Fast food, fifties style

We have a McDonald’s in downtown Jerusalem (of course!), but within spitting distance of it there is another kind of fast food restaurant, one that is dear to the hearts of the city’s old time residents. It is the Ta’ami restaurant.

Ta'ami restaurant in Jerusalem

Ta’ami is a tiny restaurant: one room, opening right onto the sidewalk in Shamai street, with a few tables inside. A working man’s eatery, it has no “wait to be seated” rule; in fact, you walk right in and sit on any free chair – not table: unrelated customers are expected to share the same table. No fuss, no niceties, but wonderful food, starting with Hummus that many say is the best in the land (and many others violently disagree; Hummus connoisseurship tends to run to high emotions).

Albert MajarSo why is this a fast food joint? Well, here’s how this works: you go in, spy an empty chair, and as soon as your behind hits it, the waiter is at your side, rattling a list of dishes (though most regulars know what they want). You order, and in a minute or so your food is placed before you. No time wasted. But it goes beyond that, thanks to the legendary founder of Ta’ami, the late Mr. Albert Majar, whose photo adorns the wall. Albert came from Bulgaria around 1950, and started his family-run restaurant soon thereafter. His techniques of customer management were famous and cherished in our town. He’d go around the tiny hall and urge the clients to eat faster, to make room for more people to eat. His favorite phrase, “Swallow, don’t chew!”, became so famous that it is now the restaurant’s slogan. He also used to compact tables by switching people from table to table in mid-lunch, thereby freeing contiguous seats for people who came in groups. And so business was brisk, profits presumably grew, and a legend was born.

Not exacly the way they do it at McDonald’s… but what Hummus!

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