Everyone is entitled to their opinion on which Mediterranean cheap eats spot concentrated in the Loop is best, but if you don’t think Benjyehuda reigns supreme, well, then: your opinion is wrong. We understand the convenience of whatever place you're hitting up on a regular punch card in hand basis, but Benjyehuda is always our move.
"Mediterranean Chipotles" are all over the place these days, trying to perfect the same system with a different genre of food. And while you might initially want to call Benjyehuda a "Mediterranean Chipotle," we don't think it's a perfect comparison. Sure, Chipotle was the first to crank out a well-groomed American chain in a particular style, but the concept at Benjyehuda is much more deeply rooted in street food with quality ingredients.
The name is a combination of the owner's name, Benjy Rosen, and Ben Yehuda, a well-known street name in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv bustling with music and cafes. Along with his wife, Benjy is front and center at Benjyehuda's two locations in the Loop and at the new one in Lincoln Park. The Van Buren location is the original, and the spot considered for today's review.
Do know that it's pretty much always packed at peak lunch hour, so expect some serious backups. Luckily, the staff is pretty efficient at their trade and will quickly work you through the line. Snagging a table is another issue, and if you aren't picking up to eat in the office or somewhere outside on a nice day, you may have to carefully scope the scene if it's between noon and 1 PM. Think of it like the restaurant equivalent to a Middle Eastern open air market, and all the yelling, loud noises, and crowded space will suddenly seem more reasonable.
As with the usual quick Mediterranean options, you've got your choices of chicken, steak, and falafel, served in a variety of formats and with a plethora of toppings. On top of the usual Mediterranean fare, you can also get a bag of French fries plus a side of Merkts cheddar cheese. Pro tip – the cheese fries are f*cking delicious. If we weren't too lazy to climb up one, we'd shout our love for these fries and cheddar from the top of a mountain. They may make for a long afternoon at your desk, but totally worth it.
Alright, your three base options: Pita sandwich (self explanatory); Laffa, a flatbread sandwich; Box, a bed of romaine lettuce, rice, or a combination of the two. For any of the three, pick your choice of chicken, steak, or falafel, plus all the available toppings.
A smorgasboard of everything if you want it all. One mini falafel pita, one mini chicken pita, and one mini steak pita, all topped with Jerusalem salad, pickles, and tahini, plus a small side of fries.
The chicken is our favorite, and packs a great flavor. We like to get it in a box over romaine, that way it doesn't always weigh us down for the rest of the day.
Pieces of shaved meat block in all of its glory.
Their falafel is good, but not great. And although falafel in general isn't something we'd usually say is totes amazeballs, sometimes we are in the mood and this falafel does the trick.
After bathing in the deep fryer, these bad boys are thrown on the grill for some added flavor and crispness. Don’t mistake this extra step as an indication the fries aren't fresh, because that would be unwise. Dip in the Merkt's cheddar, lots, and lots of cheddar.
In case you’re interested: hummus, baba ganoush, Jerusalem salad, corn salad, Mediterranean pickles, tomato, red onion, carrot salad, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, and signature hot sauce. Pile it all on.