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Kantina offers kosher food and a welcoming atmosphere

Isabel Torres-Padin/Observer

Isabel Torres-Padin/Observer

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Crispy on the outside, soft and sumptuous on the inside, the falafel at Kantina is the best I have ever had. Despite never having eaten kosher I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and would willingly eat my meat without cheese all the time if everywhere cooked it as well as Kantina.

Located in the Albert and Norma Geller Hillel Student Center, right near campus, Kantina is a fairly new (it had its soft opening on Jan. 14), completely kosher eatery that not only operates as a restaurant but caters Hillel events and serves food for students on the kosher meal plan. If you are reluctant to try a kosher restaurant do not fear, the food is delicious by any standards and you will not miss the dairy.

Walking in to Kantina it seems a bit diminutive, as there is little decoration and the kitchen is almost hidden in the back. The tables are plain white and minimalistic just like the walls, but the whole atmosphere is quite clean, refreshing and bright, although it could use a bit more décor to give it a more distinctive ambiance. Sitting right next to Euclid Avenue, the wall facing Euclid is all windows offering a nice view of Uptown Cleveland that pairs well with the fast-paced feel of Kantina. Kantina offers full wait service while you can seat yourself and the waiter was attentive and friendly but did seem slightly overwhelmed.

Kantina’s menu is simple and easy to read, with rounded choices ranging from more traditional fare like falafel to the Kantina burger—a hamburger topped with BBQ beef and coleslaw. I ordered a falafel sandwich (per multiple recommendations) that came with a side of potato crisps, while my friend ordered lentil beef chili with rice that came with a side of yoyo bread. We supplemented the meal with an additional side of hummus.

The food came out within five minutes of ordering, perfect for the tight time frame between classes and came out hot, clearly to order. Four crisp falafel balls composed the sandwich and they came out on a bed of fresh Israeli salad and tangy tahini nestled in a soft and doughy freshly baked bun.

Biting into the falafel I cracked the crispy outer crust only to be treated with a flavorful and moist inside that was chock full of chickpea flavor balanced with delicate seasonings. The falafel sandwich came with a choice side and I chose potato crisps, despite not knowing what to expect from the crisps. I was met with deliciously crispy waffled potato “chips” that were thin yet solid and salted but not excessively. I much prefer them over traditional potato chips. I also tasted my friend’s food, which was equally satisfying. The lentil beef chili was warm, as chili should be, and had a muted spice indicative of good seasoning. Coming alone or mixed with the rice as she ordered, the meal was both filling and solid, tasting so homemade I would consider it comfort food. The lentil chili came with a good sized piece of “Yoyo” bread, Kantina’s home bread cutely named for one of the chef’s sons, which was delicious, moist and even better dredged with some of the chili.

We split a side of hummus that unfortunately did not come with a dipping medium like a chip or bread, but was tasty eaten by fork nonetheless. Fresh and not overly salty or thick, like many other hummuses, this is a dip I would get it again. Overall the hummus was a nice end to an enjoyable meal. For all of the food we ordered we only paid $18 (including tip), a pretty fair price for such quality food.

Case Western Reserve University student Gilad Doron recommends the falafel sandwich with Israeli salad. “I am pretty snobby when it comes to falafel quality, but the falafel at Kantina is definitely the best I’ve had in Cleveland,” he said. He also recommends going for lunch if you’re in a hurry, as during the evening the restaurant is crowded with families.

The restaurant’s owner, Seth Bromberg, recommends the Kantina burger, because there’s “no other place in Cleveland where you can have a burger topped with BBQ beef, coleslaw, lettuce, tomato and onion—especially on a home-baked bun.” Even diners who don’t keep kosher should visit. “You don’t have to know what kosher means to enjoy good food,” said Bromberg.

I wholeheartedly recommend Kantina for delicious and inexpensive fare whether you eat kosher or not. It is the most authentic and fresh food I have had in Cleveland yet. Excitingly, Kantina is gradually expanding with two more soft openings, one on Sunday, April 3 to introduce Sunday brunch and one on Monday, May 16 to introduce dinner fare.

Bromberg, who is no stranger to the restaurant business with multiple restaurants in the Cleveland area under his command, says, “The restaurant business is a marathon, not a sprint and to operate exceptionally we see the need to go slow.” So, with each opening Kantina may get better and better which is good news for customers because they are already top of the line.

Restaurant: Kantina
Location: In Uptown Hillel- 11303 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106
Price: $7-$10 for an entrée
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Kantina offers kosher food and a welcoming atmosphere