Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Restaurant Review: THE STUPP'S RESTAURANT, Moshav Amirim, The Galilee, Israel

Living as I do in Israel, being married to a vegan vegetarian doesn't present much of a challenge when looking for places to eat out. A lovely salad can be found even in an ordinary restaurant in vegetable-happy Israel, the country with the second highest per capita rate of vegetarians in the world, second only to India.

Yet we wanted to do something special for our twentieth wedding anniversary. We thought about going to a posh hotel here in Tzfat, but posh doesn't really "talk to" either of us and posh is not a guarantee that vegan Dani'el would come away feeling he had a really satisfying meal. Also, we both felt the need to be in a very gentle and peaceful atmosphere.

We decided to dine at the Stupp's Restaurant, which is located in the Amirim Vegetarian Village and Retreat, just west of our native Tzfat on the road to Chaifa, where most of the foods and herbs are organically grown on the premises. We made a wise decision.

Arriving early, we hopped into the restaurant and made sure the table we had reserved overlooking their lovely herbal garden was waiting for us. The proprietress of the restaurant, Esther Stupp, was very polite but apologized firmly, telling us the table is reserved for a couple from Tzfat. We laughed happily knowing our interests were well protected (you see, we are the couple from Tzfat).

There is a map at the entrance of Amirim that shows the exact location of all of the homes, businesses and attractions on the moshav. We returned to it, noting the location of the lookout point and the library most especially.

We ambled down the verdant path that is the main road of Amirim admiring the rustic homes, some inlaid with stone, some wood, as well as the gardens that are obviously tended to with great loving care. The atmosphere of Amirim is so peaceful, so healing. The moshav seems to say: "We care. We love life."

We came to the lookout point that oversees the Galilee, including the Sea of Galilee. Standing there, taking in the breathtaking view, we felt all tension and concern melt away. Time seemed to slow down.

Returning leisurely to the restaurant we arrived a few minutes before our reservation. We sat in the inviting swing that is on the lawn of the restaurant. Dinners can be had out on that lovely lawn, as well as in the log cabin interior of the restaurant. It is now very hot in Israel, of course, but there is a log burning stove in the restaurant that provides warmth and comfort on harsh Israeli winter days and nights.

Esther Stupps greeted us with a warm grandmotherly smile at the door and led us to our table. In between taking very, very good care of all of the parties that were dining in the restaurant, Esther told us that she came to Israel from Canada in 1966. From what she told us about her grandchildren, I understood that they are about the same age as our children. I was amazed at this woman's strength, vitality, attention to detail and, most especially, gratitude to God to be alive. Every compliment and kind word Esther receives, and she receives many, is responded to with: "Barukh HaShem!" (Blessed is God!), taking none of the credit herself. Esther is obviously energized by, and thrives, on the many compliments and words of appreciation she receives from her contented clientele.

We had trouble deciding what to choose from the menu to be sure. Matters were a bit easier for Dan, as he is vegan. He settled on the Meal-In-One, a lovely, large, deep plate of vegetables made in a wok, together with triangles of tofu topped with the house soy burger, all in just the right amount of the house specialty sauce. It was delicious.

Not being able to eat all of the three or four dishes that "talked to me", I chose the various types of goat cheeses melted under the grill on baguette with a side order of a fresh, crisp mixed salad. Both yogurt dressing with basil and Thousand Island dressing was presented with the salad. I used both, each on half of the salad. Yummy.

Of course Dani'el and I stole glances at what the party of four seated next to us were eating. The youngsters chose Italian dishes which all looked very tempting.

When our dishes were presented to us the party next to us couldn't contain their appreciation. "Oooh. What's that?!", the head of the party asked. We told him and he joked about how the vegetables are always greener on someone else's plate. Actually, that isn't always true - just in very good vegetarian restaurants, like Stupp's, where everything on the menu is luscious and just about everything really does tempt.

While we ate our main course the party next to us were "oohing", "aahing" and purring over their desserts. We were both enjoying a good thing and anticipating the better things we understood were yet to come.

The anticipated time came for us to order dessert. Once again choosing was difficult for us and our first instinct was to say: "We'll take one of each." The desserts at Stupp's really are sinfully delicious. I chose one of their cheesecakes - the layered white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake with a dark chocolate cookie crumb crust. Dani'el chose the apple betty. Now being a vegan, the poor man couldn't eat the generous scoop of vanilla ice cream that comes with the apple betty. So, what could I do? I had to sacrifice myself to the task. Luckily, my cheesecake was served with extra raspberry preserves on the side. I drowned the cold, creamy, rich vanilla sorrow of Dani'el's ice cream in the raspberry preserves. Kinda made it go down easier. Ya know?

I ordered Rombout's filter coffee with dessert. I usually take a vial of cane sugar from the house with me, as even most vegetarian restaurants serve refined white sugar with their beverages. I forgot the cane sugar on this occasion. I was delighted to see that at Stupp's cane sugar packages are served with beverages, in addition to white sugar.

The tab came to 155 NIS (somewhere between $31-35 dollars depending on the daily rate of exchange) en toto for the two of us - a most reasonable price for the two very satisfying main dishes, two legendary desserts and two drinks that we had indeed.

My recommendation is to visit the Stupp's restaurant with a party of people so that you may share with one another. The only drawback of eating at Stupp's is the feeling that there are many adventures on the menu that were left unexplored.

The Stupp's restaurant is certified kosher and is under supervision.

For more information about The Stupp's Restaurant, a photo of the interior and a 10% discount voucher see:


Stupp's is all about Vegetarian Soul food - good to you and good for you.

Dani'el Dotan and Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel (twenty years together and still counting)

P.S. I'm delighted to report that my write-up of the Stupp's Restaurant garnered an unexpected number of very positive and enthusiastic responses off line, including from people who communicated to me that the piece sparked a renewed interest in visiting Israel in them and some even wrote that the piece roused a latent desire to make aliyah (emigrate to Israel).