Merrily Intoxicated

Nadav Avidan searches the depths of his tipsy mind for details of his visit to Bugsy, a bistro-bar located in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood: There was a bar there. There was good food. There were beers, cocktails, shots, and assorted spirits. It was fun. Luckily, he wrote down his impressions while he was there.

A good friend of mine is visiting from over-seas right now. He, Uri, lives in New York, and he never ceases to tell me that no matter to which bar I take him in Israel, no place will equal the level of the New York bars. Therefore, and according to my being an obtuse individual(sometimes to an extreme extent), I decided to find an Israeli bar that will match or even surpass his New York counterparts, all so I can show my friend” where it’s truly at,” so to speak. It couldn’t be just a bar anywhere in Israel, either. In the name of local-patriotism, I decided that it must be a Tel Aviv bar – Tel Aviv, after all, is our Big Apple, is it not?

Then I heard about Bugsy. “D?cor like overseas,” I was told. “Food and alcohol just like in NYC,” they added. To confirm all this and that I indeed found the place for which I was searching, I took Ronen (another of my friends and a partner on this quest for a great bar) so I could be sure before I drop the bomb on Uri. What can I say? The quest was over.

From the moment you walk through the door, you get an impression of a place that doesn’t bow to the outworn Israeli notions of design. A big square bar (one of the sides being the kitchen) and tables scattered in just the right amount so as to give the feeling of a full joint (and it was, indeed), without the horrendous crowdedness so familiar in the Tel Aviv bar scene. The music was courtesy of a professional DJ – a different one each night for different musical styles, always hip but without slipping into the mainstream hits that saturate the radio waves. The crowd is around the 25+ age group, no teenagers to bother you, and the women, oy, the women…

Bugsy has been in business for 4 years now, and the Florentin neighborhood residents see it as a true neighborhood-bar. However, there are also frequent visitors from all over Tel Aviv and the periphery (some people from the city of Rishon LeZion sat to our right). The service is professional, adept, not greedy, and comes with smiles and indispensable small talk. Bars and restaurants in Tel Aviv prop up and shut down every other day, and so one can admire the success had by Bugsy, a place loyal to its original approach to the bar concept, and which proves, night after night, that when the people involved know what they are doing, the place they work for will remain solid. We were further told that during the holiday of Sukkot, Bugsy will introduce a new menu in order to maintain its fresh and hip status.

Nimrod, our nice bartender, quickly proved himself to be a professional who is in complete command of every aspect of the bar he is keeping. To kick things off, we ordered a beer (Paulaner, to be specific) and a Mojito. To go with our drinks, we ordered 2 starters (Bugsy is classified a bistro-bar, and the food served certainly warrants the classification) – leek and feta balls in yoghurt; and eggplant and parmesan pancakes in a tehina dip. Both were satisfying and filling, delicious, and decidedly inexpensive.

We continued our journey of alcohol, for wish I ordered sustenance in the form of a Hamburger (220 grams, with Portobello mushrooms and cheese – excellent and recommended!). Next I got something called “Little Devil,” one of the over 20 cocktails served here – Ramazzotti, Aftershock, and absinthe combined in a shot glass. “Little,” as the name suggests, but as Nimrod let me know beforehand, it is doubtful I could stand straight after downing it. Ronen was not wary and went for the “Bugsy Siegel” (a whiskey-amaretto sour), milder than my selection, and yet still a stiff drink. Both choices were excellent, in no small part due to the use of quality alcohol and ingredients, and served as a pretext for starting random conversations with those surrounding us. The atmosphere is not one of a pick-up bar, although it is quite possible to meet some terrific people there. If I didn’t have to work the following day, I would have gladly married the girl to m