Laya Albert

Dining under the desert stars


The Unmatched Charm and Flavors of Yusuf’s Bedouin Tent in Eilat

I grew up eating at some of Miami’s best Israeli restaurants, with regular visits to Motek Cafe, Pita Plus, and Bissaleh Cafe. I knew how good Israeli food can be. But, after spending three weeks in Israel this summer, I was stunned at the quality of the cuisine; the best I ever had!

From the soft and crispy Malawach at Mahane Yehuda Market’s Jachnun Bar to the freshly baked focaccia at Halbrecht Food Garden north of Netanya, every dish was a delight. However, the most unique dining experience of the trip was undoubtedly at Yusuf’s Bedouin Tent in the southern resort city of Eilat.

Situated along the deep blue Red Sea, Yusef’s boasts outdoor tables with stunning water views on one side and towering amber mountains on the other, making it the ideal spot for a sunset dinner. From our table, we saw the distant lights of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, along with the skyline of the Eilat hotel zone a couple of miles to the north.

As my family arrived, Yusef greeted us warmly and seated us on a colorful and plush Bedouin-style patio couch. Yusef has a team of servers, but he personally attends every table, with tips about what to eat and drink. Yusef started by asking us if we wanted tea or coffee. While we were thinking and before we answered, he promptly brought two antique iron kettles; one with a pungent and tasty tea, the other with a strong Turkish coffee. Yusef insisted that we try both and was quick to refill our cups every time they had room for more. The drinks were absolutely amazing, and I must admit I had too many cups, which made it difficult to fall asleep that night. But, as Yusef reminded us multiple times throughout the meal, “Drink more tea. It makes you smart!”

While we slowly sipped our coffee and tea, Yusef sat with us and provided an opportunity for us to learn about each other’s lives. I shared stories about life in the United States (he has never been, but plans to go), while he regaled us with insights about his own life and business. It was fascinating to discover that Yusef opened the tent thirty years ago, fulfilling his dream of living in Eilat and running his own restaurant after growing up in Be’er Sheva. This conversation was a highlight of the night since one of my favorite aspects of traveling is engaging with locals. Yusef made an effort to spend time at every  guests’ table, which is something to look forward to if you choose to dine at this hidden gem in Eilat.

By the time the food arrived, Yusef had changed from his modern slacks and dress shirt into a thawb (the traditional Bedouin robe) and kufiya (headwear), now more closely resembling his portrait that was ubiquitous through the restaurant and on all of the menus.

The entire dinner was outstanding. My family and I are vegan and Yusef went out of his way to accommodate our dietary preferences. The restaurant has a Meze-style menu, so we were presented with generous plates of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, hummus, harissa, fries, and pita bread. The produce was incredibly fresh, the homemade dips were sensational, and the pita was large, thin, and hot, served directly from the stone where Yusef’s team bakes it. However, if you’re not vegan, the schnitzel or labneh cheese dishes also looked like excellent choices.

For dessert, we indulged in watermelon and baklava. The assortment of baklava flavors was as wonderful as expected — sweet, nutty, and crunchy. We were treated to an exceptionally generous portion of thinly-sliced, juicy watermelon, which provided the perfect refreshing conclusion to a long day of beach activities in scorching 95-degree dry heat.

Overall, this meal was undeniably one of my favorites on my trip to Israel. It was surprisingly affordable for the amount of food and drinks that we consumed. The food was delicious and the restaurant exuded a fantastic atmosphere. I highly recommend paying a visit to Yusuf’s Bedouin Tent and enjoying the proprietor’s first class hospitality and top notch food, whether you’re a tourist seeking a post-snorkeling dinner or a local looking for snacks and hookah after work. This place is perfect for people of all ages who want to immerse themselves in Israel’s rich Bedouin culture.

About the Author
Laya Albert is a sophomore at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in journalism at the Annenberg School. Originally from Jupiter, Florida, Laya writes sports, arts, and opinion articles for The Daily Trojan. She is also a contributor to the student-run SPEC Magazine.
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