Zahav – No Reservations, No Problem

Zahav is the award-winning Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, and often is fully booked 60-days out. So how do you get in?

Zahav is the award-winning Israeli restaurant brainchild of Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook. I only have heard about this restaurant be being friends with a foodie. So when looking at the upcoming long holiday weekend in November, I suggested we combine my passion for road trips with her passion for restaurants and cook up an adventure I figured with at least a few weeks to go, getting a reservation at Zahav would be easy, especially being completely flexible on the time.

Wrong.

It seems getting a reservation on a weekend is worse than shopping for doorbusters on the day after Thanksgiving.

Reservations can be made 60 days in advance beginning at 7am each day…..and you might have better luck getting front row tickets to the Rolling Stones.

So how do I get in without a reservation?

A quick search through every hour of every day in that 60 day window resulted in a polite message informing me that no reservations were available and that I could join a Wait List. Zahav does point out that seating at the 16-seat bar and 6-seat chef’s counter is first come, first serve.

If you’re willing to have an early dinner, and don’t mind standing outside for an hour or so, this is your best bet to getting into Zahav without a reservation.

And so at 3:45pm on a 40-degree day in November, when we noticed from our hotel the first people starting to reserve their spots in line, we hustled over and joined the group. The best thing about waiting is the friends you make with the people surrounding you. Fellow foodies abound, as are fellow travelers who have come to the city and have this acclaimed restaurant on their bucket list.

At 4PM, there were already 10 people in line.

At 4:05PM, there were 15 people in line.

At 4:30PM, the line was to the street….over 50 people in line.

For 22 spots.

I made it in. Now what?

At this point, be prepared for a complete indulging of the senses coupled with an intriguing of the mind. A simpler approach to formulating a steady flow of good dishes at the right time is to select one the Tayim (tasting) options. This features a selection consisting first of the Salatim (vegetable salads) and Hummus with Laffa (irresistible flatbread), followed by several Mezze (small dishes served as appetizers), then Al Ha’esh (plates cooked “on the fire”) and finally if you stomach still has room, dessert.

Additionally there is another Tayim featuring the Zahav Lamb Shoulder, which we elected as it is one of the signature dishes that has given Zahav it’s fame.

Photo: Michael Persico

At 6:30PM, we already heard staff announcing that they had run out of Lamb Shoulder for the night.

If you missed out on getting into the reservation, or missed out on the Lamb Shoulder, you can try the recipe at home:

https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/the-zahav-lamb-shoulder