28). The crumble had a down-home taste and came with vanilla ice cream (that melted really quickly in the Beersheba heat, since we had our dessert outside). The slices of mango cake had a firm but creamy texture, a crunchy crust and a fresh, sweet mango top.Ringelblum does more than serve up café fare. It also helps at-risk-youth get on their feet, with the aim of enlisting them in the IDF, or at least getting a regular job.A social worker is employed at the restaurant, helping to bridge the gaps between tough teenhood and the food service. Dropouts and other teens who slipped through the cracks, aged 16-18, can work at Ringelblum; they learn the business, from dish-washing to food preparation to waiting tables. They are treated as regular employees and work at the café from eight months to a year. The program is run in conjunction with Tor Hamidbar and the people behind the Liliyot restaurants in Tel Aviv.Still, Ringelblum doesn’t hitch a free ride on its good-doing. With a menu designed by celebrity chef Nir Zook and a kitchen helmed by Kim Naveh, the restaurant has a solid culinary thing going. The prices aren’t too bad, either.Café Ringelblum, Ringelblum 86, Beersheba, (08) 649-1001.Kosher (Badatz).
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