You wouldn't expect to find such good food and so much personality in a small restaurant next to an adult video store and a pawn shop. But Nava's Grill, on U.S. 441 across from the sprawling Hard Rock Hotel & Casino entrance, is a hidden gem. Step inside, and you'll feel like you've been transported to an Israeli neighborhood hangout.. Tables filled with families and couples are talking loudly in Hebrew, sometimes to each other and sometimes across the room. Owner and Israeli-born Nava Mallach joins in, chiding customers, taking orders, laughing. Aside from a bucolic mural on the wall, there's not much to the decor. But gregarious Mallach and her patrons create the atmosphere.
The Middle Eastern restaurant primarily caters to South Florida's Israeli community. The food is Glatt kosher, which means that strict kosher standards are used in obtaining and preparing the food. But you don't have to be kosher to enjoy crisp falafels, shish-kebabs and pita sandwiches. When we stopped by for takeout, and Mallach realized we had never been here before, she said the menu was changing and asked us what we liked. But we went with her suggestions and that of patrons. "See this empty plate,'' said one woman, who said she had traveled there from Aventura. "That's the best recommendation."
So we ordered what she had - the night's special of delicious stuffed cabbage and rice, two plump rolls packed with beef - good enough to make any bubbe proud. We also took home well-seasoned shish kebabs, lean grilled chicken with french fries, flavorful falafel patties placed atop a generous serving of wonderful hummus, with quite a bit of olive oil plus light but sturdy pita bread. We especially loved the green beans in an aromatic tomato sauce. Mallach also gave us a styrofoam box filled with tuna, chicken, chickpea and beet salads. The food is also inexpensive - our tab was under $40.
Next time we'd like to try such specialties as bourekas (stuffed pastry) with an egg or malawach, fried bread. Mallach didn't send us home with any desserts, but just discovering the place was a treat.