A few facts about Monka:
1. Monka is a Jaffa institution.
Jaffa is one of the Israeli Bulgarian community's main stomping grounds, and the Monka Bulgarian Restaurant has been proudly representing the Jaffa-Bulgarians since 1948, right from the founding of the country. Monka also just celebrated its 60th birthday, but in it's own private way – without all the bells and whistles.
2. The simplicity at Monka will capture your heart.
The table is simply set: cafeteria style cutlery, a brightly coloured plastic basket of bread. Everything is simple, pretty and pretense free, and all around the table everything is clean and cool. This restaurant is the ultimate evidence that a place needn't be fancy in order to enjoyable.
3. Monka's bread is the tastiest in the world.
The first thing I saw as I came in was: White bread, thickly sliced, and so fresh that I almost gave up on the rest of the meal. If only the delectable bread accompaniments would have arrived as fast: an amazing bean salad, an obviously homemade hummus, an eggplant salad with a perfectly subtle smoky flavour, and a finely chopped vegetable salad. And these were just the starters.
4. Monka's got delicious food for the adventurous eater, as well as for the average Joe.
Written on Monka's wall: "roasted neck of lamb, ox testicles, lungs in sauce" as well as another few dishes with exotic names that I didn't quite know how to decipher. I am a big supporter of exotic dishes with strange names – just hand me organs or animals that I've never tried, and I'm up for it. But I'm also well acquainted with the fact that much of the general population likes to eat what they recognize. Amir, my companion, also loves to try new things, but today he just wasn't in the mood.
"You do understand that these special dishes may very well be the best the things here, don't you? They are the specialties!" I made it clear to him what a mistake he was making. "Yes, but I just feel like eating kebab", he defensively maintained. "But we've never tasted ox testicles. We've got to try them once, it's supposed to be a delicacy", I insisted. "So we'll come back, and next time you'll choose exactly what you want", Amir shot back, ending the discussion. So we ordered the kebab. And the house patties. As well as roasted lamb, just in case. It was all very tasty. The patties were properly spiced, the kebab grilled on an open flame, as it should be, and the lamb – a real treat. Soft, succulent and oh so flavourful. We weren't sorry about the 'regular' dishes we chose – they were excellent. And I'm sure that next time, when we try the specialties, we won't be disappointed.
5. Monka is a successful restaurant.
"Sami, I would like another order of patties", requested a customer at the next table. There is no greater proof of a great spot, than one teeming with regular customers who come almost every day, who know the staff by their first names. The waiters hover around, chatting familiarly with their regular customers, and also now and then getting a few new and foreign faces. There is a lot of diversity amongst the customers: old men and young people, city dwellers and country folk, men and women.
Outside, a line is already forming. I feel bad that people are waiting because of us. True – everything was delicious, we had fun, but now we'll drink up our black coffee real fast and get out of here. Why not give others a chance to enjoy?
15 Yehuda HaYemit, Jaffa, Tel Aviv