We cannot tell you how excited we are to have such a healthy and delicious addition to the Downtown food scene from two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Enjoy! Beautiful photos courtesy of our friends at Yellowhammer Creative.
Born in Israel, Eli Markshtien grew up cooking at his grandmother’s knee in her tiny kitchen. Utilizing fresh ingredients, mostly grown and raised in her modest yard she was able to create simple dishes that were far more flavorful than what Eli was able to find at local restaurants. After years of learning by watching and helping, when teenage Eli asked his grandmother for written recipes she explained that you don’t write recipes, you “feel” them. Eli explained that her message was that for consistent excellence, following the steps, while important, is only a starting point.
Three years ago, having moved to Birmingham recently from Chicago, Eli and his wife Laurel Wurthmann-Markshtien explored various business options before deciding to open their own restaurant. A crucial piece of advice came from Laurel’s mother and father who encouraged them not to pass up an opportunity to follow their dream. The concept for Eli’s Jerusalem Grill grew out of a quest to create delicious food from the healthiest and freshest ingredients available for their family at home. While using less expensive ingredients would mean larger profit margins, they decided early on that if they were going to pursue this new venture, they wouldn’t have anything in their restaurant that wouldn’t be served at home. They opened the original location of Eli’s in 2014 in Hoover Alabama to universal acclaim and it has been packed ever since.
Farm to table is not a buzzword that I heard Eli use, but his meticulous approach to procuring the finest ingredients expresses the purest spirit of that phrase. Eli found local sources of healthy ingredients such as fresh picked organic herbs and vegetables, fresh spices, grass fed beef and lamb, free range chicken, etc. Nothing is ever frozen and the shawarma is fresh built every day. They explained that the cuts of meat are different in the US and Israel so they worked with a local supplier for nearly a year to test various farms and cuts to develop meat for their shawarma that would be tender but not too soft and would hold the heat all day while maintaining the correct flavor. He explained to me that using fresh picked spices is much more expensive but comes with no added salt and considerable more potency and flavor. The greens and vegetables that he uses are straight out of the ground. What you can get at a grocery store is picked early and allowed to ripen in transit and at the store, rather than being allowed to reach full flavor in the ground. Their Pocket Pitas are made fresh several times per day. They may be the only restaurant in Alabama to do so.
Eli and his staff pride themselves in being allergy friendly. Everything is non GMO and there are many gluten free options available. Additionally, an AIP (Auto Immune Protocol) menu that can be ordered once a week, directly through their (soon-to be) website. Eli and Laurel are very excited to be opening the second location of Eli’s Jerusalem Grill at the Pizitz.