The year-long quarantine reinforced a few things. Celebrity sing-a-longs are never necessary. And eating dinner in good company is so much better than just eating dinner. This might seem obvious, but the camaraderie that comes with sitting around a table with friends and family, sharing food, and swapping stories is undefeated in the game of humanity for a reason.
If you’re struggling to remember what that specific experience feels like, make a reservation at Mazal.
As you walk into this Israeli spot in Lincoln Heights, there’s a chance you’ll whisper to yourself “I live here now” before you even sit down. You’ll notice weathered patterned walls lining their alleyway patio, a broken basketball hoop that looks like a pivotal prop from a 90s feel-good sports movie, and table after table of friends cheers-ing to simply being together. This isn’t a rowdy restaurant, but everyone at Mazel is enjoying themselves.
You know you’ve ordered correctly here when, at some point, every inch of your table is covered with a shareable small plate. That said, you don’t have to order everything at once. A meal at Mazal can be done in waves - order a handful of spreads like spicy madbuka and some of the best babaganoush we’ve eaten in LA, rip and dip their thick, pillowy house-made pita, and pick a bottle off their excellent wine list that specializes in minerally biodynamic wines from Europe and North America.
You’ll chat about that one time in December you put a wig on your snake plant, and when the time is right, you’ll look over the entirely-vegetarian menu and get some more food on the table. This is a restaurant designed for people to enjoy each other’s company and the menu itself plays directly to that strength.
When it comes to bigger dishes, we love the citrusy bite of the Israeli salad and the toasted bread of the cheese- and vegetable-filled Jerusalem bagel toast that crackles in our mouth with each bite. The turmeric-laced couscous is probably the heftiest dish on the menu and a great option to pass around the table to keep your one friend who got elbowed out of the last bite of hummus happy. If you don’t have room left for the citrus-y orange marmalade cake, then at least you know you have an errand to run afterwards - to the host stand to make another reservation.
Continuously living in a world surrounded by $40 bottles of natural wine, endless mezze, and friends might just be our version of eternal happiness. But meals at Mazal do have to end at some point, and that’s OK because we leave feeling grateful that such camaraderie is even an option again. And that no singing celebrities had to tell us about it.
A big portion of your meal at Mazal should be spent in the “spreads” section, because everything there is delicious and comes with a basket of their excellent house pita. That said, ordering the madbukha is non-negotiable. This roasted tomato dish is simple, and yet slammed with sweet, garlicky, and slightly spicy flavor.
This is one of the best plates of babaganoush we’ve eaten in Los Angeles. It’s smooth, smoky, and nutty, with a vibrant pop of citrus that balances the dish and keeps it from being overpowered with earthiness. We’re not saying we would drink this through a straw, but we can’t promise anything if it was served with one.
This dish personifies exactly why we love the food at Mazal - fresh ingredients that have been simply prepared and taste incredible together. It’s rare you’ll see a salad get cleared from the table as fast as this one (unless we’re talking about one of these).
Yes, you will have an intense love affair with the pita that comes with the spreads, but that shouldn’t stop you from also ordering these phyllo-encased pastries during the appetizer round. Crispy on the outside, yet soft and fluffy on the inside, they come filled with everything from potatoes to feta to a pesto and olive mix. If you’re with a big group, order a few of everything and watch your friends quickly forget about the drama that happened on their way to the restaurant.
Mazal has several different rotating flatbreads on their menu, but we recommend concentrating on the bagel toast instead. This thin, hot-pressed sandwich is filled with provolone, spicy schug, kale, shredded carrots, tomato, and pesto - all between a crispy, sesame seed-laced bagel toast that crackles with each bite. We’ve gone back to Mazal specifically just for this dish.
A meal at Mazal is designed to be dominated by shareable small plates. But if you want one big dish to anchor the meal, get the couscous. Made with semolina grain and topped with garbanzo beans and grilled daily vegetables, this turmeric-forward dish is ideal for passing around the table.