Restaurant Review: 12 Cafe Chairs

Set on a street-side block lined with dreamy restaurants in West Soho, 12 Chairs Cafe brings hearty Israeli cuisine to New York. It started as a small café, and has evolved into a neighborhood favorite for drawing in throngs of patrons day in and day out. As you wander with groups of laughing friends and families, you’ll get the relaxing feel of summer and the smell of freshly cooked food wafting into the air. Late in the evening, you may even be able to hear the sound of tambourines and traditional music filling the streets as the dining experience turns into a party. We stopped in on a Tuesday night to try some food we hadn’t eaten here before, and to fully experience the day and night vibe.

First, we had pita bread with a few small sauces: babaganoush and labneh. As the restaurant energy began to build up around us, we dipped warm pita bread in creamy labneh and seasoned olive oil, and papaganoush topped with fresh herbs and blended for the perfect creamy texture.

After the appetizers, we tried their Shepdem and Aryas. Shippudim consists of juicy chicken skewers topped with tomatoes and served with crunchy fries and a spicy tomato salad. Every bite of spicy marinated chicken with fresh tomatoes and salad captured the beauty of Mediterranean flavors, and reminded us why 12 chairs are a staple in the beloved neighborhood. Arayas, grilled pita bread stuffed with minced lamb, were served with the same spicy tomato salad that seemed to complement all meat dishes. These pack a punch of essence, and every little triangle really fills you up! These delicious bites were more than enough to satiate our hunger and then some, but of course, we had to eat some dessert.

First on the dessert menu, they ate the classic cheesecake. The Israeli-style cheesecake served in 12 chairs is much lighter and fresher than the American versions, and a topping of this with strawberries truly captures that summery feel. Our second dessert was Malabi, a dish I had never tried before. It is a coconut milk pudding covered in pomegranate syrup and topped with coconut flakes and pistachios. Somewhat similar to panna cotta in texture, this creamy dessert was also a refreshing ending to our delicious 12-Seater meal.

I am so excited to keep coming to this restaurant to continue trying all the items on their menu as the summer goes on and beyond. If you haven’t tried this place yet, be sure to put it on your list! And if you go as often as we do, we hope you’ve discovered some new dishes to taste on your next visit by reading this. Check out the 12 chairs website and list here!

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